Field of Dreams
Long-standing goal of new baseball field finally a reality in Custer
Published: Thursday, June 14th, 2012
When the Custer Granite amateur baseball team took the field at the new baseball field on June 2, it was the culmination of years of dreaming and months of hard work by many throughout the community.
The face of the hard work is Dave Powers, a member of the city’s parks and recreation committee, member of the Custer Granite and baseball enthusiast who spent hundreds of hours since November working to make the baseball field playable by this summer.
“It’s been in the works for a long, long time,” he said. “Once we got a lot of it done, many people wanted to see it completed enough to play on by the summer instead of waiting another year. So, the goal was to get it playable.”
And playable it is, as demonstrated by the Granite a few weeks ago. The Granite christened the field by taking two games from Chadron, Neb., in their June 2 doubleheader, marking the first time in over 20 tries the Granite had defeated their Grassland South Hills League rivals to the south.
Blaine Kortemeyer, one of the Granite team members, said he appreciates all the work volunteers put into the field to make it work.
“It’s a great field,”âï¿½ï¿½he said.âï¿½ï¿½“It’s just down the street from my house. You just walk to the ballfield.âï¿½ï¿½It’s really fun.”
For the past two years, the Granite have played their “home” games in Hot Springs, because there wasn’t an adequate field to play on. The Gates Park field is too small for amateur baseball, and the field just north of the new elementary school was inadequate after the school construction because it came too close to the field. That field also wasn’t thoroughly maintained throughout the summer and had no outfield fences.
Now the Granite, little league and any other team young or old that may form because of the field have a new place to call home. That was the ultimate goal for Powers, who said the field opens an entire spectrum of possibilities for the youth in town, especially after two other fields—one for tee ball and one for softball and little league—are built adjacent to the new field in the coming years.
“If I see kids out there playing, it’s all worth it,”âï¿½ï¿½he said. “Iâï¿½ï¿½don’t think any town should be without an American Legion team.”
The work on the field began years ago when the city paid $80,000 to have the entire field north of the new high school—not just the area the new ball field sits on—graded and seeded. The Custer School District’s master plan calls for baseball fields and soccer fields to be in the area, and the grading and seeding was the first step in accomplishing that goal. The school district and City of Custer have a joint use agreeement for such facilities.
After locating where home plate was to be set, the next step was putting up the outfield fence poles, which started in November. Since then, the city has spent just over $30,000 on getting the field going through its parks and recreation committee.
Once home field was located, local architect and former Granite team member Gene Fennell helped draw up a plan for field layout, which sees the field be 375 feet to center field, 325 feet down the left field line and 314 feet down the right field line.
Fennell hasn’t been the only local man to donate his talents to the task. Black Hills Electric Cooperative donated many hours of its digger and bucket trucks for the project, and team member and local mason Mark Lyndoe donated his skills for concrete and dirt work. Justin Neilsen and Jay Martinez organized the framing of the dugouts and Warren Graham, another parks and rec board member, has also spent countless hours helping when he could. Powers said there are many others who want to remain unnamed who have pitched in as well.
“The generosity of the people of Custer is what built the field,”âï¿½ï¿½Power said.
Rex Harris, the city’s community development director, said the new field will only help grow baseball in the community, beginning with the smaller children.
“Hello, Little League,”âï¿½ï¿½he said.âï¿½ï¿½“The outpouring of volunteers, labor, materials and equipment at no cost or reduced cost is an indication of the desire of the community to bring baseball back.”
Eventually, the town could be hosting tournaments, which would mean more people and additional revenue in the community.
“The entire experience has been a lot of work, but a major plus for the community,”âï¿½ï¿½Harris said.
The field’s outfield wall goes right up to the banks of French Creek and has dugouts, a grass outfield and infield, clay base paths and a pitcher’s mound. Future plans include a warning track, leveling of the outfield and possible lights, concessions and a public address system.
“It’s not perfect yet, but it will be,”âï¿½ï¿½Powers said. “The city council has been very generous letting me run with things out there with a limited plan. I think it ended up being a whole lot less expensive than if we had done it by bidding out things.”
Although the Grasslands South Hills League is down to just two teams—Chadron and Custer—Powers said the Granite are working hard to schedule more games and stay active on the new field.
The community’s next chance to cheer on the Granite at a home game is July 7. The team has a scheduled double header against Chadron, with games at noon and 3 p.m.
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