FAIRMONT– Over the weekend, several batting cages were set up at the Winnebago Avenue sports complex in Fairmont. The project was a joint effort between the Fairmont Baseball Association, the Fairmont Rotary Club and the Martin County Area Foundation.
Fairmont Baseball Association President Ryan Schmidtke said batting cages for the community is something the association has been talking about for a long time because there hasn’t been easy local access to batting cages for young people and families.
“We’ve started fundraising for the past few years and talked to the city park board and gotten approval to put batting cages here at the Winnebago Diamonds,” said Schmidtke.
For Schmidtke personally, he said it was something he wanted to see since he started coaching when one of his kids was in 4th grade. Now that they are in high school, the project is paying off.
“While you’re batting practice with kids, you can hit balls in the field all day, but it’s a lot easier when you have a cage.” said Schmidtke.
That’s where the Fairmont Rotary Club and the Martin County Area Foundation came in. Each group was able to donate $5,000 for the project. The total cost of the project was approximately $21,000.
While $1,000 of Rotary funds came from the local group, $4,000 was donated to the club by its district. As part of getting the money, the group needed to provide equity, so on Saturday several members were on hand to help set up the cages.
“We tried to do at least one service project a month and then a larger project for the year. Part of what we love to do is projects that we can do locally,” said Rotary member Brandon Edmundson.
He said it was the first time in a long time that the club had access to grants. Member Terry Malherek added that the Rotary Club had money available and he thought it would be a good project to use it for.
Chris Gerhardt, vice president of the Martin County Area Foundation, said: “We absolutely support any community collaboration project that results in physical assets for the community, especially young people, that is open and accessible to the public. »
Gerhardt said the project is part of the foundation’s mission to improve the quality of life in Martin County.
“It’s nice to see different groups in the region working together,” said Edmundson.
“The grants have really helped this project come to fruition,” Schmidtke said.
He said last fall they finished the concreting work and the project wrapped up over the weekend when the cages were installed.
Although the process of securing the money and setting up the batting cages took some time, now that everything is ready, Schmidtke said they will begin to be used as early as this week.
“Our youth programs, grades three through nine, will train here Monday through Thursday starting April 11,” he said.
The hope is that when teams from southern Minnesota come for tournaments, they can use the batting cages as well.
Schmidtke said he’s had conversations with the Park Board and the City of Fairmont and it looks like city crews will be able to help with teardowns each fall and set up in the spring.