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Raking it in

NLYBS hits it out of the park with annual field clean-up day
Amelia and Sophia Good rake leaves as their dad is left holding the bag.

NORTH LIBERTY– Talk about cleanup batters.
It was a huge day at the ballpark, as more than 630 people joined North Liberty Youth Baseball and Softball (NLYBS) leaders to help with the league’s annual Field Enhancement Day on Saturday, March 28, at Penn Meadows Park in North Liberty.
The yearly event is organized by NLYBS, and all coaches and players are encouraged to help prepare the softball and baseball fields, as well as the surrounding park grounds, for the upcoming season. Participants rake leaves, pick up trash, work with City of North Liberty staff to repair batting cages, and clean the concession stand. Another field at Van Allen Elementary School was also improved, with a group of volunteers from Riverside Casino’s Winning Hands program and Van Allen neighbors spreading new infield mix to help alleviate mud problems.
Volunteers also hung sponsor banners on the outfield fences, to acknowledge the businesses and individuals that sponsor the boys’ and girls’ youth teams. In fact, the community has been so supportive of the 22-year-old-program that board member Cindy Rundle said she had to turn away sponsors for the first time. There are 924 children signed up this year to play on 80 teams, with 250 volunteer coaches in the lineup.
“We have never run out of teams before,” said Rundle. “That’s an all-time record.” The better news, Rundle added, is that other local leagues are also growing and will provide additional opportunities for games.
“Senior and junior levels should have a really good season, since both Coralville and Solon are fielding quite a few teams, too,” Rundle noted.
With so many game opportunities, the league is currently still looking for umpires age 14 and older. It is a good way to make some extra money while working one to three evenings a week over the season, Rundle said. The head umpire, like other positions in the NLYBS organization, is staffed by a volunteer who will be present every evening to assist and provide support.
This year’s Field Enhancement event was also an opportunity for league supporters to offer information about the new sports pavilion that will be constructed in the park this spring and summer. NLYBS and the City of North Liberty are partnering on the project, which will include a new concession stand, restrooms and covered picnic area. City staff marked off the pavilion’s footprint so families could walk through the space where it will be located.
“Everyone was  surprised by how much room there was under the shelter and at how many bathrooms there were,” Rundle said. “I think we have all gotten so used to two single-person bathrooms that people were just astounded by the difference. The general consensus was that it is about time.”
NLYBS has committed $250,000 to the $500,000 project, and continues to raise funds. Individuals or businesses can purchase a brick in a choice of sizes and finishes to be engraved and placed in the pavilion courtyard. The Optimist Club of North Liberty, a long-time financial supporter of NLYBS, has pledged to help with the patio as well. People who came to clean-up day were also able to see samples of the bricks they can buy.
“Families were impressed not just by the layout of the courtyard, but also the quality of the workmanship of the bricks. It is surprising how much detail can be captured on a brick. Many of the business’s logos are intricate and it is all there,” Rundle said. There are over 400 stock logos available, or custom logos and engraving can be done as well.
Supporters are able to purchase a replica or smaller souvenir brick in addition to the patio bricks, which is a popular choice, Rundle added.
“Hopefully, we will have enough orders by May 1, so we can get the next shipment of bricks in before Father’s Day. Donating a brick in a father’s or grandfather’s name is a really touching tribute and gift.”
Rundle said the popularity of the ever-expanding NLYBS league is a reflection of the North Liberty community.
“We are fortunate to live in a growing community with a lot of active, healthy kids who have interested and involved parents,” Rundle said.
Parent Joe Adam is one of those parents. He brought both his children to the clean-up day, even though one of them is not even old enough to play in the league yet and the other is beginning her first season.
“This is a community effort, and I want to teach them to be part of the community and share in the work,” said Adam. “The more people we have, the quicker it gets done.”
The 2015 Field Enhancement Day, with its immense turnout, is also likely a reflection of the program’s continued success in offering a positive ball playing experience for hundreds of children season after season.
“The partnerships NLYBS has formed with Diamond Dreams and Positive Coaching Alliance emphasizes the importance we place on skill development for both players and coaches, but also recognizes the important role that parents play in supporting their athletes on and off the field,” Rundle said.
“Most of all,” she added, “I think we are all just having a really good time in the evenings out at the ball park.”
For more information about the NLYBS league, umpire positions or purchasing bricks for the pavilion courtyard, visit www.eteamz.com/NLYBS.