The Riverside-Brookfield High School girls softball team will have a new home field next spring, one they hope may allow them to host tournaments and allow Brookfield National Little League to groom future generations of Bulldog players.
To help make that happen, Riverside-Brookfield High School softball coach John Vermillion told members of the Brookfield Village Board on Aug. 27 that the high school would be willing to contribute $5,000 toward renovating the east field at Jaycee/Ehlert Park.
Vermillion said the softball program hopes to also solicit funds from the RB Boosters. Brookfield National Little League Vice President JoAnn Ogden-D’Altorio said her organization would also contribute money to make the east field a proper softball venue.
The renovation is expected to cost about $10,000, according to Vermillion.
Traditionally, the Little League organizations in Brookfield have maintained the ball fields and paid for upgrades. The Little League, for example, paid $14,000 for a more substantial renovation of the west field at Ehlert Park a few years ago.
The league solicits its own bids and hires the contractor. However, the money is technically donated to the village, which pays the contractor for the work.
Vermillion said the east field would have the grass infield removed and replaced with a dirt infield, which is standard for softball. While the high school team has played on the east field in the past, it’s not suitable for IHSA tournament play, which requires a skinned infield.
“That field would be a step up from RB’s field,” said Vermillion, referring to the Bulldogs’ facility directly behind the high school. While the infield is a regulation dirt surface, there are no dugouts and no outfield fence.
The field at the high school is also shared by the football and soccer teams, which practice on it, and is used for gym classes, so the condition of the outfield can be spotty.
In addition, the field is actually located on property owned by the Brookfield Zoo. And on spring weekend days when the weather is nice, the zoo will simply commandeer that property for parking, with little prior notice.
That has forced the RBHS softball team to seek last minute locations for home games. Last season, such a situation landed the team at Ehlert Park – and the idea for moving there on a permanent basis was born.
“The problem is that half the games scheduled there we’re cleared off, because the zoo parks vehicles there,” said Vermillion. “We’re the only school I know of where we get cleared off the field we play on.”
Vermillion and Ogden-D’Altorio also agreed that upgrading the field at Ehlert Park would not only be a win for the high school program, but for the Little League program as well.
“It’s actually an advantage,” said Ogden-D’Altorio. “It’ll help get the [Little League] girls ready for tournaments. Little League has thrown the idea around for the last two years, so when RB approached me, [we were interested].”
RBHS’ baseball team already calls Ehlert Park home. That team plays on the Babe Ruth field at the park and maintains it during the high school season. The softball team would also be responsible for maintain the east field during their season.
Art Ostrow, the high school’s assistant principal for athletics, said while it’d be nice to have an on-campus facility, the Ehlert Park opportunity is too good to pass up.
“Yes, we have to travel a bit, but it’s in our community and is a place we can call home for both baseball and softball,” Ostrow said
The challenge now is to work out the details with the village of Brookfield in order to begin the field renovation this fall and have the field ready for use in March 2013.