Tonawanda News — Tonawanda Little League is making big changes this offseason, hoping to improve the facilities and playing conditions at the diamonds on Frances Drive.
A brand new garage is being constructed to house all of the league's equipment, product, tools, machines and sponsor signs, and one of the fields is being ripped up and reconfigured to support both 46-60-foot and 50-70-foot dimensions for player ages 8 to 15.
The old, 440-square-foot garage was beyond repair, according to head groundskeeper Bob Vogt, who recommended to the TLL board of directors that the organization upgrade to a 1,575-square-foot unit because it made more sense.
"What we were noticing was that when we take down the (sponsorship signs) and put them in the small blue shed they would get damaged," Vogt said. "A part of this new garage is going to be dedicated solely to the sign preservation."
Changes are underway on the fields, too, as the league races to finish the remodel before the first snowfall.
Young ballplayers making the jump from the major division (11-year-olds) to juniors and seniors (12-, 13-, 14-year-olds) usually have a difficult time making the transition because of the bigger fields. There is a significant adjustment between 46 and 66 inches for a young pitcher, and 50 and 90 feet for position players running the bases.
Vogt said the intermediate 50-70 field is the perfect solution and offers kids a more regimented jump.
"A normal little league world series that you see on TV is 46-60 feet," Vogt said. "Some kids were having trouble with such a big jump. Now we have more of an intermediate division. We're moving home plate up about 12 to 13 feet and then moving everything back. The fence is going to be 220 in left field ... This will dual as a 46-60 and 50-70 diamond, so we'll have two sets of bases all around. We're also going to have two mounds."
The new field also makes sense from a financial standpoint, as TLL will be able to host tournaments with the new 50-70 field accommodation, according to Vogt.
Last year, little league's across Western New York started a 11U travel league and with the new 50-70 field, Tonawanda now has a true home field advantage.
"We never had a home game because we didn't have a 50-70 field," Vogt said. "We played home games at North Tonawanda and we'd be the home team against North Tonawanda on their field."
The garage is expected to be done sometime in October or early November and it's final cost will be around $58,000, according to Vogt. The field remodel — a $7,000 project — must be done before the snow falls to avoid agricultural setbacks.
Vogt said he's enjoyed volunteering at TLL because Tonawanda is such a tight-knit community and people always are willing to support the young people. In recent years the donation numbers have dipped because of the suffering economy, but Vogt said no contribution is too small.
"We could use all the help we can get," he said. "A lot of good baseball players come out of this organization ... There isn't any doubt in my mind that we're building the future of, not only Tonawanda, but Kenmore as well. We're building a good foundation for baseball and we want to have the best facilities and fields that we can have."