The Tri-City ValleyCats, along with their corporate partners BlueShield of Northeastern New York and Hannaford Supermarkets, undertook the 8th Annual '4 in 24' youth field renovation project on Wednesday, April 11.
The project's mission is to assist local youth leagues with the maintenance and upkeep of their playing fields, allowing for a safe place for children to learn and play the game baseball and softball.
Each year since 2011, the ValleyCats and their partners simultaneously renovate four youth fields on one day in April prior to the opening of the youth baseball season.
This year, the chosen leagues were American Little League in Albany, Cairo-Durham Little League, Scotia-Glenville Girls Softball, and Round Lake Malta Youth Baseball.
Over 30 fields have now been revamped thanks to this program, which has positively effected thousands of youth ball players in the ValleyCats' community.
"When we first embarked on this ambitious project in 2011, we felt that it would have an enormous positive impact on many youth ballplayers within the Capital Region," said ValleyCats General Manager Matt Callahan. "Now in its eighth year, and 30 plus leagues later, the need and project scope continues to grow exponentially. We are incredibly thankful to BlueShield of Northeastern New York and Hannaford Supermarkets who have been instrumental in keeping the program going strong."
Both longtime supporters of this important community initiative, BlueShield of Northeastern New York and Hannaford Supermarkets have aided in supplying the necessary resources and volunteer commitment to complete these renovations.
"BlueShield knows how important programs like '4 in 24' are to ensuring children in our community have access to healthy activities," said Dr. Kirk Panneton, Vice President, Regional Executive and Medical Director, BlueShield of Northeastern New York. "Through our partnership with the Tri-City ValleyCats, our company and employees have helped transform over 30 fields and we are thrilled to be a part of this community initiative again this year."
"Active kids make for healthy communities, which is why youth sports are so important. Hannaford is pleased to once again partner with the Tri-City ValleyCats to provide young people with wonderfully improved facilities for healthy play and growth," said Hannaford Supermarkets Community Relations Specialist Brian Fabre. "We look forward to seeing kids throughout the greater Capital Region rush the field this spring as they learn the values of teamwork and dedication."
Hannaford Supermarkets also kept the volunteers hydrated and well fed by providing food and drinks at each field location!
The efforts were also assisted by Profile Products and Turface Athletics, Admar Construction Equipment & Supplies, and Brightview, who contributed some of the necessary materials, equipment and expertise. In order to complete the entire project, 1200+ clay bricks, 40 bags of loose mound clay, 40 bags of infield conditioner, 69 tons of infield mix, and 12,000 square feet of sod was needed. Additional support came from 'Cats Care, the ValleyCats' arm of the New York-Penn League Charitable Foundation.
It was an early morning for ValleyCats Media Relations Manager Chris Chenes, who arrived at American Little League in Albany at 5:00am for the morning news coverage. Each of the local TV stations went LIVE from the ballpark to talk about the ambitious project.
Crew call for the four renovation teams was 7:30am, and consisted of over a dozen volunteers at each of the four fields being renovated.
Each field had their old infield grass replaced with brand new sod (minus Scotia-Glenville Girls Softball), the pitcher's mound and home plate areas completely rebuilt, infield surface leveled, graded and raked, baselines measured and cut to the correct specifications, and all new bases, a pitching rubber and home plate installed.
The temperature was unseasonably cold for spring, especially early in the morning, as frost covered the tips of the grass. That didn't slow down the progress, though!
At 9:00am, the crew at American Little League in Albany paused for a brief ceremonial press conference to officially kick off the renovations. New York Senator Neil Breslin was in attendance, and praised the work of the program.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan talked about the impact the renovations have on the local youth ballplayers.
The ValleyCats were presented with a citation from both the New York State Senate and Assembly, recognizing this 8th annual community project.
MiLB.com's Benjamin Hill ranks this ValleyCats community initiative as one of the best in Minor League Baseball.
The ValleyCats recognize that one of the major roles they play within their community is to be ambassadors for the game of baseball. Each year their staff, corporate partners and volunteers put a ton of work into making sure these renovations are a success.
ValleyCats General Manager Matt Callahan has served as the foreman for the project, and is now an expert at the installation of new home plates and pitching rubbers!
While the mound and home plate are being worked on, volunteers are busy removing the old sod from the infield, adding topsoil to level the playing surface, and then laying down brand new grass! (This was the first order of the year for Saratoga Sod here in upstate New York!)
And now, prepare to be amazed, as we check out the before and after photos from each field!
American Little League, Albany
"The Albany American Little League would like to thank the Tri-City ValleyCats and their partners for their timeless efforts, support, and commitment to Little League Baseball. The renovation of our field will help our players develop into young athletes, provide our youth a safe and structured environment where they can grow to become productive caring members of our communities. The work that the ValleyCats will do for our field will add value to the community and place smiles on the faces of our little leaguers."
Sentaria Depass-Murray, President
Cairo-Durham Little League
"During the past several years, little league participation has been falling, which has affected our ability to help afford all things needed to improve the conditions for the kids. Last year we focused on getting our kids all new catching equipment and renovating our girls softball field (all new dirt, excavation and a new drainage system). This year is on new bats and our main field really needs attention. Your help with our field will help improve the main baseball field, not just cosmetically but in functionality as well. This huge gift will allow us to focus on buying a machine to pull our rascal in order to maintain the 5 fields we play on.
It truly is an honor and a gift to be chosen and I am beyond grateful for your generosity. Look forward to seeing this all come together. Thank you again!"
Jesse Walz, President
Round Lake Malta Youth Baseball
"We are absolutely thrilled to be selected for the ValleyCat's 4 in 24 Field Renovation project. The native soil at our field is particularly challenging to maintain and this overhaul will bring both the financial investment and expertise that we lack to make a lasting improvement to the ball field. The ValleyCat's commitment to youth baseball programs is truly impressive. You make the kids feel like all-stars when they visit the stadium and I know they are going to feel like they made the big leagues when they step on to their newly renovated field! Thank you for supporting our players and the countless volunteers across the Tri-City area who work to bring a positive youth baseball experience to our children!"
Lori Sievers, President
Scotia-Glenville Girls Softball
"On behalf of Scotia Glenville Girls Softball League, our board of directors and our girls, we would like to thank the Tri-City ValleyCats organization as well as their sponsors, BlueShield of Northeastern New York and Hannaford for awarding us the 4 in 24 field renovation for 2018. As a small community and league, we rely on volunteers for all field maintenance and fundraising. We appreciate the ValleyCats commitment to our local communities and the betterment of our area youth sports programs. Our secondary field was in dire need of renovation. Fixing this field will ensure that all of our girls share the same great, and more importantly safe, softball experience!
Lisa DiSorbo, League President
The response from the community was tremendous, and many voiced their opinions on social media.
Additionally, here are some of the stories from the Capital Region media outlets:
Times Union: https://www.timesunion.com/7dayarchive/article/Volunteers-begin-marathon-4-in-24-effort-to-12824757.php
Hudson Valley 360: https://www.hudsonvalley360.com/article/cairo-durham-little-league-receives-facelift
Your Clifton Park: https://yourcliftonpark.com/2018/04/11/round-lake-baseball-field-gets-some-tlc-from-valleycats/
That concludes this recap, but be sure to join the ValleyCats on Friday, June 22 for their Youth Baseball Celebration! On that night the 'Cats will recognize the 2018 '4 in 24' renovations, while also inviting Capital Region youth baseball teams to come to the game and participate in a pregame parade on the warning track.
For all softball leagues out there, don't you worry! Softball Night is on Thursday, July 5, and the same pregame parade will be taking place on that night.
Be sure to visit tcvalleycats.com for ticket information, or call 518-629-CATS.
If your league would like to apply for a renovation, visit the ValleyCats Community Grounds Crew page at tcvalleycats.com/fieldrenovations
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.