Rain Delay

RANDOLPH – Reggie Taylor had plans to do annual maintenance on the baseball field at Randolph’s Weeden Park last Tuesday, but the weather made sure it didn’t happen. Heavy rains and flash flooding caused damage to property and many roads were closed.

Taylor, Randolph Area Little League president, said they had just finished grooming the field and were ready to resurface it with a special “baseball mix” the day before the flood. When the water receded, it left the field in a muddy mess with a trench running from third base, all the way to home plate, and a 5-ton pile of baseball mix, water-logged and unusable.

“Every year, we replenish the dirt on the field because it gets moved around and packed down with low spots,” he explained. “So we figured we’d fix the low spots, like we always do, and the day after the mix was delivered – bam – Mother Nature decided to do a number on us.”

According to Taylor, getting the field ready will take the 5 tons of previously delivered mix, once it dries out, plus 5 new tons of mix. The special dirt mix containing crushed brick (clay), silt and sand is necessary for proper maintenance of baseball fields and helps keep the entire infield area level.

“We’ve seen floods at Weeden Park where small fish were found in puddles on the baseball field the day after, because Elm Creek runs alongside the park. I thought for sure we’d have the same thing this time, and I’d tell the kids ‘don’t bring your gloves, bring your fishing poles,'” he joked. “So far, we haven’t found any fish on the field.”

Taylor said the field took a real pounding, but the league was lucky and “dodged a bullet,” because there was no damage inside either one of their two sheds. He said with the way the water flooded the entire park and surrounding area, it’s hard to imagine how the sheds and contents survived.

In one shed, the league stores items like a chalk machine, which is used to mark the lines on the field. The other shed houses the concession stand, which had just been stocked with $400 worth of food the day before. The refrigerator, chest freezer and two coolers were all running and unscathed.

Taylor’s wife, Sandra, said the concession stand helps the league with the proceeds covering expenses such as paying the umpires and banquets for the kids at the end of the year. The registration fees and fundraisers cover the costs of equipment, uniforms and insurance.

She stressed that in addition to the inconvenience and extra work involved, the interrupted schedule has affected the income of the league because they can’t open their concession stand yet.

The big thing right now is fixing the damage, getting the special baseball mix back on the field, and trying to make it playable for the kids. Taylor noted the back field, toward Peaches and Cream, is so wet he’ll be surprised if they can get on it by this weekend.

Sandra said although the baseball field is a disaster and it’ll take a lot of work to get it into shape, it has not changed their schedule because most of the games have been moved to Frewsburg. The games between the two Randolph teams are the only events they’ve had to reschedule.

Some people may ask why the Little League teams don’t use the fields at Randolph Central School. Taylor explained the softball fields at the school are full with its junior varsity and varsity softball teams, and the varsity also uses a field at Weeden Park. The other problem is there are no mounds on the softball fields.

“There are no other baseball fields in Randolph and there is just no place to go,” he said. “People comment ‘it’s nice out, so why can’t the kids play?’ They don’t understand what has to be done to the field before the kids can play ball.”

Taylor said there’s a lot more to running this program for the kids than people realize. He coached for seven years with Shane Benson, but between coaching and trying to run the league, it got to be too much and he had to step away to concentrate on running the league. Phil Hind and Aaron Finch are currently coaching the two major teams. Little League has three age levels – tee ball, minors and majors.

The Taylors have an 8-year-old that’s playing in the minors and a 4-year-old that just started tee ball, so they have at least another eight years of doing this – and they’ve been doing it for four years already.

“We do it for our sons and I didn’t want to see anything happen to the baseball program where it wasn’t around anymore for our kids, as well as the other kids in the area,” he said. “This is a volunteer thing and I do this because I love the game of baseball – always have, always will.”

Taylor said the league is thankful the town of Randolph helps out because it’s a huge benefit to them. On Tuesday, a town dump truck hauled in another 5 tons of baseball mix and delivered it to Weeden Park.

In spite of the rain that began falling around 3 p.m. that day, Taylor proceeded to repair the baseball field with the assistance of Sandra; their son, Dalton; and sister-in-law, Jennifer. Armed with shovels, rakes, and a small wagon to transport the dirt from the parking lot to the field, the small band of dedicated baseball lovers were last seen redoing the field – once again.

The Taylors run a golf tournament, in July, to raise money for the Randolph Area Little League baseball program, and all the proceeds stay with the Little League. The Randolph Area Little League Golf Tournament is held annually at Cardinal Hills Golf Course, 78 Conewango Road, in Randolph. Interested people may call the golf course at 358-5409 for more information.