Five-year-old Benjamin Smith anxiously awaits completion of renovations to a well-worn baseball field at White Rock Lake’s Winfrey Point.
“He eats, sleeps and breathes baseball … he already owns four bats, three gloves and a catcher’s mitt,” says his father, Keith Smith, a Woodrow Wilson High School grad and president of the Dallas Little League.
Construction of two full-sized baseball diamonds along with one new tee-ball field started in December and should be complete by April, in time for the Little League season opener.
The improvements could mean big growth for the Dallas Little League, says Smith, who is as excited as his sons about the neighborhood’s new fields. Until now, there haven’t been adequate accommodations for a large league, so youngsters have been joining teams in suburban areas such as Garland or The Colony. “We live in an area that includes half a million people, but only 379 kids signed up last season,” he says. “Some of the littler ones join the YMCA, then as they get bigger, they often join the Spring Valley Athletic Association, or join a select or classic league.”
There’s nothing wrong with that, Smith says, but he would rather bring youth baseball closer to home, and make it more accessible to everyone.
“There are talented young athletes here who would like to play, but who don’t have a place to play,” he says.
Select leagues can cost upward of $5,000 just to get started, he says. By comparison, Dallas Little League registration is $100 and includes the uniform. Boosted by the upgraded playing fields, Smith aims to increase registration, which is already underway, from 379 members to 1,000 members this year.
The Little League raised $50,000 and agreed to contribute 30 percent of registration fees to the ballpark renovations, and the Dallas Park Board unanimously approved the project. The city will fund labor and materials.
“When [the Little League] came to me about this, I was excited,” says Darren Boruff, the Park Board representative for Dallas District 9, which encompasses White Rock Lake parks. “I saw the plans. and the board approved it unanimously. This is a first step in creating more youth sports in our neighborhood.”
Boruff also has a son, age 10, who plays baseball for another league, though Boruff says he would have liked having him play here at White Rock.
“Dallas has been cramped when it comes to playing space — that’s no secret … this should help them to build the league and keep people playing here,” he says. “The fields have for a long time been in a state of disrepair … this will be a win-win situation for everyone and a boon for the city.”
As part of a four-year deal with the city, the Little League created a game schedule that would not conflict with other events at Winfrey Point — most of the games will be played at about noon and later in the afternoon.
And if Smith has his way, the improved fields and increased membership will mean more exciting baseball. Last year his team missed the regional playoffs by one game.
“This will improve the quality of baseball in our area,” he says.
Smith hopes, with the continued help of multitude Little League supporters, to raise more money and eventually foster construction of more expansive baseball facilities in Dallas.
For more information on Dallas Little League registration, call 214.346.1909, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit leaguelineup.com/dll.
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