By Jordan Wolfe
Rockaway Beach has the newest Little League baseball field in the county after a large volunteer and community effort has worked to breathe new life into a dilapidated field just south of the Neah-Kah-Nie School District building.
Neah-Kah-Nie School District superintendent, Paul Erlebach said “the field was this unused piece of property, and Scott Ernst approached the school board to create a dream field.” As the Neah-Kah-Nie Youth Athletics President, Ernst, saw an opportunity to create a field appropriate for little league baseball players, according to John Isbell, board member and treasurer of the Mudd Nick Foundation and Treasurer for Neah-Kah-Nie Youth Athletics Association.
“The kids are having to practice on 45 foot base paths and no pitchers mound,” Isbell said, referencing the fact that the little league has had to practice on the softball field. Due to scheduling conflicts on the usage of the field, as well as the physical differences between a softball and little league field, has made practicing difficult, according to Isbell.
Being affiliated with Tillamook YMCA’s Little League, parents have had to make a sometimes lengthy commute for games, but now Rockaway Beach can host games at the new field.
“We now have one of the best little league fields south of Seaside,” said Isbell, proud to now have a field that will foster growth for the community’s baseball program. “We have the support of Neah-Kah-Nie’s head baseball coach, Rob Herder,” Isbell said, “we want to help these kids develop because we have kids learning the fundamentals of baseball when they get into high school.”
The new field has been in development for two years and is the product of community support and donations of time, money and equipment. In particular, Isbell said he is quite thankful for those in the community who lent large pieces of equipment, like tractors. Isbell shared that 2015 was when outfield work and fundraising began. So far, $20,000 has been raised in private donations, a Lions Club chili feed and silent auction, funds from the City of Rockaway Beach, and supplies from both Manzanita Lumber and Rosenburg Builders Supply.
Finishing touches are currently being added. One such addition that will be added in the near future is the dugouts, which will be built by Neah-Kah-Nie High School’s wood shop class, with donated materials. According to Erlebach, “this baseball field will provide countless hours of enjoyment for youth.”
The Neah-Kah-Nie Youth Baseball Field is located behind the Neah-Kah-Nie School District building on 504 North Third Avenue in Rockaway Beach.