Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 17, 2018

Ballfield lease ends

Babe Ruth League will move from Chuck Myers Field to make way for fairgrounds expansion
By Jon Gilrain, Ledger correspondent | May 18, 2018
Photo by: LEDGER ARCHIVE PHOTO Babe Ruth League has played its games at Chuck Myers Field since 1978. This year was its last at the diamond, since the Jefferson County Fair Board plans to tear down the ballfield to expand the fairgrounds.

Fairfield’s Babe Ruth League ended its season with a rainout this past Saturday.

It also ended its lease to its longtime home at Chuck Myers Field at the west end of the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.

The league has leased the ballfield since 1978, but the Jefferson County Fair Board needs the space for future expansion. The fair board has encouraged the league to find a new ballfield for several years and the two organizations agreed to part ways at the end of this season.

Babe Ruth League is a national organization that supports local independent baseball leagues. Its mission is to make better citizens through proper supervision of regulation competitive baseball and softball in addition to promoting mental and physical development.

In its recently ended season, Fairfield’s league had 38 players aged 13-15 years old who played on three teams, competing against other teams in southeast Iowa. Up until a few years ago, Fairfield’s league also had a 16-18 year old group.

Babe Ruth League president Cory Klehm is a 22-year teaching veteran in the Fairfield Community School District with a lifelong love of baseball. While looking to the future, he recognizes the strong connection to the past that baseball provides.

“A good friend of mine, Chuck Myers, who’s passed away, was who the Babe Ruth field was named after,” Klehm said. “He told me I needed to step up. Chuck was such a huge part of baseball in the community, including Babe Ruth. That field was 100 percent made of people giving up their time. The whole point is getting the kids to love the game of baseball and give them a place to play.”

Klehm went on to reflect on the field itself.

“I asked some of the older generation league supporters, and [found] that field has had ball played on it for over 50 years,” he said. “It originally started out as the high school field. So Fairfield High School played there and then it went to Legion Ball. Then when Legion Ball went away it became Babe Ruth in 1978.”

Babe Ruth League is exploring ideas for a new permanent home, but in the meantime it has received permission from Fairfield Park and Recreation Department to develop one of the baseball fields at O.B. Nelson Park to meet the league’s ballfield specifications.

Converting a field to Babe Ruth League’s needs may not be as simple as it sounds since the league has specific requirements that will mean changing the layout of the field to accommodate a larger diamond and greater distance of the outfield fence.

Reconfiguring could be expensive and require the help of companies able to do the necessary excavation and landscaping. They will also need volunteers and a plan for fundraising.

While a lasting solution to the league’s dilemma isn’t close at hand, Klehm has spoken with other interested parties about a possible county sports complex.

It could be just what the league needs, but it’s not something likely to come together in the short term.

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