Long Meadow’s seven baseball fields will get a much-needed face-lift, but renovations will not start until next summer at the earliest and will take years to complete.
Councilmember Brad Lander has allocated $500,000 from 2012’s fiscal year budget to renovate the baseball fields in Prospect Park’s mile-long stretch. Last year, Lander doled out $750,000, for a combined sum of $1.25 million. But, the Prospect Park Alliance says it will take a grand total of up to $6 million to complete the years-long project.
While the project is still in the design phase, the park plans to renovate the fields entirely. Alliance President Emily Lloyd said the park will completely reconstruct the drainage and irrigation system for all of the Long Meadow ball fields, some of the roadway drainage systems adjacent to the fields to stop storm water runoff, build new backstops and dugout seating areas, and all of the lawn areas will be reconstructed as well as new clay infields.
But the changes will not come quickly.
“The biggest problem with the fields is obviously drainage,” said Ed Albert, the president of the Prospect Park Baseball Association. “Drainage is a big issue because we end up losing fields for a whole weekend during the season.”
With 2,500 kids playing at least 2,800 organized baseball games during the spring season, plus summer camps and recreational games, rainouts can be brutal. Last year, according to Albert, at least one-third of the games played were affected by rain—the were either cancelled or played in the grass, instead of on the fields.
Griffin, a 10-year-old who was playing baseball on one of the fields with his summer camp, Camp Bulldog, gave Long Meadow’s fields a low score.
“I give it a four-and-one-half out of 10,” he said. “The dirt is rocky; it’s not really nice to slide on,” Griffin, the self-proclaimed base stealer explained.
One of his counselors, Bryan Albert (Ed Albert’s son), agreed with his camper.
“For actual games it does get unfair. The bounces are horrible. It’s not fair for the kids and it’s sad because we accept it, for most fields in Brooklyn have uneven bounces.” (An uneven bounce is when the ball hops in an unexpected direction when rolling on the ground. This is due to uneven grass, holes, and hollows in the infield and outfield.)
Although bounces can be dangerous and unfair while playing the classic American game, drainage is still the biggest problem. Bryan said he remembers coming out on many Fridays after it rained with his dad and using hand pumps to move the water from the fields to the grass in order to have the diamonds ready for the weekend.
“The fields retain water very well. There is always a puddle at home plate, between fist base and second, and second base and third. When it rains, it’s always a mess.”
But the days of DIY-drainage are over. Ed Albert said that the PPBA organization shells out $6,000 a year to have workers drain the fields properly. And in the last four years they have spent almost $30,000 to add 80 tons of clay to each field. Albert says that flooding is just part of the drainage problem and erosion of the fields due to rain is also a big issue. He suggestions adding a soil conditioner with the clay, this way it will be softer and more absorbent.
Now, with help from the City Council and the plans to renovate the fields, Albert is happy. “Brad stepping up and allocating money is phenomenal,” he said.
But until more money comes in and the renovations actually start, the park’s baseball players will have to deal with the conditions.
“Kids joke that if you can slide into base on the fields, you can slide on concrete,” said Lander.
But Marc Lussier, the director of Camp Bulldog, still loves playing in the park.
“Long Meadow means everything to me," he said. This is where I learned to play. This is my backyard."