By John Robert
One might expect the economy to affect youth sports, but not every sport experiences the impact in the same way.
“Baseball is a relatively inexpensive sport, so we’ve seen our registration numbers rise since the economy has dropped,” said Rick Tanguay, president of the Trenton Baseball Association, “But we also lose fields, and have less money to maintain them.”
This is the predicament the TBA has been placed in leading up to this summer. Nearly 500 kids are involved in the association, forming 42 teams of boys or girls ranging from 7 to 18 years old.
To handle this workload, Trenton has 8-10 fields, only half of which can be used for games, and some of which aren’t fit to even practice upon. Three of these parks are in flood zones, making it difficult to count on their availability for games, especially in the spring. Only Teifer Park has lighting, and at night its primary designation is for adult softball games, instead of letting the kids experience playing under the lights.
As a result of these forces, Trenton had to pull out of the Downriver Baseball Association for 12 and under baseball, and start its own league with other cities who find themselves in similar straits.
That allows the 12U division play two games a day on a field, whereas the DBA only allows one game per field.
“We’ve lost two parks over the past few years,” Tanguay said, and this year the TBA faces the loss of yet another. There is a pending sale of the former Taylor Elementary School building and associated property to a church.
“We’re waiting to see if they get it, but they’ve been given another extension.” The large property was sold for the relatively modest sum of $250,000, which has led Tanguay to believe that TBA, through grants and fundraising efforts, might be able to make its own bid to acquire the site, which also would allow the location to remain a public park, and offer the city a prime location to build its first complex of fields.
“Most cities have fields together in a complex,” he said, meaning they are clustered together. This design allows for cheaper and easier maintenance, along with designated areas for parking, another problem with several of the fields in Trenton.
“There are places where we could build them,” he said, suggesting also the former location of Owen Elementary School.
However, the TBA understands that the city is as pressed for money due to the economy as many individuals are.
“We try and do our part, too,” Tanguay said. “We are looking at grants, for money or land, and we are saving money and trying to raise what money we can.”
This includes winning a GMC Diamond in the Rough Grant in 2006, which allowed them to modernize Haas Park on the city’s north end, including construction of a portable fence that is shared with the high school field.
“We also put together Field Cleanup Day, where while the kids practice the parents help by raking the field or doing other maintenance jobs.” Member Rob Cox has helped by getting the 33rd District Court’s alternative workforce program to make stops at the fields. Meanwhile, Director Terry Teifer Jr. has been trying to pull in what funds he can, including through the Paul Martin Tournament, a new event in 2011 that TBA officials will stage again this year and for the foreseeable future.
As Tanguay says, “give us a multimillion-dollar baseball complex, and we can start delivering state championships, too. Any sport would.” However, the TBA knows this is unrealistic, so instead it is working within the system that exists. Together, with the efforts of Trenton High School varsity Coach Todd Szalka, they have managed to start construction of a batting cage at the high school, which will allow for eight to 10 players to practice hitting at one time.
Trenton has a great baseball tradition that includes sending players to Major League Baseball. The TBA hopes that by adding and improving fields it can continue to build on that legacy, and at the same time encourage young players to play baseball longer and cherish the memories they create on their hometown fields