Excitement is in the air at Monett North Park as the start of its youth baseball and softball season approaches.
"We have over 450 youth from around the Monett area participating this year," said Kirk Verhoff, president of the Monett Youth Baseball and Softball League. "The youth sports program is the largest event for Monett area youth. The community has always embraced our summer baseball and softball programs."
Veroff has worked for the last nine years to improve the facilities at North Park.
"The biggest area of need nine years ago were the fields," said Verhoff. "If it rained any point before a game we couldn't play. The fields held too much water. With the help of the city, volunteers and generous donations from area business and individuals, we were able to overhaul the fields."
Over the last five years the Monett Youth Baseball and Softball League raised and invested $30,000 to improve the facilities at North Park.
Verhoff has helped oversee the installation of new dugouts on two fields, an automatic watering device, central heat and air conditioning in the concession stand and restroom building and new playing surface on field seven. The league partnered on playing surface material for field six, added a portable pitching mound, clay bricks that build-up the pitchers mounds, circles and batters boxes and new windows for concession building.
"It has been a group effort to achieve all of these improvements," said Verhoff. "We have hosted dozens of tournaments that bring hundreds of visitors to the city which has a great economic impact to the city's business community."
The Monett Youth Baseball and Softball League has a bigger goal for the facilities at North Park.
"We have begun a $300,000 fundraising campaign to install new lights on all of the fields," said Verhoff. "The major expense for light installation is the purchase and installation of new poles. We also are going to put in new safety switches for the light and remove the electric boxes from harm's way."
"We will be starting this year's fundraiser with the purchase of a large drink at the concession stand," said Ken Gaspar, Monett Youth Baseball and Softball League vice-president. "The price of the drink is $3, with $2. of each purchase going to the fundraising effort. Each week, a new cup will be introduced. These cups are made of a sturdy plastic and can be reused. Every week, a new sponsor's logo will be showcased on the cups."
The Monett Youth Baseball and Softball League begins its 2011 season on Friday.
"This season we are having opening ceremonies on Friday night," said Verhoff. "We will introduce every player and team in the league and they will get to play a one inning scrimmage.
"We want to invite all the public out to North Park for this special evening," explained Verhoff. "We are going to have a fireworks display and the softball and baseball coaches are going to play against each other in a friendly contest."
This season Monett will field 35 teams. Each team will play a 12-14 game schedule. Teams will travel to Aurora, Cassville, Mt. Vernon and Sarcoxie for contests.
"We will also host several tournament on the weekends," added Verhoff. "It is a very exciting time. We have a very dedicated group that works for the youth and on these fields. I want to thank each and every one of them."
If you would like to volunteer or help the Monett Youth Baseball and Softball League contact, Kirk Verhoff or Ken Gaspar.