At Atholton, Field Of Dreams Grows By Grass-roots Effort

The Scene: County currents and undercurrents

April 19, 1992|By Gary Lambrecht

The message was clear at Atholton High School last week.

Baseballis back, and not even barbarians can hold up the game.

Atholton has ushered in many an Easter break by celebrating the game of baseball with a well-run, two-day tournament. This year's tournament, which ended Wednesday with Mount Hebron defeating Atholton ina tense, extra-inning affair, was doubly significant.

It marked the first tournament in Atholton's charming, new baseball facility, which includes two dugouts, a press box and a re-painted, electronic scoreboard.

The ball yard fittingly has been named Van Deusen Field,a tribute to Don Van Deusen, the school's former baseball coach and current athletic director who has made the field's impeccable maintenance his labor of love for years.

Two weeks ago, shortly after thefield had been unveiled for its first high school game, vandals tried to ruin the Raiders' party.

They broke into a tool shed, stole tools and banners, set fire to one dugout, dug up a huge chunk of infield grass, burned another part of the infield, and spray-painted racist graffiti on the dugouts and adjacent concession stands. In all, about $1,000 in theft and property damage was done.

Larry Thompson, the Raiders' assistant baseball coach, noticed the damage early Saturday morning, April 4. By noon, more than 40 people, including the entire varsity and junior varsity baseball teams, coaches and parents, were ridding the field of its ugly bruises.

"By 6, we could have played a game on it," said John Gick, the president of the school's boosters club. "Everybody pitched in."

Which pretty much sums up the story of Van Deusen Field. The project, originally conceived by Van Deusen, began to take shape last October. Players, coaches and parentsworked hard with fund-raisers, and donated their time, skills and equipment to the field, mostly on weekends. Gick, for one, spent several days of his vacation at Atholton.

One parent, Joe Corden, laid much of the brick that forms the facade of the dugouts. Larry Altman, an electrician, wired the concession stands and the scoreboard. Volunteers painted dugouts and planted new sod. Another parent, a welder, pieced together an improved backstop, which was moved further behind home plate for better playing conditions. The list is endless.

Sixmonths and $6,000 later, the Raiders are playing ball on their own field of dreams.

"I can't say enough about the kids and the parents," said Gick, who lent his roofing and carpentry skills to the project. "With the county budget the way it is, we're lucky we have people with the money to do things like this. You've got to have a good showing with people like this."

Barbarians don't have a chance againstpeople like this.

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