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St. Helena Little League

News Detail


Mar, 2019

SHLL Announces Proposed Renovation Plans of Crane Park at Opening Day Ceremony

Published by The St Helena Star, Article &Photos by Gus Morris, 3/20/19.
St. Helena Little League welcomed the 2019 season with an Opening Day ceremony in picture-perfect conditions Saturday morning at Crane Park.

Blue skies and sunshine greeted the capacity crowd that filled up the stands at Crane West Field. The turnout was good, spirits were high, and the excitement was palpable.

St. Helena Little League President Jeff Blaum, the emcee for the event, introduced all 20 teams – 15 for baseball and five for softball – as the players and coaches rounded the bases and waved to the cheering crowd.

Once all the teams were positioned around the infield, the local American Legion post presented the American flag and members of the St. Helena Youth Choir sang the national anthem before Larry Nelson performed a fly-over in an antique jet, a tradition that’s become a staple of Opening Day.

The Minors Cubs softball team was also presented with its title banner after winning the District 53 Tournament of Champions last season. To officially signal the start of the new season, Charlie Hofmeister, a member of that Cubs team, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to catcher and teammate Eva Lundt.

Sandwiched between the fly-over and the banner presentation, Blaum announced plans for a prospective renovation of the baseball facilities at Crane Park. The project would include a host of improvements to the decades-old ballpark, including building a new snack shack with added restrooms, fixing the gopher hole-ridden fields, and adding new fencing and concrete walkways around the exterior of the field.

The league is aiming to raise around $500,000 for the project and Blaum is currently in talks with the city to get approval for a fundraising initiative to pay for the proposed changes, which he thinks are much-needed.

“After 40 years now it’s probably time for some maintenance out here, and with those increasing numbers and the popularity of bocce and all that stuff, we’ve run out of room to go the bathroom and things like that,” Blaum said. “So a new restroom here is really almost necessary. … It’s a necessity. We hope the program grows and with that comes the need for more facilities out here.”

Blaum said he hopes to have the renovations finished by next year’s Opening Day.

The turnout of athletes increased slightly this year, as the largest youth organization in St. Helena continues to grow.

“I think we reached 214 (players) this year, which is a slight increase from last year,” said Blaum. “One of the things we’re very proud of is the softball program, obviously, having them throw out the first pitch this year. But we’ve done a real nice job of increasing the numbers in the softball program.”

Another new wrinkle is the addition of an intermediate league, which will play on fields larger than the Minors and Majors divisions, but smaller than the high school field the Junior division plays on.

“This is the first year that we’ve done this,” Blaum said. “We had a situation this year where we had a whole lot of kids for one team, like 24 or so, or we could split it up into two teams. So we decided to take what are the seventh-graders, the 13-year-olds, and put them on the Carpy Field. The eighth-graders will still play on the high school field.”

The main difference will be the field dimensions. The lower divisions play on fields that have a distance of 46 feet between the mound and home plate and 60 feet between bases, while the highest division plays on fields with Major League measurements, 60½ feet from home to the mound and 90 feet in between bases.

The new intermediate league will have measurements of 50 feet between home and the mound and 70 feet between bases. This addition is not experimental; Blaum said he sees this division as being in place long term.

“As a small community, we don’t put out the type of athletes that can make the jump from the small field to the big field on a regular basis, so it makes a lot of sense,” he said. “I can think of three kids right off the bat that weren’t going to come out and play who decided to sign up because they feel more comfortable on the smaller field. So it does provide that bridge to the big field.”

This new division will play at Carpy Field, which still needs some temporary renovations of its own to fit the customized field. Blaum said that if the intermediate program grows in the future, a new permanent field may be necessary.

The intermediate team this year is the Rangers, sponsored by Buehler Vineyards and coached by Alex Heil.

In the Juniors division, the Crushers, sponsored by Herdell Printing Inc. and coached by Matt Heilman, are the lone baseball team while the Thunderbirds, sponsored by Wine Country Inn and coached by Brandon Farrell, are the lone softball team.

The Majors baseball division is comprised of the Eagles, sponsored by American Legion and coached by Joe Herdell, the Red Sox, sponsored by Central Valley Builders and coached by Jack Oliver, and the Giants, sponsored by Steves Hardware and coached by Jeff Blaum.

The Majors softball division is made up of the Cardinals, sponsored by Darrell Quirici, DDS and coached by Brandon Farrell, and the Bluejays, sponsored by Soroptimist St. Helena and coached by Tom Glakeler.

The Minors baseball division is represented by the Jaguars, sponsored by St. Helena Optometry and coached by Mark Ray, the Panthers, sponsored by the St. Helena Police Officers Association and coached by Donny Frate, the Mustangs, sponsored by Zumwalt Ford and coached by Paul Villegas, the Lions, sponsored by Sutter Home and coached by Jim Politoski, and the Tigers, sponsored by Harold Smith & Sons and coached by Hugh Davies.

The two Minors softball teams are the Cubs, sponsored by Decker Vineyard Management and coached by Michael Grimes, and the Wolves, sponsored by Elyse Winery and coached by Khris Lundt.

In the Super Rookie division, the teams are the Lugnuts, sponsored by Gott’s Roadside and coached by Andrea Penley, the Rivercats, sponsored by Reidy Law Group and coached by Cameron Crebs, and the Rockhounds, sponsored by St. Helena Orthodontics and coached by Troy Waters.

The Coach Pitch division, made up of the youngest kids, has two teams this year. They are the Seadogs, sponsored by Steves Hardware and coached by Josh DeVore, and the Volcanoes, sponsored by Vincent Arroyo and coached by Ian MacMillan.

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