The Roland Park Baseball League is currently in its 65th year of operation, having grown from 12 teams in 1952 to 68 teams today. The league, which includes 60 recreational teams and eight travel squads, recently joined forces with another quality city baseball program in the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.
The RPBL is in the process of rehabbing the baseball field at Poly. This spring, the RPBL added bullpens on each side of the field, with two pitching rubbers in each pen. An outfield fence was added. Blue tarps were bought for the mound and home plate area to increase the likelihood of Poly getting a game in after it rains during the morning. The two softball diamonds were also rehabbed.
The RPBL partnered with Poly because the RPBL was looking for field space for its older kids -- the 11-12 and 13-15 age groups -- and a spot to play in the fall when other field spaces were taken for soccer, according to Kurt Overton, the commissioner of the RPBL. The RPBL can play on Poly's fields once Poly is done practicing, and it doesn't use them on Poly game days.
"I think it's been great," Overton said of the relationship between the RPBL and Poly. "Just very easy to work with, and as long as we're willing to do things that help improve the facilities and are good for the students of Poly and Western and also good for Roland Park baseball, we found them to be very receptive. I think these strategic partnerships make an awful lot of sense, because these are facilities that can be used after hours. There's no reason why there can't be dollars that will go into improving them."
It's all a part of an initiative by the RPBL to team up and refurbish baseball diamonds in the city, so that young athletes in the area have a quality spot to play ball. For example, the RPBL is in the process of raising about $190,000 to build a new field in Northwest Park; the organization has raised about $140,000, according to Overton. The RPBL also teamed up with Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks to play night games at Druid Hill Park.
"With the challenge of growing from 12 teams to now 68 teams, the need for field space has continued to grow with the popularity of the league," Overton said. "We have, in the last few years, begun an initiative to increase field space and availability for athletes."
The RPBL is currently using Poly's fields as a part of a permit agreement, according to Paul Turner, real estate officer with Baltimore City Schools. The permit process allowed access to the fields in the short term, but a long-term agreement -- a memorandum of understanding -- will eventually follow, further outlining "the roles and responsibilities of both Roland Park Baseball and Baltimore City schools, along with Poly-Western High School," according to Turner.
Overton said at the end of the first year of working together, the RPBL will invest about $25,000 into Poly fields. The RPBL has money allocated for field projects every five to 10 years that are more than typical maintenance, according to Overton.
Overton and Corey Goodwin, head coach of the Poly varsity baseball team, would like to see sod installed in the infield this summer; Poly currently has a skin infield. Goodwin also mentioned he'd like to see brick dugouts built and quality scoreboards installed. He's hopeful the partnership will give his program the chance to eventually "mirror" the facilities of nearby Gilman and Boys' Latin.
"The more people that come to our facility and play there and enjoy their stay there and like what they see, the more likely they are to want to come to Poly as a high school choice and potentially play ball there. That's my vision," said Goodwin, who is in his 13th year as head coach at Poly. "The word is that baseball is dying in the city. So these kind of projects and renovations will kind of help revive it."
Issue 221: May 2016