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Olalla's 'community hub' set to receive overhaul
Everyone involved insists the timing was coincidental.
But South Kitsap Southern Little League celebrated its 40th anniversary with a $10,000 check from 710 ESPN Seattle and Farmers Insurance to makeover at the Virgil Stacey Memorial Complex in Olalla.
The radio station, which is the flagship of Mariners’ baseball, has partnered for eight years with Farmers on the Improve a Field project. Art Mikelsen, who helped form the South Kitsap Little League Program and served as the district administrator from 1950 to 2008, was present along with Kitsap County commissioner Charlotte Garrido.
The five fields at the complex primarily serve 30 Little League teams that play there, but SKSLL long has been an active community partner. Charlene Glock-Jackson, who created the Olalla Bluegrass Festival, said SKSLL always has supported that program, which runs each August.
“There’s family reunions and weddings here,” SKSLL chief umpire Dave Raney said. “It’s not just a baseball site. It’s a community hub.”
Age and extensive use have left the facility, which area native Mikelsen said originally was covered with strawberries, well worn. The dugouts are dilapidated and the uncovered batting cages are not conducive to the Northwest’s rainy climate. And then there are the divots and weeds in the infield.
“There are some bad infield hops,” 710 ESPN Seattle personality Matt Pittman said. “We’ll smooth that out for you.”
Pittman and others noted that will be among several improvements to the facility. Outgoing SKSLL vice president Joel Hartshorn, who submitted the paperwork to Farmers along with George Tart, said there will be several upgrades to the fields, which added lights last year. Incoming president Sheri Frontiero said SKSLL will consider improvements to the batting cages, dugouts, fences and other areas.
“We want it to be a community effort,” she said. “We want to find things that benefit everyone.”
The money is significant for an organization that serves 300-400 players each season and relies on local businesses to sponsor teams for $300-$400. SKSLL also has various fundraisers.
“That’s the biggest boost,” Mikelsen said. “The toughest thing there is raising money.”
Despite those challenges, the complex has some notable players, including 11-year major-league veteran Willie Bloomquist, compete on its fields. Another one of its athletes, Andrew Canady, won Major League Baseball’s Pitch, Hit and Run contest during the All-Star Game in Kansas City, Mo., during the summer. He also shagged balls during the Home Run Derby.
Canady said he is excited to see the improvements that will come out of the gift.
“It’s been pretty awesome,” he said. “People realize how good it is and the stars that come out of it.”
Garrido said she is excited to see how the improvements will benefit the community.
“I think of all the kids and families that have been impacted,” she said. “You learn a sense of community right here on these fields. It’s just splendid.”