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Clubs team up to make Farmington fields better

The biggest project the clubs have worked to get done is the new Tiger Clubhouse at Levi Dodge Middle School. The building will serve as a storage space and, with its concession stand, a source of revenue.

Sometimes, if you want something done, you just have to do it yourself.

It's a simple but true statement, and one three summer ball clubs in Farmington have accepted as a fact of life. Playing on fields rented from the school district, city of Farmington or in neighboring townships, the summer in-house baseball, traveling baseball and softball teams occasionally need more amenities than the facilities they're playing on actually have.

Budget constraints across the board often make it hard for municipalities to set aside money for extras like overhead netting or batting cages. But the youth ball teams can benefit from those same extras. That's why the organizations have started to take matters into their own hands.

Over the past three years, the three youth ball clubs have collaborated to do several improvements to fields around District 192. According to Farmington In-house Baseball director Tom Severson, each program charges its participants a fee. The clubs set aside a small amount from each fee, and allocate that money to field improvement projects.

"Some improvements have been done to date, but there would be a lot more we'd like to see. We understand the limitations the city and school district have," Severson said. "We just felt it was necessary to work with the city and school district to get the improvements our participants deserve."

And so, they have. Over time, the collective group has funded several improvements, including infield cuts by the Tiger varsity and JV fields at the corner of County Road 50 and Akin Road; outdoor batting cages; overhead netting at the Levi Dodge Middle School four-plex of fields; and fencing and infield extensions at the Riverview Elementary School fields.

Tiger Clubhouse

Maybe the most noticeable of their projects is the new building in the middle of the fields at Dodge Middle School -- the Tiger Clubhouse.

A new concession stand and storage facility at the field, the Tiger Clubhouse was a pet project for traveling baseball field coordinator Jude Martinsen. It was a project all three ball programs agreed would be beneficial for the future.

First off, Martinsen said, the concession stand will help the programs make money for future projects. There are some costs from the building's construction that still have to be paid yet, but once it's paid off, the clubs will reap the benefit.

"A lot of times, we have parents who are racing home so they can get their kids to the fields and they don't have time to eat," Martinsen said. "It will just be convenient to have some of those things at the field."

The other bonus to the Tiger Clubhouse is that it has three separate storage areas one for the softball program, one for in-house baseball and one for traveling baseball. Martinsen said each program was paying about $100 a month to store equipment at an outside facility. This way, the programs will each save about $1,200 annually. That's money that could one day go to other items on future wish lists.

Collaborative effort

Deciding which projects are the most important, and where the items rank on the priority lists is a group decision. Each organization has representatives that meet with representatives from the other two programs on a regular basis.

When they get together, they each come with a list of ideas and priority requests. Then, they sit down and hash out what falls where on the to-do list.

"It's still in the works for what the next projects are going to be," Severson said. "Sometimes it's tough to get the three organizations to agree on the priorities, but then again, it's also hard to just get the groups together at times."

Both Martinsen and Severson said they will sit down with the group in the fall to start making decisions for next year's projects.

Depending on what the identified projects are, the ball clubs will either put the project out for bids, or volunteers will step up to do whatever work they can to keep costs down. Additionally, each of the ball clubs provides their own volunteers to run the Tiger Clubhouse during games and tournament weekends.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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