STITZER - Donations, fundraisers and grants have made the Stitzer Ball Park into the “Field of Dreams” of the area. The diamond and surrounding land is well groomed. Old fences have been replaced with new. Updated concessions and playground areas add to the homey atmosphere. Overall, the facility and the Stitzer tradition have been enhanced so that ball games and fun can happen for many more years there.
A few years ago, the Stitzer Ball Park Committee started improving the grounds through fundraisers and donations. A new concessions stand was built, some new lights were installed and slight updates were contributed as they were possible.
The ballpark has existed for decades and the continuous care for the park from the community has always been evident.
Most recently, large grants from the Fennimore Area Foundation and Alliant Energy, as well as a nice donation from the city of Cuba City, made dreams of a taller and sturdier outfield fence become reality.
The fence pieces came from the city of Cuba City, which was simply going to scrap them.
“They had it in a lot somewhere, just waiting to be scrapped. We found out about it, I offered to buy it from them, and they just decided to donate it to us,” Hubbard said.
Previously, snow fence surrounded the outfield. Softballs simply bounced over the fence, giving hitters extra bases and tempting defenders to jump the fence to retrieve the balls.
Now, the new chain-link installment has done away with unsafe conditions and only increased the competitiveness of games played at the diamond.
“It’s been awesome,” said Brett Hubbard, one local leader of much of the park’s enhancements. “It’s 10-foot fence now in the outfield, and we moved it a little further back. Right field is three feet lower than the rest of the outfield, but since Herman and Peggy Maier donated dirt for fill, it’s a lot better than it used to be. The new fence really brings out the true home run hitters.”
Hubbard said he has been impressed with all the donations that have been given, especially in a tight economy.
“This place looks great, and it was basically funded on grants and donations alone,” he said.
One of the big contributors was Rossing Excavating, which took care of all the bulldozing work associated with installing the fence. Bard Materials and J&N Stone also donated materials, and residents volunteered their time and skill to help with the project as well.
In addition to the new fence, the bleachers have been solidified with a second layer of wood, blacktop has been poured behind the bleachers and a cement pad was poured around the concessions stand. Also, a new backstop has been installed, and 4x8 vinyl signs now adorn the outfield fence. A maximum of 40 signs can hang and serve as advertising for local businesses, which purchase the signs once and then display them yearly for a support fee.
“The businesses own their own signs but their yearly fees pay for our lighting bill and the park improvements,” Hubbard said.
On the opposite side of Liberty Ridge Road from the ball diamond, volunteers worked in the spring of 2011 to build a shed for storage. Also, to alleviate parking as it has always been—along the road—local farmer Gary Hammond now loans his former cornfield as a grassy area for designated parking.
“It’s really nice. There’s more room and it’s much more organized,” Hubbard stated.
Adding to all the work that’s been accomplished in the past few years, volunteers plan to continue to give what they can to care for the park and ensure its strong future. The grounds are mowed regularly, limestone is donated by Milestone Materials to add to the diamond’s professional look, and bigger and better lights are on the “wish list.”
“The ones we want are $500 a light, and we would like to go up higher with our poles. We would really like to improve our lighting, especially for the outfield,” Hubbard said.
Now that the 2011 ball season is over, the community can take a breather, take a moment to thank those who have contributed, and take some time to think about what can be done next season.
Hubbard said “thank you” cards with a picture of the park will be sent out and a donor sign is being planned.
“We keep busy. This year, we had men’s ball on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, and the women’s league that moved from Lancaster played on Thursdays. Next year, we want to start a Wednesday night kickball league, and I have a feeling little league might start playing here,” Hubbard added. “We’re really happy. This has all been paid for with donations. We’ve been so fortunate.”