The fencing is complete and the new ball field in Hammond is ready for play.

The fencing is complete and the new ball field in Hammond is ready for play.

New era for Hammond baseball field

Grand reopening a chance to bring baseball back to forefront of community.

Hammond Stadium’s rich baseball history began a new chapter Saturday.

The historic ball park, which first opened in the 1950s, celebrated its reopening  after a more than $750,000 renovation that included new drainage and grass, a new back stop and a permanent outfield fence so it can be used year-round for baseball.

The diamond was re-oriented to the northwest for better vision.

The midget AAA Royals christened the field win a dramatic 7-4 extra innings win over their rivals from Tri-Cities.

Cornelius Temple, president of the Ridge Meadows Minor Baseball Association, said the grand reopening is a chance to bring baseball back to the forefront of the community.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Temple. “Now we have in place a facility that will allow us to further develop the game in the style we believe we can support.”

The Ridge Meadows Minor Baseball Association originally envisioned a 5,000-seat $9-million baseball stadium, but scaled down the proposal after losing out on grant funding in 2008, then opted for a 300-seat, $2 million park, which was later scaled back again.

He said the RMMBA has been working on developing new programs over the last two years to increase the level of play for both recreational players and those looking to perform at the highest level.

“Far too often we saw some of our better players leave to go and play in other associations. Now with the upgrades to Hammond and the emphasis on our player development, we’re hoping we can be that place where we not only keep our own players, but have others look to us to take that next step.”

He said he’s also hoping the upgrades bring back a sense of community that Hammond and baseball were once synonymous for.

“People used to come out to watch good baseball. It was a great way to get community together. We’re hoping we can bring back that passion”

He said now that the field upgrades are complete, they are hoping they can find a corporate partner build something on site that will allow players, coaches and umpires to use when the weather doesn’t cooperate.