ORLEANS ----- There is always something to look forward to when you play in the Cape Cod Baseball League. For the Orleans Firebirds, they are being treated to some very nice field renovations.
Thanks to money from the Yawkey Foundation, the Firebirds began a three-phase process during the winter. The completed first phase features new dugouts, screening down each baseline to protect spectators and a new backstop wall and netting.
“It’s spectacular,” Firebirds general manager Sue Horton said. “It’s a little masterpiece.”
Previously, Eldredge Park had decaying dugouts and chain-link fencing as a backstop. Both were a sight for sore eyes. When the money became available, the Firebirds addressed those issues.
The first and third base dugouts were enlarged and include storage, as well as water faucets to allow cleaning. The dugouts, designed to replicate those at the University of California-Irvine, are covered by an arched ceiling, and feature terraced steps.
“The new dugouts are 100 times better,” catcher Matt Koch (Loyola-Marymount) said.
Koch is beginning his second summer with the Firebirds and remembers the old dugouts quite clearly.
“There is obviously more space and we are not bumping into each other every time we move,” he said.
A new brick wall encircles the backstop, with netting rising above it. The brick gives the field an old-fashioned look and will also play tricks on runners and catchers on passed balls. And the netting along the baselines provides fans with a sense of safety. Numerous fans had been injured by foul balls through the years. The netting will make the first base hill seats even more appealing.
“I couldn’t be happier,” field manager Kelly Nicholson said. “This takes the field to a whole new level. They went first class.”
There was also field work completed in the past week. A professional grounds crew from Lowell arrived on Wednesday and improved the pitcher’s mound and home plate. They also enlarged the basepaths and alleviated some of the lips in the infield.
“There is a sense of security,” Koch said. “It was done professionally, so there should be no bad hops.”
Along with the security comes a sense of pride in one’s home ballpark. Although these Cape League players are only here for two months, they are still a big part of the community.
“For the people of Orleans, this is something they can cherish,” Koch said.
Horton believes the money from the Yawkey Foundation helps everyone.
“It encourages others to come forth,” she said. “It’s a boon to the community.”
As for the baseball side of things, Orleans has always been a great place to play and the field renovations will only entice more players to come.
“This is a nice place,” Nicholson said. “It’s tough to find a nicer place to play summer baseball in the country.”