Two ball fields grow in Monroe

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:51

    MONROE-The Monroe Joint Parks and Recreation Commission is mere weeks away from completing the $275,000 reclamation, rehabilitation and redesign of ball fields No. 1 and 2 at Smith's Clove Park. The first official pitch won't be thrown until sometime next Spring. But the commissioners expect the dreamers and the players and their folks to start checking out the fields once the last of piece of sod is placed, which should be by the end of October or the first week in November. And what they will see is this: • A pitcher's mound precisely raised 10 inches. • A laser-graded infield where first, second and third base can be securely anchored. • A blended green turf the envy of most homeowners. • And a red clay warning track running all the way back to the dugouts. What they won't see is a gravel layer perched on top of an underground irrigation system dug down 14 to 18 inches, designed to drain off most down pours within hours through eight-inch pipes into a nearby pond. That's the real key to the project, and the part that's the most expensive. But the recreation commissioners will tell you that's important because if there's one thing that's characterized the ball fields at the park over the years, it's how water puddles. And lingers. And silences the empire's call of "Play ball." "I'm tired of seeing kids get frustrated when it rains and the games are cancelled," says rec commissioner Rich Goldstein, who's coached both softball and little league baseball. "I'm tired of seeing kids frustrated when a base comes loose, or when a ball skips through the infield and then catapults into the air when it hits the outfield grass." More than 1,000 kids use the fields through various leagues, according to Commission Chairman Tony Cardone. That number could increase because the quality of the new fields might attract tournament play from throughout the area. The town and village of Monroe share the cost of the project. It's something that's been talked about for years. But the energy and the money started taking shape about two years ago. Momentum increased when the commission recruited Goldstein earlier this year. He's been a landscape contractor for the last 23 years. He's got two subdivision proposals before the town. You could say he knows grass. It fell to Goldstein to research what was needed, to put together the specifications, to oversee the bids. The contract was awarded to Custom Clay, a company out of Long Island. The irrigation system covers the two fields, but it's been constructed so that it could be extended to other fields in the future. The fields were first created about 30 to 35 years ago and it's fallen to Parks Manager Paul Truax and his staff to maintain the grounds. And the soggy conditions that have plagued the property. If anyone knows about weather and its affects on the park, it's Truax and his people. The rec commissioners expressed nothing but support for the effort Truax and his staff have done over the years, knowing what they had to work with. About 20 years ago, in an attempt to deal with the frequent cancellations due to poor field conditions, Truax placed a panel of four red lights atop a pole in between field No. 1 and 3. One light for each of the four fields. When one or more of the red lights was lit, players and fans knew which game on which field was cancelled. What's going on now may dim the lights No. 1 and 2. So Truax, Goldstein and the commission hope. They also expect to have two baseball diamonds that Goldstein predicts will be the envy of the entire county. "Like Yankee Stadium," he says. "Monroe is an affluent community," Goldstein adds. "The kids deserve it."