Saturday, July 08, 2000

Hamilton's aim: better ballpark

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Victor Davis wants to turn the diamond in the rough at the Booker T. Washington Community Center into a baseball jewel for neighborhood youth.

        Though plans to build a ball field at the community center are in preliminary stages, Miami University officials said its baseball team could play home games there if the field is built to certain specifications.

        Miami currently plays home games at Joyce Park, said Jim Neidhard, director of development at Miami, but conditions there are not ideal.

        The existing ball field at the community center lacks conveniences, such as an electronic scoreboard, and has a poor drainage system, which means games have to be played elsewhere after it rains.

        The dugouts, seating and fencing also need to be upgraded, said Vaughn Lewis, who coaches the Knightsbridge Indians Little League team at the community center's field.

        “We really need a ball field,” said Mr. Davis, who is heading the committee to find funding to develop the community center field. He added that it's uncertain if the center will participate in the Revitalizing Baseball in the Inner City program be cause the field is not in proper condition.

        A new regulation-size field is needed, said Mr. Lewis, also director of Hamilton's Human Relations Department, because it would mean teens wouldn't have to go to other fields to play. The community center does not have a league for teens, in part because there's not enough space. Also, transportation to other fields is a problem.

        “The community center is centrally located in the city of Hamilton. We believe that we are a diamond in the rough ... with the proper assistance we could really shine,” Mr. Davis said. “It certainly would enhance the community by having a full-fledged baseball diamond.”

        In addition to Booker T. Washington and Miami University, the city of Hamilton, Neighborhood Housing Association and the U.S. Navy are involved in discussions to build a new field, Mr. Davis said.

        The Navy says it would be willing to provide free labor for the project — just as it has done in other parts of the country, Mr. Davis said. “But we need to come up with some finances. We've been told that there is a private benefactor that would be interested in looking at what they can do to help us.”

        “I think (the new field) would have an impact that we can't even measure,” said Mr. Lewis, 38. “With the number of kids we get off the street, and just the hope....”


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