By Philip Haldiman
If you build it, they will come.
And it is even better if it is a gift.
Officials are planning for a new state-of-the-art baseball field to be located on city property at Camelback Road and Village Parkway, donated from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The venue will be dubbed Jackie Robinson Field to commemorate his 100th birthday, with a groundbreaking planned for January and a dedication set for April 13.
The donation is part of the Diamondback Field Building Program, allowing children from across the state to play baseball and softball at quality facilities.
Debbie Castaldo, executive director of Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation, said Litchfield Park is a shining example of the perfect home for a Diamondbacks field.
The field is funded half by the Foundation and half by Arizona Public Service. Project estimates were not released.
“Litchfield Park was a natural fit. And in the end, this is a donation, so when we turn over the keys, the field is yours,” she said.
The venue will occupy a little less than two acres of a four acre site and will be the 42nd field the Arizona Diamondbacks have donated.
Litchfield Park City Council approved an agreement, Dec. 19, allowing the Diamondbacks to purchase and install all needed components of the field and the city to operate and maintain the field once it is built.
One-time costs to the city for the field are estimated at $147,000, including $30,000 for parking and $85,000 for a restroom.
Ongoing costs to repair, maintain and operate the field are estimated at about $88,000, including $20,000 for water and about $64,000 for staff.
Litchfield Park Management Assistant Sonny Culbreth said the Foundation contacted the city about building a new field and the city began looking into it.
The evaluation and determination of the location of each field is decided through a grant process, according to the Foundation website. However, neither the city nor the Foundation provided details into how the Litchfield Park site was chosen.
The organization awards a new field annually.
Katie Krause, senior manager of corporate communications, stated in an email that the organization “could provide background information about our D-Backs field building program in general but unfortunately for this particular field we don’t have any details at this time and wouldn’t be able to provide any additional info.”
During the approval process, city staff contacted nearby residents who would be most affected by the field and discussed the proposal, including lighting consisting of four 90-foot tall light poles.
Based on the design, light is not expected to spill over beyond the field. Mr. Culbreth said there was no public opposition to the field.
Some city council members had concerns the site will not be able to support parking needs once the field opens. City Manager Bill Stephens said the parking lot on the property will be expanded, but the number of spaces were not available.
The Foundation has built or refurbished 39 fields since 2000, representing a community investment of more than $10 million, with support from APS and charitable contributions from Diamondback players.
Field accessories provided by the Foundation will include: fencing, foul ball poles, bullpens, dugout benches, scorer’s table, 3-tier bleachers, double-sided illuminated scoreboard, irrigation supplies and installation, warning track, light standards with LED lights containing spill and glare components, as well as about 40,000 square feet of infield and outfield sod and more than 50 tons of dirt.
Michael Butterfield, Litchfield Park Little League president, said the players will be able to use high quality amenities and a new baseball field will greatly reduce the field time needed for games at the Litchfield Elementary School site, one of five fields serving the Little League.
Jackie Robinson Field will be the sixth venue used by the league.
Mr. Butterfield spends much of his free time volunteering for the league, which serves around 600 participants annually, wearing a number of hats from coaching to maintaining fields.
He said the league could see more growth with a new modern field, and with new LED lights it should be significantly less expensive than the other Little League fields.
“I was very emotional when I found out about the field,” Mr. Butterfield said. “We will use heck out of it.”
The field opening will be part of the Foundation’s year-long Jackie Robinson Centennial Celebration beginning with a photograph exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York that opens Jan. 31, Mr. Robinson’s birthdate. Various other events will take place in several cities throughout the year, including a special dedication of the field in Litchfield Park on April 13, with Jackie Robinson Day to be celebrated on April 15.
Ms. Castaldo said representatives from Major League Baseball and living relatives of Jackie Robinson are expected to attend the Litchfield Park portion of the celebration.
For Councilman Peter Mahoney, the construction of a new Little League field in Litchfield Park is a full-circle moment.
His father and mother lived very close to Ebbets Field where the Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie Robinson once played. He grew up listening to his father tell stories about going to games, and today Mr. Mahoney plays host Los Angeles Dodger coaches and players during spring training at his restaurant Old Pueblo Café and Pub, 102 N. Old Litchfield Road, in downtown Litchfield Park.
The city is a home away from home for many players leading up to the regular season, as their Cactus League venue during spring training is Camelback Ranch, located about five miles east of the city.
He said a new field will be a great gift, especially since the Dodgers play nearby, and every year the city’s Little League is highly competitive statewide.
“The new field is going to be phenomenal,” he said. “We’ve grown so much that we need more baseball fields.”
Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit yourvalley.net.
Litchfield Park will be site of the 42nd Little League field built by the Diamond Backs and it will be dedicated in honor of Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson. He is one of the most famous Baseball players of all time and was responsible for breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
Team: Brooklyn Dodgers
Rookie of the year: 1947
All-star games: Six
World Series Champion: 1955
Groundbreaking: planned for January
Field dedication: April 13
Jackie Robinson Day: April 15