by LISA CAPOBIANCO
For the Forestville Little League, the construction of its new T-Ball and Instructional field at Peck Park will soon serve as a new home for young baseball players.
Recently, the league officially began construction of the new field at its complex within Peck Park on Daley Street. The field will help teach more than 100 players in the lower levels of the league baseball fundamentals.
“It’s showing all the kids in this league what can be done,” said Forestville Little League President Jeremy Leprey, adding that the project shows the longevity of the league. “It gives these kids a home.”
Fully-funded through in-kind donations and reinvestment of funds by the league, phase 1 of the project included land clearing, lot prep and final field layout. Through in-kind donations, the league was able to raise $8,000. The league received grants from Thomaston Savings Bank and Bristol Sports Hall of Fame to name a few.
Phase 2 of the project is dependent on sponsorships, and will focus on the final build out of the field, including top soil, clay, sod and fencing materials.
With a goal of $50,000, Phase 2 fundraising is currently in progress, and is expected to be completed by March 2015.
Deprey said the league has already received support from the community, including a large donation from an anonymous local company. The league hopes to have the field ready by opening day in April.
Vice President Dean Varano who grew up in Forestville, played Little League growing up, and today his children do too. Looking ahead, Varano said the league has started to think about future projects for its complex, including the addition of a pavilion, and rebuilding the dug-outs.
Varano said more interest has been generated from younger children to join Forestville Little League, so it is important that the players have their own “home” field.
“It’s the next extension of saving this league and making sure we’re still here for at least another six years and beyond that,” said Varano, adding how the league had 700 players when he joined during childhood. “We have so many younger kids getting involved, and it’s critical for [them] to enjoy themselves.”
“It’s all about the future and giving those kids the best opportunity we can,” added Special Projects Director Steve Joslyn.
At the end of the 2013 season, the Forestville Little League was nearly disbanded, as the majority of its board of directors at the time voted to merge the league with Edgewood and McCabe leagues. But Deprey and Varano opposed the merger, and wanted to preserve the league.
Since then, the league has experienced a tremendous turnaround. Player registration has increased, and the league began hosting a tournament for eight to 11 year olds from all area towns.
Deprey said the Forestville Little League is one of the only leagues in the past four years that has increased membership in Division 5. Today, there are roughly 240 children who are part of Forestville Little League.
Currently, the t-ball players practice on Wilson Field, which is located on Middle Street. The field is meant for softball. A permanent field to practice on has been a need for the Forestville Little League.
“They’re going to have their practices here…their games here,” said Deprey, adding that the minors and majors players also can use the field. “It’s going to kind of build their own identity. They’ll be able to have their practice on a real field.”
Once the project received approval from the Parks Department, it began looking into funding for the project. This past year, the league was able to turn its financing around thanks to donations and grants, said Deprey.
“We built a community behind us when we almost closed,” said Deprey.
Deprey said the Minors Tournament played a major role in raising funds. After New Britain was not able to host the tournament this year, the Forestville Little League took over. The tournament featured eight teams from the area, including Bristol, Southington, Berlin, Meriden, and Rocky Hill.
“We were able to raise a lot of money with that tournament,” said Deprey, adding how the new field also would benefit that tournament next year.
FLL conducts two major fundraisers during the year, including raffle ticket sales and bake sales, which were successful. The money raised through those fundraisers was able to be reinvested back to the Little League players, such as updating the equipment.
“Little League helps you create that team atmosphere—it builds a lot of skill sets there too,” said Joslyn. “It’s just a good opportunity of not having to be shuffled through the various fields.”
For more information, visit http://forestvillell.org/.