Photos by Sarah Sachs and the Arizona Diamondbacks
For Little League® programs around the world, the challenge of maintaining local fields in order to create a safe and enjoyable playing environment for their players can often times be a very tedious and difficult task, but for Payson Little League in Payson, Ariz., that hard work has finally paid off. Earlier this month, thanks to the continued hard work and persistence of League President Barbara Rasmussen, Payson Little League was officially approved for the Diamondbacks Foundation Build-A-Field Grant Program, which has built or refurbished baseball and softball fields for local communities in Arizona since 2000.
The grant program, run by the Diamondbacks in partnership with Arizona Public Service (APS), will help Payson Little League transform two of their local fields where the Intermediate (50/70), Junior, and Senior League Baseball Divisions play. Starting with a facelift of the infield using the same rock-free dirt used at Chase Field, the renovations also included putting in regulation fencing with green screening, adding shade screening to the dugouts, installing new scoreboards at each field, adding two new sets of bleachers, and providing portable mounds for both fields to allow all divisions of baseball and softball to be able to play.
These renovations come after the town recently installed new lights at both fields in order to allow their teams to be able to play at night and provide more opportunities for teams to utilize the fields. Along with the grant program, the Arizona Diamondbacks also have the D-Backs Give Back Youth Jersey Program that Payson Little League participates in which provides jerseys and caps to each player within the league.
This grant has been no easy process for Mrs. Rasmussen, however, as she has spent the last three years applying in hopes to renovate the fields and provide Payson Little League with a fun, safe, and enjoyable place to play baseball and softball every day.
“I applied three years in a row and just kept waiting and waiting,” said Mrs. Rasmussen. “I wouldn’t give up. I refused to give up.”
Her persistence paid off for Payson Little League as the Diamondbacks organized a ceremony at the new fields that included appearances by former Arizona Diamondback legends and Little League graduates, Randy Johnson and Luis Gonzalez, while the Diamondbacks play-by-play announcer Steve Berthiaume served as the master of ceremonies.
“It was almost surreal to see Randy Johnson and Luis Gonzalez,” added Mrs. Rasmussen. “It was wonderful to see everyone come together in a positive way. There was so much positive energy on the fields that day. It was great.”
As part of the festivities, Randy Johnson threw out the ceremonial first pitch before taking the time to speak to the community about the importance of the lessons that these young boys and girls would learn on the fields.
“When the kids play here, the lessons that they learn will be able to be taken into the real world,” said Mr. Johnson. “Understanding teamwork, understanding giving back, understanding at times you can’t be selfish, you have to share, allocating situations, and being a leader. The lessons you will learn here playing baseball with your teammates and in front of your community and your family are actually more important than playing baseball.”
Following the ceremony, members of Payson Little League went over and removed the fabric of the newly built scoreboard in center field, revealing the new name of the Kiwanis East Field, “Randy Johnson Hall of Fame Field.” The other field, originally known as Kiwanis West Field, was also renamed “D-Backs Legends Field.”
“Payson Little League is so grateful to the Arizona Diamondbacks and APS for supporting our league and our community.” Shared Mrs. Rasmussen. “It has been a great experience.”