Roaring Fork revival: Major grassroots upgrades improve Ron Patch baseball field
GRAND JUNCTION TAKES TWO FROM GLENWOOD
CARBONDALE — Will Ray, Jason Galeano and Julian Wilcox each homered for the Glenwood Springs Geckos summer baseball team, but the Grand Junction Rocky Mountain Oysters prevailed in both games of a Mountain West Summer Collegiate Baseball League doubleheader at Ron Patch Memorial Field by identical scores of 7-5.
Wilcox finished 2-for-4 batting in the second game, and the Geckos (4-10 overall) rallied from a 2-0 deficit with a four-run fourth inning to take a two-run lead of its own before the Oysters (10-6) put together a rally of their own to net the doubleheader sweep.
In the opener, Galeano and Evan McFarland each finished with two hits at the plate, helping the Geckos notch seven hits as a team.
Glenwood continues league play at noon Saturday when it hosts a doubleheader against the Summit Extreme Black Diamonds.
CARBONDALE — Tanner Nieslanik wasn’t as much in awe of the new playing surface and amenities at Ron Patch Memorial Field as he was of the effort it took to put the new amenities there.
“Honestly, it’s not even the field that I’m the most impressed with,” said Nieslanik, a member of the Glenwood Springs Geckos summer college baseball team who played prep baseball at Roaring Fork High until he graduated in 2014. “What I’m most impressed with is the commitment of the people in town who took the time to help put this all together.”
There’s a lot of new things when it comes to that baseball field, which sits adjacent to the football field at Carbondale Middle School and has been in use since 1994. There’s a new infield playing surface, an elevated seating area and a new building that features a concession stand, equipment room and locker room.
What’s more, the Rams got it at a rock-bottom price thanks to the generosity of community members and businesses. Roaring Fork High baseball coach Marty Madsen, who helped oversee the project, estimated that completed project would have cost around $75,000. That would not only include building supplies and materials, but costs for labor, contractors and electricians.
“What’s even more crazy,” volunteer worker Mike Bernot of Carbondale said, “is that people would come over to help, and we didn’t even know who they were.”
Madsen estimated that close to 40 people around the Carbondale area either chipped in supplies or materials or made a donation to make building the field possible. Even Roaring Fork High’s baseball team helped put the finishing touches on the field while the high school season was still going this past spring.
All total, Madsen said only $13,000 was spent to complete the project.
“It’s the coolest thing ever to have everyone step up like that,” Madsen said. “It speaks volumes about the kind of community we have.”
The project, in essence, started by accident.
During the 2014 baseball season, Madsen stumbled across a lump in the Rams’ all-dirt infield and found a sprinkler head that he’d never seen until then. He found out later that the infield was initially built to have a grass infield, which prompted him to call the Roaring Fork School District about funding what would be the aptly named grassroots project.
Madsen said he was initially told he had $1,900 to work with in resurfacing and sodding the infield, but he was given the proverbial green light by the school district to continue when costs reached close to $2,700. Once that happened, there was no shortage of help for the project that lasted from September through early November 2014.
“One of the kids in my class asked if he could come see what we were doing,” Madsen said of a first-grader he had in physical education class at Crystal River Elementary School. “I told him he’d be welcome to come out and watch if he wanted to.
“When he did, Charlie [Filis] brought his mom and dad,” he continued. “They wound up jumping in to help us lay sod.”
The Filis family joined dozens of other project volunteers, who more often than not contributed their own “sweat equity” into the project.
It went beyond that, though. Nearly everything that went into the building that now sits behind home plate was built with donated materials, including the 10-inch concrete base, the tin roof and the wood frames and panels. Also trucked in free of charge was 20 tons of dirt and clay for the baseball field’s infield along with four dump-truck loads of rock, which were spread across the back of the backstop to elevate the field’s sets of bleachers six inches off the ground.
Also donated for the concession stand was a polished, granite counter top — something that would typically be in the kitchen of a high-end home.
“And we’re serving hot dogs on it,” Madsen said.
Madsen, along with other project volunteers, isn’t quite done working on the field. Short-term goals call for smoothing out the infield playing surface, which already is a remarkable improvement over a playing surface that previously was rock-hard dirt. There’s also talk of adding bullpens, hosting big baseball tournaments and, budget and labor willing, possibly installing lights at the field.
In the meantime, there’s already been enough improvements made at Ron Patch Memorial Field to make it one of Western Colorado’s top baseball facilities.
“This,” project volunteer Tim Nieslanik said, “is already 100 percent better than what it was.”
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