Anna Schuessler/Daily Journal
The well-used Kiwanis Field at Red Morton Community Park is getting a fresh look through a collaborative effort spurred by the Kiwanis Club.
Young baseball players will have the opportunity to play in the big leagues this summer as new fields, a scorekeeper’s booth, electronic scoreboard and new foul poles adorn Kiwanis Field, Redwood City’s Little League playing field at Red Morton Community Park.
Just shy of 60 years since the field was established, the improvements to one of the city’s grass baseball fields will be unveiled at a dedication ceremony Thursday, May 18.
For Justin Wethington, member of the Kiwanis Club of Woodside Terrace A. M., the improvements shaping the field’s new look offered a glimpse of wide-reaching impact of community collaboration. A Redwood City native, Wethington said he initially got involved with the project to preserve one of the places that evoked a small town feeling for him. But he quickly became more invested in the project once he saw how eager community organizations and small businesses were to contribute to the effort.
“It was just a really heartfelt experience,” he said.
Named after the Kiwanis Club of Redwood City when the organization donated $25,000 to establish the field in 1958, Wethington guessed the field hadn’t received much more than scheduled maintenance since then.
So when the Kiwanis Club of Woodside Terrace A.M. was looking for a project that could benefit the community in 2015, Little League umpire and Kiwanis member Glenn Lew suggested the club revitalize the field so many Redwood City Little League players used.
Though Wethington and other Kiwanis members were initially able to raise $10,000 toward the improvements, they realized the list of updates, which quickly grew from replacing sod to improving the field’s sound system, would require much more. Partnering with the city of Redwood City, which has helped maintain the field, and the Redwood City Little League, whose players fill the field for much the summer, Wethington and other community members sought cash and in-kind donations to make up the difference.
With Redwood City and the Redwood City Little League chipping in over $20,000, and local lumber and construction businesses offering in-kind donations, Wethington, who is a manager at the David Brett Company in Redwood City, saw the group quickly raise $50,000 toward the improvements. In speaking with local businesses, he found many of them felt an immediate connection with the field, and sharing memories of playing there as kids or cheering on their own children as they rounded the bases.
“It was just something that people were passionate about,” he said.
In the last year, Wethington has worked with Redwood City staff and Redwood City Little League board members to prioritize the many field improvements players and their families requested. Starting with leveling the field in the fall, over the last few months, the group has replaced the grass with sod, installed a new and larger scorekeeper’s booth, added an updated electronic scoreboard and added foul poles as well as a flag pole.
John Brownfield, a Redwood City Little League coach and parent, has been scheduling games for Little League players as a league board member for the last four or five years. He said the improvements could not have come sooner for the field, which he said almost every Redwood City Little League player plays on at some point. Mainly used by the league’s majors division, which includes players ages 10, 11 and 12, the field is where many young baseball players develop their skills beyond the fundamentals.
“It’s kind of the center of the universe,” he said.
For Chris Beth, the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services director, the opportunity to partner with local organizations pooling resources to improve a community resource was too good to pass. He said the field has historically been packed with baseball players in spring and summer afternoons. Beth has already heard rave reviews from residents who have experienced the improvements to date.
“We have some really happy people,” he said.
Wethington said the field, which will be better equipped to host tournaments in the fall, has become more popular for scheduling since the improvements have been put into place. For the 30-year-old, the community’s warm welcome to the new and improved field has opened his eyes to the power of collaboration.
“When you really have a mission, and you want to complete it, there’s no stopping you when you have the support of the local community,” he said.
The dedication of the improved Kiwanis Field at Red Morton Community Park will be 5 p.m. Thursday, May 18, at 1200 Madison Ave.