Volunteers light up the fields

Submitted by Patti De La O

One by one over the past several years, the lights over Fortuna's Newburg Park baseball fields have gone dark. Thirty-two of the 82 lights illuminating two baseball fields had quit, leaving Fortuna's Babe Ruth, American Legion, and high school teams to play in dim light. In 2012, baseball volunteers decided that the time had come to do something. In three long days of March, the volunteers repaired the lights, but it wasn't easy.

If asked "how many baseball volunteers does it take to screw in a light bulb?" the answer is at least four, two on the ground, and two in the air. There are 14 light poles on the two fields, each 60-65 feet high. Each pole contains between four and seven lights. Each light fixture weighs over 50 pounds and consists of a power box, a cone-shaped reflector, a light bulb, and a lens. Much of the work requires an electrician, so a baseball dad/electrician was procured.

Lighting up a baseball field is complicated. The lights have to be aimed at predetermined spots on the field. If not, the players could be blinded and the ball may appear to skip through the air. An engineered aiming diagram for each field was provided for free by Lithonia Lighting, a national company. Replacement bulbs and technical assistance came from Fortuna's own Springville Safety and Supply.

Volunteers Ron Brown, Marcus De La O, Lewis McCrigler, Steve Highes, Dan Collings, and Tom Janowski, chose a sunny (but very windy) weekend to replace the lights. In order to complete the task, the volunteers needed to rent a boom lift. The boom lift is a great tool in good weather, but on a windy day at 60 feet in the air, it is very challenging.

The lights themselves also presented their own set of challenges. Many of them are over 10 years old. The bolts and rings that hold the lenses to the reflectors were corroded and often just fell apart in their hands. Many of the power boxes were also corroded and needed replacing. A single box costs more than $500, so the group had to rely on their inner MacGyver and jury rig old parts.

The group persevered, however, and the fields are now lit up spectacularly. "We can't wait for the first night game!" the group exclaimed. Although most of the men no longer have kids playing local ball, they love the game and want the community to be able to enjoy the fields the way they are intended.

The group encourages the community to come out and support local baseball. Fortuna High, American Legion, and the Babe Ruth League all play at Newburg Park. See you there!

Submitted photo

Volunteers repair the lights at Fortuna's Newburg Park.