What’s baseball without a backstop? Well, thanks to a grant from the Family Ford Foundation, that’s a question the Clatskanie Little League won’t have to answer this year.
Recently, the Clatskanie Little League received a $16,000 grant to help support the purchase of necessary “portable backstops.” The backstops will particularly benefit the tee-ball and farm ball programs.
Clatskanie Little League Board Member Andrea Berndt said the backstops are much needed after those programs lost access to the Jones Field last year.
“Clatskanie Parks and Rec, who run the city park are amazing and gracious and have allowed us to use the city park, so we were still able to have a season last year,” Berndt said. “But unfortunately, our tee-ball and farm ball teams weren’t truly able to have a real field because it was just something thrown together at the last second due to losing the Jones field that we had for years as our little league field.”
Berndt said that the grant money would not be used to rent or buy land for fields. That’s where the backstops come in. The portable backstops will allow the tee-ball and farm ball programs to set up a field “anywhere down at the city park.”
“Those are our kiddos that are about 8-years-old and younger,” Berndt said. “They still need the space to know what it’s like to have a backstop and a field to really learn the rules and the sport of baseball.”
Each backstop costs about $5,000-$8,000. One of the components of getting the grant from the Ford Family Foundation was demonstrating that the community is “sponsoring and helping.” Berndt described the grant as a “community grant.”
Organizations in the community jumped to the Little League’s aid to ensure they could secure the funds. Berndt said that Stimson Lumber donated $2,500, and the Phil White Memorial Foundation donated more than $700. Berndt said that the Little League needed to submit what the funds would be used for, and how many funds were required.
“The biggest [things we needed] were the backstops, benches so kids have a place to sit when it’s not their turn to play, some portable mounds, and some storage,” Berndt said. “We estimated that we need about $20,000 for some of the things, and they were willing to give us the $16,000 because we can show that we have community support.”
To help raise more funds, the Little League is hosting its first “really big” fundraiser. The event will be an “adult prom” at the Clatskanie Cultural Center on March 9. Tickets are $30 for an individual and $50 for couples. The fundraiser will help support getting other equipment and a storage shed that the Little League needs.
The Ford Family Foundation has already sent the $16,000 check to the Little League.
“So we just had to show community support, and that we’re fundraising. That was the biggest thing about this grant is that they don’t just want to give money without showing that the community is behind us, and we have such a great community in Clatskanie, they were all behind us,” Berndt said.
Berndt said it’s been a community effort to get the funds. The grant will directly help the farm ball and tee-ball programs because it will help them have a dedicated and safe field space. Berndt said Clatskanie Parks and Rec are going to let Little League use field space, but now they will have the equipment to help teach kids about baseball.
While the grant is a great jumping-off point, Berndt emphasized that the work is not yet done. The Little League needs more community support to make sure they can support other needs besides the backstop.
“We still need more community support. It’s great that we have this, but when you look at a backstop as $5,000-$8,000, two backstops and we’re going to spend this grant money,” Berndt said. “We still need a storage shed to store all of these supplies, we need new bases still; we still have a need.”
Berndt said that supporting the prom fundraiser or purchasing fan gear also supports the Little League because they get a portion of the money that is spent on Little League merchandise.
In getting the grant, Berndt credited the Little League board for coming together to find solutions to keep the program going. Berndt gave “huge kudos” to board secretary Jennelle Davis for doing the grant writing for the grant. Berndt expressed gratitude to Stimson Lumber, the Phil White Memorial Foundation, and the Family Ford Foundation for their part in supporting the league.
“We definitely are grateful and so blessed that we got this grant, but we still need community support to help get our baseball program back up to where we want it, and where we need it to be,” Berndt said. “As a board, this was a lot of us getting together and brainstorming what we can do to keep this program going for our kiddos. Because that’s what’s important: having sports for these kids.”