Whitehouse residents celebrate groundbreaking for ballpark renovations

Published on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 23:20 - Written by ByKelly Gooch kgooch@tylerpaper.com

Dustin LaFaitt still recalls the championship game he played at the Whitehouse Baseball/Softball Complex.

He likely was 9 years old and said he threw the ball over the fence in trying to throw a player out at home plate.

“Everyone remembers that,” he said.

Decades later, that same facility was home to a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday for renovations. According to a news release, the number of players in the Whitehouse Baseball/Softball League, originally called Whitehouse Baseball, have decreased in recent years “mainly due to lack of updates at the complex.”

But now the city has partnered with the league and given the go-ahead for a $1.8 million renovation project at the sports facility, which sits on about 19 acres at Farm-to-Market Road 346 and County Road 2133, the news release states. According to a news release, a tax increase will not be necessary for the project “due to debt restructuring from the previous year.”

Assistant City Manager Kevin Huckabee has said planned construction includes a new restroom facility, landscaping, drainage work and new lighting. The $1.8 million will cover the completion of four playing fields “and most everything else,” according to a news release. However, since the entire $2.6 million project is not within the $1.8 million budget, the city has designated two fields as “future fields,” meaning that they would be done as funding permits, Huckabee has said.

According to a news release, the city and league are still working to get sponsorships for the project, and the additional $800,000 would not only build the two other fields but could also allow for things such as scoreboards, bleachers and other equipment.

Meanwhile, though, residents are sharing their own memories and thoughts on the project.

Chad Chambless, 28, played baseball as a child.

He said a lot of people were involved with the league back then, and he and his siblings helped take care of playing fields when his dad was league president.

“We were helping him out, but tried to take care of fields so he could take care of (other duties),” Chambless said.

During that time, he said he learned the importance of taking care of things that he enjoyed using.

He also recalled old family fun days at the ballpark. He said each team would have a different float in a parade then would go back to the ballpark for a family fun day.

Today, Chambless coaches his 10-year-old daughter’s team.

He said he’s pleased to see the complex improvements but also sad because he was raised on the old fields.

“It means a lot to the community,” he said of the baseball/softball league. “That’s all I’ve known is to have it… I think it’s definitely a positive thing for our community to have.”

Shane Chambless, 53, started playing in the 1960s, and said it was a great experience for him.

“It was a small town community. The town wasn’t very big, (and) everyone knew each other…,” he said.

“It was a lot of fun, and that’s what it was about - playing with kids you grew up with.”

He later served as league president for 11 years.

Chambless said he especially enjoyed the first day of every season, when he watched the younger children, with smiles on their faces, come out in new uniforms and put their hands in the base chalk.

That “was always a big thing,” he said.

Chambless said he believes baseball/softball is important to the Whitehouse community because it allows children to play in the summer and be in contact with friends.

He said he also believes the renovation project is important, and will give children a beautiful ballpark to play at and draw more people to the league.

“I’ve seen a lot of generations go through the ballpark and think it means a lot to the community,” Chambless said.

Gary Hill, who was on the Whitehouse Baseball/Softball League board in the 1990s and 2000s, agreed, saying that the league provides an outlet for children.

The complex is expected to be ready by fall 2014.

When it is complete, the city will maintain the facility and oversee finances while the league will be involved with things such as registration, scheduling and concessions, according to a news release.

In the end, League President Sherry Frelke said the renovations will provide an upgraded facility that everyone can be proud of.

She said the league has lost some girls over the years to other activities such as cheerleading and dance, and it hopes to get the girls sector growing again.

For more information about advertising at the complex, call 903-534-0444. Donations can be mailed to City of Whitehouse, PO Box 776, Whitehouse, TX 75791 attention Whitehouse Baseball/Softball League.