A landmark year for Hopkins Area Little League in 2011 means players will see some big improvements in 2012.
The organization will benefit from more than $200,000 in grants and awards that will be used to renovate and add lights to .
The good news started when Little League Baseball chose the Hopkins program as its National Safety Award winner from among more than 2000 programs across the nation. Paul Hurth, president of the Hopkins Area Little League board, and League Safety Officer Brian Zimmer travelled to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA, in August to accept the award.
The honor also came with a $55,000 lighting system from program sponsor Musco Lighting that will be used to illuminate Maetzold’s third field.
“Currently we have two Little League fields and one softball field, and we will be putting lights on the softball field and converting it into a Little League-only field,” Hurth said.
Winning the lighting system allowed the organization to pursue further improvements at Maetzold Field. Hopkins Area Little League sought a grant from the Hennepin County Youth Sports Commission. The commission approved the request—providing $150,000 to fund a renovation of the third field and beautification of the surrounding park, said Steve Stadler, the city’s public works director.
“We’re upgrading the third field to Little League standards, so we have to move the outfield fencing. We’re going to upgrade the dugouts and add a new scoreboard,” Stadler said.
Other improvements include adding batting cages and a storage building, resurfacing the infield, planting trees and landscaping and adding a foot entrance to the park on 12th Street.
Of course, it was the league’s safety plan that made all this possible. In addition to extensive safety training and procedures, the league has mandated faceguards for all batting helmets in addition to heart guards for all pitchers, Hurth said.
“We did get a lot of pushback from parents saying that it’s a bit of overkill, but I don’t really think you can put a price tag on kids’ safety,” Hurth said.
Little League registration for the summer began this week. For more information, visit the Hopkins Area Little League website.