Football on a smaller 'Field of Dreams'

You may remember a certain homemade baseball field I wrote about in early August, built on several empty lots in Savoy’s Prairie Fields subdivision by five enterprising Little Leaguers.

Since then, “Prairie Field” has shrunk a bit. And it’s now a gridiron.

It seems that just a few days after the column was published, the property owner, Blog PhotoSignature Homes, started construction on a duplex at the north end of the field, just behind the old home plate.

The boys were asked to move their field about 100 feet south to accommodate the trucks and keep the construction zone kid-free.

Before you go screaming about mean developers, here are a few facts:

1. Joe LaMontagne, the superintendent for Signature’s residential projects, actually lives in Prairie Fields, just down the street. He’s a dad of two young girls of his own (who are more interested in princesses than sports so far), and he had admired the boys’ industriousness.

“I personally loved it. It made me smile every time I passed by. I thought it was pretty brilliant of them,” he said last week.

2. The timing, according to LaMontagne, was coincidental. The duplex had been in the works for months and the construction date scheduled for quite some time, he said. The company had built other duplexes in the subdivision several years ago, but demand had slacked off until recently, he said.

3. No one at Signature had any problem with the boys using the field.

“Not at all,” LaMontagne said. “I don’t think anybody ever raised any concerns. That lot has sat vacant for years.”

LaMontagne notified me about the development shortly after the column ran.
When he talked to the boys about the impending construction, they had already heard the news through the grapevine.

They weren’t too upset, he said, only slightly disappointed that they would lose their pitcher’s mound, positioned on a natural rise in the middle of the lots. He promised to help them rebuild one with excess dirt from the construction site.

Petrece Klein, whose son Tanner was one ringleader of the Prairie Field project, said the boys were “a little upset” at first. They had spent weeks mowing and clearing the lots and scrounging materials from their garages to create the field: PVC pipe for foul poles; plywood for the backstop; spray paint for the baselines and on-deck circle; orange construction fencing for an outfield wall.

But they adjusted, she said, redesigning the field within the new parameters.

They used the shorter field for a while, but “I don’t think it quite worked out as well. They lost a lot of distance,” LaMontagne said.

At one point, a semitrailer truck was parked on a big chunk of the remaining field, making play difficult, Klein said. A Dumpster still occupies the old home-plate area.
But for the most part, the workers have been considerate, Klein said.

“They’re doing the best they can to work around the boys,” who still have a lot of equipment on the field, she said.

With the coming of fall, the players recently turned Prairie Field into a football field, Blog Photowith a pair of portable yellow goalposts and some chairs on the sidelines. A new “Prairie Field” sign was installed, this time with a football spray-painted on it.

They now play mostly on weekends, busy during the week with baseball practice, homework and after-school activities.

They’ve also enjoyed playing in the dirt piles dug up from the duplex’s foundation, LaMontagne said.

“I just love their spirit. They’re still having fun,” Klein said.

LaMontagne doesn’t think the company plans to build more duplexes on the remaining lots anytime soon.

He said the boys will be allowed to rebuild their field once construction on the duplex is finished.

“As we are constantly bombarded by the cheating involved at the professional level, it’s nice to see some of the purity left in the game for these boys,” he said.

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Julie Wurth blogs about kids and families and covers the University of Illinois for the News-Gazette. Leave a comment below, or contact her at 351-5226, jwurth@news-gazette.com or Twitter.com/jawurth.

Photos:

Top: A new duplex is going up just behind the old home plate on 'Prairie Field.'

Bottom: At the south end of the lot, the boys now play football on the field.

Julie Wurth/News-Gazette

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