Youth organization continues to push for upgrades and improvements –
By Patricia Beech –
Knothole baseball and softball fans turned out Saturday, April 28 for a day-long marathon of baseball games and Opening Day festivities at the renovated Sports Park on Simmons Avenue in Peebles.
In opening ceremonies, Sheriff Kimmy Rogers threw out the first pitch, and Maria Sexton from Venture Productions performed the National Anthem.
In addition to all 17 Peebles teams playing scheduled games, the event also featured a hog roast, raffles, a bounce house and games for kids.
“We wanted to give the community a chance to come and see the improvements we’ve made to the park,” said Kristen Mahan, a committee member with the Peebles Youth Sports Organization (PYSO). “When we took over the organization we wanted to do more to build the park up and get our youth more involved.”
Improvements at the park are largely due to the energy and efforts of Mahan, and her fellow committee members – Mike and Mel Rayburn; Amy and Kyle Smalley; Chad and Amy Wilson; Jillian and Adam Carroll; and Mahan’s husband, Jay.
“We’re improving the park for the kids in this community and the surrounding counties,” said Mike Rayburn. “It’s a great place for the kids to come and learn the wonderful game of baseball – but it’s not just the kids – it’s also for the parents and grandparents, and the whole community. This is going to be a great place for the kids and families for a very long time.”
Upgrades at the park include: a new basketball court, two new batting cages, metal bleachers sitting atop concrete slabs, new public restrooms, and a new concession stand and patio with concrete table and chairs donated by the local McDonald’s restaurant.
“We’re the second team in the league to have batting cages,” said Kyle Smalley, the PYSO committee president. “Now, when it’s wet outside, the kids have a dry area where they can practice.”
Getting kids outdoors and active is a priority for Smalley and the PYSO committee members.
“We hope this park will be especially good for the kids who live around here who don’t have a lot of encouragement,” he said. “We’ve donated a lot of things for kids, like shoes and bats, so they have a reason to go outside everyday and have fun.”
According to Smalley, improvements at the park are the result of community effort and support.
“It’s been tremendous,” he said. “That’s what’s so good about Peebles to my mind. We had John Huffman donate time to do our plumbing and painting, Kieth Hoop donated time to do our electrical work, Leeann Puckett and volunteers from GE helped with the concrete, Josh Lloyd did all of our waterline work free of charge, and Debbie Ryan and Holly Johnson have helped us get our grants, and without that a lot of this would not have been possible.”
In addition to grant monies, the committee also relied heavily on local businesses to raise funds for the park.
Large advertising banners purchased by local business owners hang from the new eight-foot fence surrounding the park’s street side baseball field.
“They’ve been great to us,” says Mahan. “GE alone has been here several different days, for hours on end doing work and we just can’t thank them enough.”
Despite all they’ve accomplished, Mahan and the other committee members aren’t yet ready to sit on their laurels, but are planning to make even more changes at the park.
“We’re working on some grants for a walking path that will go around the entire half-mile perimeter to give parents something to do while their kids are practicing,” said Smalley. “We’re also raising funds and applying for grants to dig out and move the facility’s original ball diamond to the street side of the park.”
He said moving the field will allow all three ball diamonds to be visible from the concession area.
“We’re going to build a shelter over the patio so when it’s hot grandparents can sit in the shade and see all three fields at once.”
Smalley says he’s optimistic about the park’s future.
“Thursday night, I’ll bet there was 250 people here, and there wasn’t even a game scheduled,” he says. “Between the ball courts, batting cages, and practices in the grass and field, the place was packed.”
Smalley says the committee’s greatest hope is that kids will use the park.
“We wanted to build up this park for the kids,” he says,. “Even though some of us don’t even have kids, we recognize that all children have a right to expect a prosperous, successful life. That’s why we’re doing this.”