WYB fields on target to be ready for 2023 season

WYB fields on target to be ready for 2023 season

Image Credit: Aaron Dorksen

The theme of Wooster Youth Baseball’s recently completed 2022 season could have been called “Under Construction.”

WYB had to operate with only one of its usual three main diamonds available at the Miller Field baseball complex, which is located off of East Highland Avenue.

However, Miller Field will be ready for a re-grand opening of sorts in 2023, according to seventh-year President Brian Ritchie.

Visitors to the park or passersby on the Dix Expressway have noticed two of the longtime fields — North and South Miller — bulldozed over. The fields that sit in a basin below the intersection of Highland and Portage roads were repositioned, and new fences went up in the spring.

“They’ll be ready for play next spring,” Ritchie said. “We’re nearing the end of phase two of three in the renovation.

“The first phase was rebuilding Denton Fuller Field, which was completed in 2021. It’s been great to use the new field all season. Phase two is the renovation of our two fields that have traditionally been known as North and South Miller Fields. We’ve got the project to the point now where we’ll be able to start growing grass and then put the dirt infields in. We plan on having that done sometime this fall.”

Part of phase two also includes building a new concession stand and a new equipment building, scheduled for August or September.

Phase three will consist of renovating the Jones Practice Field, which is used for T-Ball and Coach Pitch.

Despite having two of three primary fields unavailable, WYB had a successful season, Ritchie said.

“We had three (12U) Majors teams, which for the first time played in the Wayne-Holmes league,” he said. “We had six (10U) Minors teams, seven teams in (8U) Coach Pitch and six in T-Ball.”

Ritchie thanked all the businesses and private donors who have backed the Miller Field Renovation Project, which has raised $447,000 of its $728,000 goal.

One of the diamonds currently being renovated will be renamed Schaeffler Field, thanking the Wooster business for its big donation. Naming rights could be granted for the other field as well, Ritchie said.

“We have to do some more fundraising to get our Jones Practice Field renovated, as well as restore the lighting system,” Ritchie said.

An overhaul five years in the making will modernize Miller Field, make better use of the space and vastly improve drainage.

“The biggest challenge that we’ve had with the fields historically has been drainage and being able to handle the weather of Ohio,” Ritchie said. “We have moved the fields away from the hill to allow water to flow back into the sewer system, back to where it should go.

“And it allows us to really have a much better situation as we’ve put in more drainage underneath the fields as well. Moving them back, putting a retaining wall in and adding that drainage is really going to have a dramatic impact on teams’ ability to play there in the spring.”

The outfield fences on North and South Miller Field were not quite the required 200 feet for official tournaments, but the new fields have been lengthened to that distance.

“All three fields will now be the official 200 feet,” Ritchie said. “We were a little short on room on both, so we made up for it with a 10-foot, mini ‘green monster’ for left field on the closer field to the entrance and on right field on the farther field.”

Denton Fuller started Little League Baseball in Wooster in 1948.

Arthur Miller donated land off Portage and Highland Avenue specifically for Wooster Youth Baseball, and his construction company donated its time to build the park in 1958.

The fields were named after Miller’s late son, Bill, who died on the job when he tried to save a co-worker.

No significant upgrades had been made to the complex since the mid-1990s.

WYB is entirely run and funded by volunteers, and Miller Field is a private park, which does not receive any taxpayer funds.

The 15-member WYB board also includes Vice President Jason Yoder, treasurer Jorn Baxstrom and secretary Landre McCloud.

Ritchie will step down as WYB president in September. The board will pick a new president at that time.

“Knowing how big the need is to get these fields renovated, it’s really gratifying to know that the community pulled together and gave us the money to make this a reality,” Ritchie said. “We’re just really thrilled that the kids in Wooster and the surrounding area can get to enjoy it for many years to come.”

Donations to WYB can be sent to the Wooster Youth Baseball Fund at the Wayne County Community Foundation, 517 N. Market St., Wooster.

All donations are tax-deductible as Wooster Youth Baseball is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Aaron Dorksen can be emailed at AaronDorksen24@gmail.com.