Approaching its second diamond anniversary, Louis Bloch Park will be shining brighter than ever by April.
“Even when I played here 20 something years ago, the lights have always been dim. It was only a matter of time before somebody got hurt,” said Camas-Washougal Babe Ruth President Jaycop Collins.
The ballpark opened Sept. 3, 1940. It’s old wooden based lights had been up since 1972. Collins recalls evenings when they wouldn’t turn on. Games were delayed or restarted the next day.
Clark Public Utilities serviced the lights for several years. Communications Service Manager Heather Allmain said it came to a point where the old system needed to be replaced.
“This is one of the oldest ballparks in the region. It means a lot to the people of Camas and Washougal,” she said. “Our job was to make people understand the direness of the situation. Our employees are passionate about youth sports. Some had even played on this field when they were young.”
After Camas-Washougal Babe Ruth board members went through the application process and presented their project to Executive Director Cathy Bradley on site, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund granted $60,540 to install six new Musco Lighting, Inc. posts around the field.
“The Baseball Tomorrow Fund is proud to support the renovations at Louis Bloch Park,” Bradley stated in a press release. “On behalf of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Association, we thank Camas-Washougal Babe Ruth for providing quality youth baseball programs and facilities and for its efforts to expand opportunities to additional young players.”
Babe Ruth Baseball Headquarters kicked in $15,000 and The Baseball T.O.D.A.Y. Foundation added $10,000.
“This offers a much brighter lighting system that saves energy and provides a safe environment for the kids who play ball here,” Allmain said. “Night games are very special. We are excited to see kids playing ball under these lights for the next 75 years, and beyond.”
Additional donations from the City of Camas, City of Washougal, CalPortland Concrete, Pape’ Machinery, Excavator Rental Services, 20th Century Contracting, Wells Fargo, Clark Public Utilities and Christenson Electric helped Camas-Washougal Babe Ruth purchase a new scoreboard and bleachers.
“The thought of not having any lights would have been a nightmare,” said Randy Potter, treasurer of Camas-Washougal Babe Ruth. “I never thought Major League Baseball would be so generous. And the City of Camas. And PUD.”
“When it’s all said and done, you’re looking at more than $235,000 in donations,” said C-W Babe Ruth Vice President Dave Kuhlman. “We have several different organizations involved, and they are all on board for the same reason. It’s the kids. They give us all the enjoyment just watching them play ball.”
A dozen volunteers from Clark Public Utilities and Camas-Washougal Babe Ruth lifted the six new Musco light poles into position in three-and-a-half hours Saturday. The new scoreboard arrives this week.
“The joy for today is to leave seeing those poles up in the air. The ultimate thrill for these guys will be to come back at night and see these lights on,” said Mike Brown, Clark PUD Construction Maintenance Superintendant. “It’s taken a lot of man hours. Our guys have stepped up to the plate and donated a lot of time.
“Dave [Kuhlman] and Randy [Potter] really pushed for this. The credit goes to them,” Brown added. “Those guys have no problem jumping in there with us and getting their hands dirty. They care as much about this ballpark and this community as we do.”
Field Day at Louis Bloch Park is scheduled for Saturday, March 28, starting at 9 a.m. Coaches, players, board members and volunteers will trim and polish the diamond for Opening Day. Games start Monday, April 13.