Blue Wahoos Staff Travels To Renovate Youth League Field

Project with sponsor Waste Management helps Bradberry Park field in Walnut Hill

The Blue Wahoos front office staff joined Thursday to help spruce up a youth league field at Bradberry Park in Walnut Hill, as part of annual team community service project. (Bill Vilona)

By Bill Vilona, Senior Writer / Pensacola Blue Wahoos | August 9, 2019 4:34 PM

At mid-day Thursday, the temperature had climbed past 90-degrees with the heat index resting at 105 on an empty youth baseball field at Northwest Escambia Bradberry Park in Walnut Hill.

A couple hours into a field renovation sponsored by Waste Management, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos front office staff remained resolute, amid the sweltering setting.

There was still work to be done. More weeds to remove. The pitcher's mound to finish. The infield needed final smoothing and the baselines restored to ideal condition.

"I would say we have done pretty well, considering everything," said Dustin Hannah, the Blue Wahoos head groundskeeper, who led an effort of a dozen co-workers of men and women, all of whom novices in baseball field repair.

Hannah's direction, his patience, helped make the group effort so much easier.

So did the reason for being there, a location more than an hour away from Blue Wahoos Stadium on Highway 99A, just inside the state line and nearby Atmore, Ala.

Since the Blue Wahoos' inaugural 2012 season, the team has made it a community service priority to each year help renovate a youth baseball field within the Escambia or Santa Rosa County area. Waste Management joined three years ago as a sponsor.

The day is chosen during a break in the home schedule. The field is chosen through nomination of youth baseball organizations providing a video, or photos of why a particular field needs help. The process is vetted through an on-site visit before a venue is chosen.

"It's all part of us giving back to our community," said Donna Kirby, the Blue Wahoos vice president of operations. "The first year (2012) we did a field in Pensacola near downtown and we've then gone throughout the area. Last year, we did a field in Century.

"In a way, it's kind of our payback to the sport. These are little kids now who are playing baseball on these fields. And who knows if they will grow up continuing to play baseball, and there's always that chance one of them can become a professional player and maybe play in Blue Wahoos Stadium."

The field upgraded Thursday is used by the Cal Ripken-Babe Youth Baseball league, which has kids from Walnut Hill and nearby Bratt playing in various age groups.

This particular field, one of four in the complex, needed sprucing.

"Any type of help for non-profits like ours is welcomed, especially with ballfields," said Bonnie Maughon, board member with the league, whose son, Walker is a Tee-Ball player. "The income you get to run the games is all that you have. Any extra help you receive is a real blessing."

The Blue Wahoos staff, which included Kirby and team president Jonathan Griffith all pitched in to help. There were two different work shifts Thursday.

"It's just a big group effort to at least get it to where we're at right now," said Anna Striano, the Blue Wahoos merchandise manager who coordinated the community service project, during a lunch break Thursday. "And you want to leave it better than you found it."

Hannah transported a small trailer with hand tools and power tools he uses on Admiral Fetterman Field at Blue Wahoos Stadium.

"We had a lot of grass to take out in the infield area, but I think we're good," he said. "These (youth league) fields, it's not as in-depth work than it would be on a professional field."

Maughon said she was scrolling Facebook when she saw the Blue Wahoos notice reaching out to youth leagues for nominations on field renovation. Striano started the process in June, then chose Bradberry Park in late July.

"I was really looking for ways to get help," Maughon said. "We're very thankful to be chosen. It's very special. The fields are maintained by volunteers and it's not easy.

"This year our president said we have enough kids for three T-Ball teams, but we needed one more volunteer coach to do it. And my husband stepped up."

Hannah will follow up with the league's director with tips on how to maintain the fields. It's been done each year with various other fields the Blue Wahoos have helped to renovate.

It's part of the team's mission statement to improve the quality of life in Pensacola and the surrounding area. The field renovation Thursday was another way to help make that happen.



This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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