New ballpark needs support

Published 12:42 pm Wednesday, April 28, 2004

By By DAN WEISS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Starting a new league is not cheap, even when much of the cost has been been paid for by generous donations.
Niles Junior Baseball has already begun its inaugural season even though league play at Champ's Field in Niles won't begin until May 2.
Junior Baseball is currently trying to raise funds to support the cost of the new league and maintenance of the new field.
Champ's Field, which is located on Mannix Road between Howard and Ellis schools, was built through donations made by former boxing legend Muhammad Ali and his wife Lonnie.
Even with the initial building costs taken care of, Niles Junior Baseball is quickly finding out how expensive it can be to maintain a baseball field.
Vikki Jurgonski, vice president of Niles Junior Baseball, said the need for maintenance equipment and operating expenses has forced the league to come up with fundraising events. The first of those will take place Friday evening at the Niles Eagles, located across Front Street from the Riverfront Cafe.
A Brawley Family Fish Fry will be held from 4 to 9 p.m. Homemade coleslaw, beans, rolls and dessert, along with all-you-can-eat fish will be served by parents and players. The cost of the fish fry is $7 for adults and $5 for children 14 and under.
Niles Junior Baseball is also selling Trees of Honor at Champ's Field. The arborvitae trees are planted around the outfield fence and are a way to permanently honor those who have passed away or other loved ones. A plaque naming both the honored person and the donor can be purchased for $100 and placed below the tree.
Niles Junior Baseball consists of two travelling teams. The 13-year-old Niles Vikings and the 14-year-old Niles Knights will be participating in the Comstock League as well as tournaments throughout the spring and summer.
The Knights have already qualified for the USSAA World Series in Oklahoma by winning a tournament recently in Battle Creek. The Vikings recently finished first in a tournament in South Bend, Ind., but have yet to qualify for the World Series.
This is the second year the current 14-year-olds have taken part in the Comstock League, a league current New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter once played in, but the first year Niles will be able to host games.
The league is for 13- and 14-year-olds, so the two Niles teams will play against each other at some point but will play in separate tournaments.
Each Niles team is comprised of 14 players and will play about 50 games throughout the spring and summer.
Jim Welsh coaches the Knights and Jim Brawley coaches the Vikings. Niles Junior Baseball is incorporated and Tim Fritz is the president.
Champ's Field is set up in such a way that the base paths can be set for Pony League play or high school play. This year, however, the field will be devoted to the Junior Baseball teams.
Even though league play starts Sunday, Niles Junior Baseball will hold a dedication day on Saturday, May 22.
To purchase tickets to the fish fry or purchase Trees of Honor contact Molly Brawley at 683-0743 or Vikki Jurgonski at 684-2194.