Baseball fields getting major repairs

The City Council has approved a partnership between Laguna Beach and local Little League to renovate baseball fields at Riddle Field and Alta Laguna Park in the next two months.

The estimated cost for both fields is $33,000, with the league committed to paying $25,000, while the council's action — a 5-0 vote at its Jan. 7 meeting — allows the city to provide matching funds not to exceed $12,500, according to a city staff report.

The league's board of directors in December approved renovations for both sites.

The city's contribution will be funded by savings from a drainage improvement project where Park Avenue and Wendt Terrace meet, the staff report said.

Riddle Field is currently undergoing major changes, including replacement of the grass with new sod, removal and reconstruction of the pitcher's mound and elimination of berms and grass lips with a laser to create level playing surfaces, according to a letter to the city from Timothy Loughlin, Laguna Beach Little League president.

Each year the city and league coordinate maintenance and facility repairs to Riddle, but this project is different, Loughlin said.

"It's significantly more than yearly maintenance," Loughlin said. "If maintained property, it should last for five to seven years."

The last time the infield sod was replaced was in 2011, according to the city staff report. That grass came from Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

The same company that supplies sod for Angel Stadium will supply the grass for Riddle Field, Loughlin said.

The league has a positive relationship with Anaheim's professional baseball team, the Angels. Angels President John Carpino is a Laguna Beach resident and ardent supporter of Laguna Beach Little League, Loughlin said.

"He's been very generous to us in the past, whether it's an opportunity to visit Angel Stadium," Loughlin said. "He's always interested in making Riddle nice and shiny."

Angels' head groundskeeper, Barney Lopas, is overseeing both projects, Loughlin's letter said.

Riddle is used by Little League for nine months of the year and city softball leagues in the summer and fall, the staff report said.

Laguna Beach Little League has identified additional repairs at Riddle Field, such as repairing fences and painting dugouts, that could be completed with the city's contribution, Community Services Director Ben Siegel said.

Little League and Laguna Beach High School junior varsity baseball teams use Alta Laguna Park.

"In a small city, we value the opportunity for shared use," Siegel said.

Improvements at Alta Laguna include removing all dangerous lips and berms around the pitching mound, batter's box and base paths, according to Loughlin's letter.

Crews will also install anchors for removable bases for 70-foot base paths at both Riddle and Alta Laguna Park fields, the letter said. Alta has the capacity for bases at 90 feet for use during high school games.

Little League International is scheduled to vote later this year on whether to require all 11- and 12-year-olds to play on 70-foot base paths — 10 feet longer than current rules — because of safety concerns regarding new batting equipment and the introduction of bigger and stronger players, the letter said.

Work at Alta Laguna is less extensive than at Riddle and will begin in February, Loughlin said.

Riddle Field should be ready for play Feb. 24, with opening day set for March 1, he said.

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