Lake Cowichan Minor Baseball’s Kelly Bergstrom came to town council Tuesday evening, May 14, with all guns blazing.
To say he was unhappy to learn that a delegation to Lake Cowichan council on April 16 had called for expensive renovations to the Centennial Park ballfields was to understate the case. He had to stop a couple of times during his presentation to calm down.
As local baseball president, Bergstrom said Wayne Rees, who did most of the talking the previous month, “is not part of Lake Cowichan Minor Baseball, nor would we ask him to speak on our behalf.”
Rocky Wise came with Rees, and the two of them had also appeared before council about a year ago, Bergstrom said.
Rees made several recommendations about the park’s fields, which were only opened in 2018, with much fanfare, as the project had been decades in the making.
Bergstrom waved a paper listing the complaints from Rees and Wise.
“Number one on their list was a 70-foot home plate to backstop. I don’t know where they got that number from. If you start off at our parks, go to Evans field, Chemainus field, Ladysmith field, they’re all 40 feet. The Canada Baseball Handbook, on page 9, says: from home plate to backstop is the minimum of 40 feet, the maximum of 50. I also have the stats for every major league baseball park. They range from 43 feet to 71 feet, so they’re not even consistent.”
Next up, Bergstrom said, was that “they want the infield mix removed and covered up with grass. I talked to some people from North Cowichan Parks and they say that grass is very high maintenance. The people that do the maintenance on the field [at the Lake] are dads.”
These volunteers just want to grab a rake and get the job done, he said.
“But, if you don’t rake an infield right, it’s going to create a lip on the grass which the ball’s going to jump off of, which is a safety hazard.”
There is also a significant advantage to not having the infield grass on the Dawn Coe field.
“It can be used for anything from hardball to slo pitch to girls softball within 10 minutes. All we have to do to put the hardball in is move our temporary pitcher’s mound back into place.”
That brought him to Rees’s and Wise’s call for a permanent pitcher’s mound, instead of the portable one that minor baseball asked for and received last year.
“A permanent pitcher’s mound is very high maintenance. I talked to Calvin Convery, who works for North Cowichan, and he said they have two down there. It takes three hours for each pitcher’s mound to be fixed on the Monday after a weekend [event].
“With a permanent pitcher’s mound we would also need a tarp that would cover it, because these permanent pitcher’s mounds need to stay moist. These tarps cost $1,000 to $2,000. Our portable pitcher’s mound is zero maintenance.”
He said he had discoverd that when Duncan three years ago hosted the provincial pee wee championships all they used was a portable pitcher’s mound, simply covered with astroturf, which was built by a carpenter dad.
That mound was approved by BC Baseball, and the purpose-manufactured one Lake Cowichan has is much better, according to Bergstrom.
“Everybody is bragging; actually they love that mound. Duncan major midgets have been coming up here practising on it. They have three more practices booked; they love our field, and really they love our infield.”
Bergstrom also took exception to the comments from Wise and Rees that slo pitch ballplayers already have fields elsewhere they can play on.
“[They are] CVRD fields in Mesachie and Youbou. This is the Lake Cowichan Slo Pitch Association. The town has put all this money out. We don’t want to kick our slo pitch league to play on CVRD fields.
“And when it comes to scheduling the field, Lake Cowichan slo pitch and Lake Cowichan baseball work hand in hand. Both of us have the same feelings about it. We want it used pretty well seven days a week. It’s been working out quite well.”
As for the rest of the Rees and Wise list, such as moving the backstops, move the dugouts 30 feet closer, make the fields bigger: “I’m not an expert on finances but I bet that’s $200,000 worth of work. And that $200K-plus could easily be redirected into making us a clubhouse, finishing off the ball park. The field we have now is a multi-purpose venue. Hopefully one day we have soccer, too.”
Bergstrom also addressed another idea: leaving the Centennial Park gates open.
He drew to council’s attention that the Duck Pond, Saywell Park, and Lakeview Park, to name a few, all have gates on them.
“There’s a reason why they do. And with Centennial Park hopefully getting finished,” there will be more and more reason for a gate, he said, “especially when you get the clubhouse.”
After Bergstrom’s presentation, councillors asked a few questions.
Coun. Tim McGonigle, who is a vice-president of minor baseball, but who his colleagues allowed to hear the presentation because no financial decisions would be made that evening, said, “the two gentlemen that presented [Rees and Wise] said there was a safety issue with the portable mound. Have you heard anything from the midget league, the Mustangs, on the stability of the portable mound?”
Bergstrom replied, “I have no bad feedback from them at all.”
Coun. Lorna Vomacka asked about a possible problem with the sun shining into players’ eyes, Bergstrom said that there are certain times of the day that players will have to wear sunglasses because there is no way to keep the sun from getting into someone’s eyes unless Lake Cowichan builds a Skydome.
Councillors decided to discuss both presentations at the parks committee meeting, scheduled for May 21.