Photo courtesy of Ty Williams
Individuals from Mountain Brook, Restoration Academy and Trussville worked to fix up the baseball field where Restoration Academy practices.
Baseball players sometimes have to deal with balls taking bad hops, but Restoration Academy’s baseball team was dealing with much larger obstacles on the field.
“It was unplayable,” said Myles McKee, coach for the Fairfield-based school’s baseball program. “Our players were getting beat up by ground balls. There were rocks and grass in the infield, broken glass, torn-down fences and ant beds everywhere.”
The field was in such poor condition that it was nearly impossible to practice until members from three communities — Fairfield, Trussville and Mountain Brook — came together to fix it up.
“After the process of coming together and serving through just a lot of hard work Ty put in putting this thing together, it’s night and day,” McKee said. “We can actually play a game on there.”
Restoration Academy is a school that aims to provide Birmingham-area students with a high quality and Christ-centered education, and its baseball team practices on a field managed and maintained by the city of Fairfield. Due to Fairfield’s financial difficulties, the field fell into disrepair, said RA’s Director of Development and Community Relations Ty Williams. Also a member of Trussville Rotary Club, Williams said fellow Rotarian Tommy Trimm approached him about potential service projects. That’s where the idea for a serve day at the baseball field started.
Trussville Daybreak Rotary, Trimm’s landscaping company Trimm Design Build, Mountain Brook Baptist and Mountain Brook High School’s baseball team joined together in February to fix up the field.
“We got word from one of our parents that this was going to take place, and he asked if we would be interested,” said MBHS baseball coach Lee Gann. “I said absolutely.”
The MBHS baseball team has participated in charity work in past years, Gann said, but this was the first time they worked to fix up an entire baseball field. The team took on the project as a challenge, aiming to get everything done in one day.
“I think for some of those [Mountain Brook] guys, they looked at the field and were shocked, that we practice on a field like that,” Williams said. “And you look at their facility, and they have turf and all that on the ground. I think with some of those guys, they realized how blessed they were.”
While some of the players were shocked at the state of RA’s field, Gann said the common goal and challenge of fixing up the field helped the MBHS players bond with and relate to the RA players.
“I think it was good for our players to interact with their players and have a common goal to get their field in playing condition,” Gann said. “I think the kids really walked away feeling good about themselves and really were able to tell how blessed they were, and how blessed we were with the facilities we have.”
RA’s team will continue to take care of the field, even after the volunteers have left.
“At Restoration, we believe in taking responsibility and taking ownership, so after that [serve] day was done, it was really cool because they walked us through how to maintain the field, and so after every practice we field rake; we rake around the bases, and we also drag the fields,” McKee said. “So our players are responsible for the maintaining of the field.”
Baseball is a sport that helps build camaraderie and team spirit, Williams said, and most inner-city kids do not have the opportunity to play it past Little League. Having a baseball team at RA, however, helps instill those skills and fulfill the school’s main goal of encouraging students to love God and to love others. The team teaches discipleship through its structure, McKee said, and the serve day also showed players that other communities value them.
“Everyone’s emotions have picked up,” McKee said. “I think a sense of dignity, pride, honor [was established]. I think they felt extremely valued and loved by all the effort that was up in that serve day.“
Now in its third year, the RA baseball program broke its single season win record winning four games in a row. Not only is that streak exciting for the team, Williams said, but it is also helpful for the spirit of the Fairfield community. They hope to eventually host a home game on the field, he said.
RA got a restored field out of the serve day, and Gann said his players got a valuable life lesson.
“Our players playing baseball in the grand scheme of things, isn’t going to last very long … Most kids don’t play college baseball, and even fewer go on to play professionally,” Gann said. “But our kids are always going to be in places where they can serve others, serve other people and serve other communities, and to me that’s going to go a lot further than their baseball careers.”