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UPDATE: Jamestown school referendum defeated

BATTER UP: New batting cages in the works at Jack Brown Stadium

Jack Brown Stadium batting cages seen from along the left field line. Some renovation plans include changing the orientation east to west and adding a fourth cage. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Those who look after storied Jack Brown Stadium pride themselves in preserving Jamestown's piece of baseball heaven.

One year after 284 individual donations helped raise approximately $300,000 to install new dugouts at the historic ballpark, Jeff Gould and Jamestown's baseball community are on to the next improvement project. A considerably less expensive venture, but Gould explained every bit as important, a fundraising campaign has begun this year to tackle issues with the park's batting cages.

The current cages at Jack Brown were constructed roughly 20 years ago through donations made by Jamestown's former Major League Baseball All-Star Darin Erstad. Gould said along with basically flooding after a rainstorm, the cages pose safety issues.

"The new dugouts are fantastic and we should all be proud of all of the people who got involved with that, but this will benefit all the kids of Jamestown," said Gould, who currently resides in Fargo and is the grandson of Jack Brown. "Darin donated those cages when he got drafted. It pretty much turns into a cesspool down there when it rains and there are safety concerns regarding the direction balls are hit."

Gould said plans call to flip the cages' orientation from north and south, to east and west. Thus, batters would hit balls toward the east, rather than toward the main grandstand to the north, eliminating concerns of a ball slipping through the netting and striking a spectator. The Jack Brown batting cages are located in the southeast corner of the facility.

Along with eliminating drainage issues, Gould said plans would also add a fourth cage to the existing three by adding an additional 10-by-40-foot area of cement, which will be covered with turf. Professional batting stations are also in the works.

"If we're going to do it, we're going to do it right," Gould said. "We want people to be proud of them."

Gould said approximately $50,000 of the $75,000 project has already been raised through private donations. The Jamestown Parks and Recreation Commission approved the project back in the January, but no public funding is tied to the grassroots effort.

Along with Gould, the effort is being spearheaded by Tom Gould, Jeff's father and Jack Brown Stadium caretaker, University of Jamestown baseball coach Tom Hager, Jamestown Area Youth Baseball Association president Jeff Douty and longtime local amateur ballplayer and current North Star Athletic Association commissioner Cory Anderson.

"We've got about $50,000 pledged right now and it's important to us that as much of that money as possible stays in Jamestown," Gould said. "We'd like to get started and do as much of the work this fall as we humanly can. We learned from the dugouts that spring in North Dakota can be hit or miss and (University of Jamestown) lost some games because of it."

Gould stressed the importance of keeping Jack Brown Stadium a destination for high school, NAIA and amatuer tournaments, which benefits the city as a whole. The park has hosted the past two state Class B baseball tournaments.

"The more we can attract and keep ourselves on the radar for those type of tournaments the better," Gould said. "We're spending pennies to make dollars."

But in simpler terms, the project is also about being a kid and playing ball.

"I want kids to love that place and want to be there," Gould said. "And, we want (the cages) used by as many people who would want to use them. It's not like Fargo, where you need an Act of Congress to get into a cage."

To make a tax-deductible donation to the project, send checks to Jamestown Parks and Recreation Department, c/o Bonnie Ukestad, 1002, Second Ave. SE, Jamestown, N.D., 58401. In the memo line include: JBS or batting cages.

Michael Savaloja

Hometown: Churchs Ferry, N.D.; College: North Dakota

A recipient of the NDHSCA Award of Merit, Savaloja has been reporting sports for The Sun since 2008.

Follow on Twitter: @MichaelSavaloja

(701) 952-8461
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