Bishop Nevares blesses ball field for student athletes

Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares blesses St. Vincent de Paul fans — and opponents — Jan. 22 during a dedication ceremony for the school's revamped ball field. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares blesses St. Vincent de Paul fans — and opponents — Jan. 22 during a dedication ceremony for the school’s revamped ball field. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

A parade of people stepped up to the plate long before Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares ever took the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch Jan. 22.

There were 45 donations from the “dig in for the dugout” effort aimed at St. Vincent de Paul School alumni, seven from alumni parents plus former teachers and an anonymous donor. They all wanted to help today’s student athletes have a better place to learn America’s pastime.

So did others in the community. A $1,000 grant from the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Play Ball Fund ended issues with mud on the field. Students from ASU’s Del E. Webb School of Construction designed new dugouts to provide shade for the first time in the field’s 42-year history. Families donated labor for its construction plus that of an equipment storage room, painting and fencing.

Bishop Nevares encouraged athletes and students in the stands to not forget the generosity. He reminded them of the importance of giving back to future generations, especially to the school and church community that nurtured their growth.

“It takes all the chain links hooking together and working together,” the bishop said, comparing teamwork to the intricate work of building the fences that surround the field.

St. Vincent de Paul's baseball and softball teams joined school leaders and Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares for the blessing of their upgraded field Jan. 22. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
St. Vincent de Paul’s baseball and softball teams joined school leaders and Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares for the blessing of their upgraded field Jan. 22. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Masonry apprentices were thrilled to help too. Most of their projects are for practice and get torn down right away.

“A lot of them live in the area and they said they’re going to be so proud to drive by and see it still standing,” Rose DeFer, development director, told the fans in the stand.

The Maryvale field is visible along 51st Avenue. Jim Robins, baseball coach, called it a professional job that now has gratitude written all over it. A dedication plaque will eternally serve as a reminder on the field.

Robins and Michelle Risinger, softball coach, took turns during the dedication ceremony handing a framed photo taken during renovation to a representative from every professional group involved. The all-hands-on-deck effort the last six months or so resulted in a new softball/baseball field that was blessed prior to the Tigers’ final softball victory — by a one run lead — of the season.

Bishop Nevares blesses St. Vincent de Paul's first shaded dugouts Jan. 22. The tigers can now truly rest between at-bats. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Bishop Nevares blesses St. Vincent de Paul’s first shaded dugouts Jan. 22. The tigers can now truly rest between at-bats. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

“It definitely makes it safer to play on by taking out all the rocks that used to exist on the field. It also makes it easier to maintain,” Robins said, “but all in all, it’s just having an upgraded field with real dugouts that makes it more comfortable to play on.”

“It has been something we dreamed of for many years and adds so much to our softball/baseball program,” Risinger said.

Athletes can now truly relax in the dugout without worrying about splinters. A series of single-slat wooden benches was often replaced over the years. The new benches are more of a hardwood material that includes a backrest and a small shelf behind it for equipment.

The athletes are excited to play on the field too. Coach Robins said it looks and feels like the real thing, much like what their neighbors, the Milwaukee Brewers, practice on each spring.

The longstanding field was originally dedicated in 1973 in memory of Cindy Baker, who graduated from St. Vincent de Paul School four years prior. It’s also dedicated to all members of the school and church that were called from this earthly life at a young age.