A TIDELAND NEWS REPORT
When the Swansboro Baseball and Softball Association begins its spring 2010 season, the youngsters will be playing at a top-flight facility.
And that’s courtesy of the United States Marine Corps.
Under the guidance of CWO 3 Rob Hansill, volunteers from the 8th Communications Battalion spent nearly a week upgrading the complex.
Hansill, who coaches the SBSA’s Major League Braves, had between 30 to 50 Marines working on the fields each day, beginning Feb. 8 and wrapping up Friday.
And there wasn’t a stone left unturned.
The improvement plan, nicknamed ”Operation: Field of Dreams,” included skinning and leveling the infields, adding wind screens to the backstops and protective tops to the outfield fences, grading the parking lots, trimming trees and burying a water line.
If the league relied on private contractors to perform the work, it would have cost over $75,000.
SBSA president Julie Macey said Hansill was responsible for saving the league a tremendous amount of money.
“The SBSA is extremely appreciative of all that Rob and his Marines have done to make “Operation: Field of Dreams” a reality,” she said. “No improvements had been made to the fields for many, many years.
“Last year, the new concession stand was built and high school quality clay was brought in for the infields, but holes and drainage issues remained and the park looked old and rundown. This year the changes are both cosmetic and functional. In labor, time, and equipment, Rob saved SBSA over $75,000.”
Macey added that several members of the community went above-and-beyond in their work to improve the fields.
“Chuck Mowery, our Chairman of the Board, was out there every day with shovel in hand, as were, former Chairman Dan Cushine, Missy Dombrowski and Paul Cunningham,” she said. “Donations of food and material from local individuals and businesses kept our expenses to a minimum. It was a community effort to pull off this overhaul, and SBSA appreciates all those whose contributions made it possible.”
Hansill explained why he decided to undertake such a major project.
“I coached the Majors last year and saw the need,” he said. “I also have Marines that must meet certain training objectives each year in order to maintain proficiency in their technical skill. To accomplish that, my Engineer Equipment Operators performed horizontal construction using five pieces of heavy equipment.
“My Motor Transport Operators conducted tactical convoy operations, loading and unloading of equipment, and vehicle recovery. We incorporated this important training into the Community Relations Project that benefited SBSA and the Marines involved.”
Though the Marines and community volunteers spent five long days working on the fields, there was even more time consumed with preliminary work.
“Many hours of preparation went into the final product, including site surveys, route reconnaissance, equipment checks, convoy planning, confirmation briefs, and safety briefs,” explained Hansill. “We engaged this operation as we would any real-world contingency. I also utilized the junior leadership to conduct this mission. The young corporals and sergeants planned, conducted and supervised the entire operation. This experience will help to propel their careers and build confidence in their leadership ability.”
Players will not only enjoy playing on higher quality fields, but the facility is both safer and more fan friendly, according to Hansill.
“Players and fans will enjoy a ‘refreshed’ park,” he said. “Four diamonds were completely skinned leaving leveled, clay infields free of pot holes and water hazards. Four backstops and center fields received wind and eye screens. The outfield received yellow safety tops to protect the players from the jagged fence. The parking lot was graded and compacted. Trees and brush were trimmed back from three fields. A 250-foot water line was buried. The office received vinyl siding and its interior wiring reconnected to the power source.
“Four pieces of maintenance equipment (tractor, lawn mower and gators) were repaired and are in good working condition. Nine sets of old hazardous bleachers were disposed of. A storage shed received a new floor. Marines removed old posts and trash to beautify the grounds. All hazardous material was collected and disposed of.”