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Delmont Development Corporation hopes to revitalize town's baseball field

DELMONT -- A 70-year baseball program has struck out in Delmont. Following a decade-long downturn in participation, the Delmont Baseball Association has dissolved, turning over the baseball field and other assets to the Delmont Development Corpor...

The Delmont Baseball Association dissolved Tuesday night and turned the field over to the Delmont Development Corporation. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)
The Delmont Baseball Association dissolved Tuesday night and turned the field over to the Delmont Development Corporation. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)

DELMONT - A 70-year baseball program has struck out in Delmont.

Following a decade-long downturn in participation, the Delmont Baseball Association has dissolved, turning over the baseball field and other assets to the Delmont Development Corporation, pending legal counsel.

Jeff Friman and Darren Fechner, with the Development Corporation, indicated Tuesday night during a public meeting that the organization is interested in turning the field into a smaller, softball and little league field or small park. In total, the property includes approximately nine acres.

"We'll see if we can keep it going ... but it might not be a long-lived thing either," Fechner said at Tuesday's meeting. "It might only be for four or five more years, but we'll see how it goes and go from there."

Regardless of what renovation work is done at the diamond, Fechner said the through road will be locked off so it cannot be accessed by the public aside from designated events and times.

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And a project could cost more than $20,000 to complete, scaring off other area organizations.

Prior to Tuesday's meeting, the Delmont Town Board had been asked by the association to take over the field, but was uninterested, as was the Delmont Neighborhood Watch program, each saying it is too big of a project for their means.

And moving forward, part of the corporation's success will come from the community's willingness to get involved and help ensure the project moves in the right direction, Friman added.

The Delmont amateur baseball team, which co-oped with Tripp to form the Tripp-Delmont Indee Jacks, has been unable to field a team for the past two seasons. The town's little league program has been absent for several years, according to Delmont resident and 25-year Baseball Association member Ervin Bietz.

"It's time to let it go," Bietz said, adding the gradual dwindling of participation in baseball programs has hurt the town, already struggling to stay afloat following a May 2015 tornado that damaged 84 structures and displaced 100 residents. "Once you don't have a team it hurts, that was always a pretty good drawing card for Sunday afternoons and evenings - that used to have pretty nice crowds."

And the Delmont Baseball Association itself has seen its fair share of struggles.

When the association was formed, a core group of members joined, Bietz said, but hasn't recruited any new members in the past 20 years. So, for the men who are "slowing down," maintaining the floundering program has proven challenging.

But Bietz is hopeful for the future of the baseball diamond and believes, if done correctly, it could positively impact the 200-person town.

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"It's just another phase a little town goes through," Bietz said. "It's something everybody expected, but who knows what's next?"

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