By Cole Parkinson
Dr. Hamman School is hoping to become one of the first schools in southern Alberta to introduce a barrier-free baseball diamond.
As one of the few schools in the area to be without, work has been started on implementing a new baseball diamond composed entirely of turf instead of the traditional shale and grass.
“Right now we are one of the only schools in the Taber area that does not have a baseball diamond, and that includes St. Pat’s as well. This is kind of what we are looking at,” said Cindy Kanomata, Dr. Hamman secretary at the Municipal District of Taber’s regular council meeting held on April 30. “The timing is optimal, we have doubled participation in minor ball and also my passion would be to hit the female side of our town and population. I am a coach in minor ball, which is nine to 10, and my daughter and another girl are the only two girls. When I was a kid, we had a girls league. It is heartbreaking to me that we don’t teach it in our schools because we don’t have a diamond to go to. Neither does St. Pat’s, in talking with Sean Ethier (St. Patrick School associate principal), they don’t do any baseball in their programming either.”
Along with help from Dale Tillman, Kanomata has been doing plenty of work to get the project off the ground.
Horizon School Division has already been informed of the project and the diamond would be school property once built. With the lack of baseball diamonds on school grounds, kids who want to swing the bat have been doing so in their soccer field.
The hopeful introduction of an all-turf field will also be a major addition to the Taber area as it will be the first diamond in the region to feature a playing surface suitable for people with disabilities.
“It is not just for our school. For me, it is more of a community thing. It’s not just for Horizon School Division,” continued Kanomata. “The reason for the turf was for a barrier-free. That is so a person in a wheelchair could come on to the field and actually play. That was something we were very interested in because we do have those kids in our school. Also the senior aspect as well. The (turf) is like a floor so they wouldn’t have to worry about the bumps or gopher hills.”
While many sports are featured at Dr. Hamman, baseball isn’t a major one, mostly due to the lack of a diamond close by.
“We have about 270 kids and my vision was to start an intramural or inter-school baseball, after-school programming. We have it for volleyball, basketball, badminton but nothing for baseball,” explained Kanomata. “The diamond is specifically for little league, it is also the same dimensions for softball and slo-pitch.”
In general, ages 12 and under diamonds feature base paths of 60 feet with a 46 feet distance for the pitching mound, though distances can fluctuate based on age groups. With an all-turf diamond, Kanomata stated a removable mound would be the best option for their purposes.
Another positive mentioned to council about the turf field was that less maintenance would be needed compared to other traditional playing surfaces. In terms of money needed to complete the project, they have set a $550,000 estimated cost for the diamond with an additional phase sometime in the future to add lights if needed.
“We are looking at different grants. We have talked to Taber minor ball because they would be the ones that would be able to go forward with the little league grants,” said Kanomata. “We are hoping to have more than half through the grants and through our fundraising. Obviously, there is a big gap because of costs for the turf. Later on in the future, we would think about putting in lights.”
Grants currently being looked at for their project include the Little League Alberta Grant, the Blue Jays Care Foundation, Baseball Alberta Facility Grant Program, Major League Baseball Foundation among others.
“Like I indicated to Cindy, the best thing she could do is go with Taber Minor Baseball and work with the Community and Facility Enhancement Grant,” added CAO Derrick Krizsan on other potential grants moving forward.
Timelines for the project were not set in stone but Kanomata stated next year would be a target start date.
“I know this is a huge endeavour and working with everybody is to all of our benefit,” she added.
M.D. council inquired exactly what the group would need from the municipality.
“I think you’ll need to talk to Cindy or whoever to get what the scope of work is underneath this turf. From what Bob (Miller) explained to me is, that is where all the work is. It’s the compaction and the drainage because if you don’t have that, the field doesn’t last very long,” said Coun. John Turcato.
Kanomata stated work in kind would be an option and she had already approached the town.
“Our budget is set for 2019 so I don’t know that we could necessarily commit any funds but we could look at scope of work or things we could help with,” said Coun. Jen Crowson.
“At this point we are not saying no, we just don’t know what exactly we can support with,” added Deputy Reeve Tamara Miyanaga.
Kanomata stated she would nail down the scope of the work for the project and bring the information back to council.