Wayne Rees, left, and Rocky Wise, from Lake Cowichan and District Minor Baseball, talk about revamping Centennial ballfields to attract more kids to the sport and host provincial tournaments. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

VIDEO: Lake Cowichan minor baseball wants changes to new ballfields

Rees, Wise come to Lake Cowichan council with a big shopping list

Representatives from Lake Cowichan Minor Baseball told Lake Cowichan council recently that some changes need to be made to the new ballfields at Centennial Park.

Speaking at an April meeting of the parks committee, Wayne Rees said, “Lake Cowichan’s been great and spent a lot of money on the ballfields but if we’d really like to take it to the next level and have provincials here, we really need to address some things that need to be done to accommodate that to meet BC Baseball requirements.

“It was great last year; we had a good year. We don’t have a team this year. But we want to move forward and have our kids playing ball. We have two slo-pitch fields right now.

“I don’t see them [the changes] as being all that expensive, [they are partly] safety measures. We need to get midget ball on that field so we have some players who’ll be playing slo-pitch in five or 10 years.

“At the Dawn Coe Jones field, where we’re playing baseball now, the sun drops [in the evening] in left centre field. The problem is that this blinds the catcher. We have kids 16, 17, or 18 throwing [at a speed of] 70 mile an hour. It’s dangerous,” he said.

“But we can fix that. If we switch the Dawn Coe Jones field and the other field, we wouldn’t have the sun issues and the diamonds would meet the BC Baseball requirements.

“If we move the home plate out 70 feet, then the foul lines need to be 250 feet. On that other field, it comes out perfect. That will mean that the centre field fence will be between 325 and 350 feet from home plate. The other side, the slo-pitch side, will be 250, which works out perfect for slo-pitch.

“What also needs to be done is that the infield needs to be cut out and filled with sod or seed to baseball specs. And there will need to be some changes made because it’s really slow at the back part of the infield. It’s kind of dangerous running through it the way it is now. That’s going to have to be changed, irregardless.”

Rees also said, “I would suggest that we take out the portable mound, which some of you may know we’ve had nothing but complaints about: other teams coming to play, our pitchers. One of the reasons we didn’t have a lot of the kids back was the way the mound was. I would suggest putting in an actual dirt mound on that field. You’re going to need that for BC Baseball anyway. Slo-pitch can have their own dedicated field: the Dawn Coe Jones field, and given the fact that slo-pitch already has the Youbou field, the Mesachie field and three fields to play on already, the kids need this field to play on,” he said.

This is a reversal of what was told to Lake Cowichan council in March 2018, when councillors were going with the idea that minor baseball wanted a portable mound.

“Doing this would allow us to have two bull-pen mounds and plates on one side of the field. The backstop, I’m not saying this is absolutely necessary, but it would be nice to move it up one fence level so we won’t lose so many foul balls, especially with the plate being moved out 70 feet.

“In the area behind the Appollos field, on Point Ideal Road, that’s all kind of brush and scrub. If that was laid out to be a nice big parking lot, or could be used for other things as well, I think that was already on the agenda anyway.”

He also asked that the building located down there be removed.

“Now the final thing, which is probably the most expensive thing of all these changes, the others are minimal in terms of cost, is the dugouts will need to be moved 30 feet out on each side, which means pouring some more concrete. That would probably be the biggest cost. But there is a mandate that they have to be so many feet from home plate and it isn’t now. Those are the changes that we should probably consider as a community to have a ball park for bantam/midget. And it’s not that expensive,” Rees said.

Coun. Carolyne Austin, parks committee chair, asked, “Do you have funds that would help with some of this?”

Rees replied, “Do I have funds? No, but there are a lot of sporting groups I’ve worked with over the years that do support with funds. They’d want banners and so forth, like they do in White Rock.”

Coun. Kristine Sandhu, “What happened during the process of that project? Were you guys involved with council, with the layout, what the expectations were with the community, with baseball, softball?”

Rees said, “I don’t want to bad mouth anybody but what happened was it was spec-ed out to be two slo-pitch fields. The money was provided to be a baseball field. Rocky put me onto this and I said: what? They got money for a baseball field and turned it into two slo-pitch fields? So we came in and they’d agreed to move the infield out, to re-dig the infield, a temporary mound. That’s what happened. Now we have a chance to make it better.”

Coun. Lorna Vomacka explained that the Town discovered it could get a grant and had to submit the conceptual drawings, but “Once they went to do it, they found those plans wouldn’t fit on those fields, to accommodate both those fields and the soccer field on that field. So, we had to change it or we had to give the grant back.”

Rees still wanted to know more.

“Well, you did change it. You needed a baseball field. That was the main reason the money was given. Ross [Forrest, former Lake Cowichan mayor] said he knew the dimensions of a baseball field. So, that’s history. We need to make it better and up to specs.”

Vomacka also asked if reconfiguring the fields would jeopardize the soccer field that’s there but Rees said, “We measured everything out…it actually worked out perfect.”

Coun. Tim McGonigle explained that updating the washrooms — another request — would be in the second round but some changes might be accommodated in the budget this year.

“At the time we took the best advice we had from staff on the implementing of those two fields. And at that time, the suggestion of the mobile pitching mound was the avenue that was chosen. It’s not cheap. I don’t know if we can sell it on eBay,” the councillor added.

Council voted to move the subject to the next finance and administration committee meeting.

McGonigle then said, “We’ve had a consultant do the upgrade drawings…and for budgetary reasons, it was decided on a three-phase system. The ballfields first; with the parking, access through Point Ideal, and walking trails in the second one; and the third phase was to be the tennis court on that new property that we purchased.”


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