By Lisa Byers
Not long after his hiring as the new head baseball coach at Meadville Area Senior High School this fall, Bruce Stewart made a visit to Eldred Glen to check out the facilities.
Several things had changed since his playing days at Meadville during the early 1990s … and for the better. But one thing that stood out was the terrible condition of the dugouts.
“The old roofing was still there,” Stewart said. “But I was shocked at the condition they were in.”
Fixing those dugouts, however, was never something Stewart had to worry about, thanks to a cooperative agreement between the Meadville Baseball Boosters and the Crawford County Career and Technical Center.
Just days after his visit to the ballfield, the roof was torn off. Two weeks later, dugouts — rebuilt from the original bricks — sat where the old dilapidated ones once had.
“It was a great collaborative effort,” Meadville baseball boosters president Mary Grill said. “We found out that with the community pulling together that you can accomplish a lot. We knew the school district didn’t have it in their budget to do the work we needed and were not going to be able to help.”
The same was true of the Meadville Area Recreation Authority, which owns the Eldred Glen athletic complex.
“It’s a win, win, win,” said Meadville Area Recreation Complex executive director Mike Fisher. “The rec authority didn’t have it budgeted. It would have cost twice the amount if we would have hired someone to do it.”
Instead, the baseball boosters paid for the supplies out of its sign fund, which is used solely for improvements to the field. And carpentry students at CCCTC provided the labor for the job that was finished before the end of September.
“It’s nice to help the community,” said Meadville senior Ryan Anderson, one of the 12 people who spent two hours a day for two weeks straight on the dugout repairs and the installation of a new wall inside the indoor facility adjacent to the baseball diamond.
Jeff Fobes, the CCCTC carpentry instructor, said the students take more pride in work done outside the classroom and it gives them invaluable experience. He said the class takes on any work it can get and averages about two community projects each year.
“We’re all over Meadville,” Fobes said. “It gives us the opportunity to give students real-world experiences instead of the ‘build it and tear it apart’ approach. They take more pride in the stuff that is in view of people.”
The assignments also give the students confidence that they are doing respectable work in a field many will soon turn into a career.
“I like working off school grounds because it lets me know that everyone in this class has excelled at this field,” said Brandon Beers, a Meadville student. “Excelling at what we do lets people know that they can trust us to work for them.”
And in the case of the dugouts, the students learned how to use a new product — steel roofing.
Anderson said the students were responsible for tearing off the roof of each dugout, which involved the help of the CCCTC’s electrical occupations class to remove existing wiring inside the dugouts during demolition of the old roof. They then used the cement blocks, already in place, to construct a higher, new steel roofing on both dugouts.
“I learned a lot of stuff I never would have otherwise,” said Alyssa Brown, a senior at Meadville, who enrolled in the carpentry class at CCCTC to prepare herself for mission work after graduation. “I had never worked with steel roofing before. It gave us a lot more experience.”