Things not so grand at local ballpark

Sentinel photo by TABITHA GOODLING
Members of the McAlisterville men’s baseball team — from left, Larry Long, Glenn Grimm and Rodney Brandt — are hoping to raise funds to restore their field’s grandstand which is more than 60 years old.

McALISTERVILLE — The baseball park in McAlisterville will look different this fall.

The grandstand at the ball diamond near town is aging and needs to come down. However, there are not enough funds to build a new one.

Some men who are part of the McAlisterville men’s baseball team, which plays in the East Shore Twilight League, are making an effort to raise the funds to do it.

Glenn Grimm, who plays with the league and is a former East Juniata High School baseball coach, said the baseball park was previously operated by a park board for many years. A few years ago, Fayette Township supervisors took ownership of the entire park area, including the area of the ball diamond.

Grimm said it was during that transition that an insurance company said the grandstand needed to come down. Grimm said a very quick fundraising effort was established, raising $2,700. To replace the grandstand it would take an additional $15,000.

The township supervisors recently agreed to put forth funds for a new backstop. The rest of the project would require outside funds.

Rodney Brandt, another team member, said there is a general consensus that a new grandstand is needed. The wooden bench seats are rotted and some touch ups have taken place over the years by volunteers.

The grandstand is thought to have been built in the mid- to late 1950s, Brandt said.

“Originally people thought we could restore it,” Brandt said. “But we have to tear it down and start from scratch.”

There are plans to remove the grandstand in October with the new backstop to be put in place in the spring of 2019 in time for junior Little League.

The men said the importance of rebuilding is an effort to keep baseball fans coming out and to preserve some historic significance.

The field was donated in the 1920s, Brandt said, by a man with the last name Spitler. Brandt’s grandfather, Preston Zeigler, was a coach for the Fayette High School baseball team, one of the first teams to play on the field.

“(The grandstand) is a throwback to the early days of baseball,” Larry Long said. “It was an American pastime. We didn’t have the Senators in Harrisburg then. We had small town teams, and they were high quality players.”

Brandt said there was a time when all other baseball diamonds in the county had grandstands including Richfield and Thompsontown. The grandstand in McAlisterville is one of the last of its kind.

Grimm said two umpires from a visiting team recently took photos of the structure because, as they said, “You never see this anymore.”

Plus, the roof overhead kept the sun at bay as elderly fans sat to watch the games. Most diamonds have bleachers out in the open for fans.

This isn’t the first time the men worked to preserve baseball in the community. It was 11 years ago when they started the McAlisterville men’s league after many years with no team in the area.

Grimm and Brandt said they will be at the Juniata County Fair with a stand set up to promote replacing the grandstand. Tickets can be purchased for $10 for a drawing. Half the money will go to a cash prize. The other half will be for the grandstand.

Donations for the structure are also accepted by mailing checks to Fayette Township at 181 Bunkertown Road, McAlisterville, PA 17049, attention Sharon Lukens. Note in the memo the check is for the Grandstand Project.

Grimm said the group welcomes any other donations such as lumber or supplies or assistance in building.