Twins help make Coon Rapids little league fields a little safer

The days of yelling “heads-up” to alert others of a wayward fly ball might be fewer this season at Coon Rapids/Andover American Little League games thanks in part to the Minnesota Twins.

Pictured here are AAA Brewers team coaches Jeff Anderson and John Stephens who, along with League President Gregg DeRusha (center) and Shane Stenzel (not pictured), provided all the volunteer labor to hang the netting at the Coon Rapids/Andover American Little League field. Photo courtesy of Gregg DeRusha

Pictured here are AAA Brewers team coaches Jeff Anderson and John Stephens who, along with League President Gregg DeRusha (center) and Shane Stenzel (not pictured), provided all the volunteer labor to hang the netting at the Coon Rapids/Andover American Little League field. Photo courtesy of Gregg DeRusha

The Twins Community Fund gave the privately-run baseball fields in Sand Creek Park, Coon Rapids, a matching $10,000 grant which was added to the already-raised $10,000 to help install field netting to keep fly balls away from spectators.

The goal is to reduce the frequency of fly balls landing in the spectator area.

“We’ve had people get hit and you’re going to have that happen at any ballpark,” League President Gregg DeRusha said.

The problem arose when the oldest division teams hit foul balls into the bleachers around the younger-aged fields. “It was something that was bothering me for a couple of years,” DeRusha said. “I’m kicking myself every time someone gets tagged.”

Obviously, the netting has greatly reduced errant balls and the league hopes that trend continues for the fields less than 700 kids call their baseball home.

The league installed netting around some fields last year ahead of a 12-team state all-star tournament.

DeRusha said they realized they still had fly ball issues and wanted to complete the project in the fall.

The league applied for the grant which included the netting, poles and wiring.

Once the league received the contribution from the Twins Community Fund, it installed the necessary posts around three fields in the fall and waited until after the final snow storm of the season before hanging the 28-foot high netting in an effort to keep the netting in good shape for a long time.

The league had already extended the backstop fencing down both left and right field lines on a few fields and used the new money to complete the project on three additional fields.

DeRusha said the league is responsible for maintenance, not the city of Coon Rapids, since the fields were built on private property for the league which began in 1959.

According to DeRusha, who has been a part of the league since 1990, a majority of the funding comes through player registration, a yearly raffle and other corporate sponsorships.

Therefore, volunteers do a majority of the day-to-day maintenance around the complex and hire out for some of the mowing responsibilities. The league also hired a fencing company to install the poles but volunteers hung the netting.

DeRusha said teams help with the garbage clean-up and he’s done a lot of the maintenance projects himself along with many other long time volunteers.

The American League plans to host its Player Appreciation Day June 1.

Jason Olson is at jason.olson@ecm-inc.com

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