Angels in the Infield: Community Comes Together to Renovate Softball Field

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City Electric Supply (CES) Alabaster Outside Sales Rep. Keith Phillips never expected to add “softball field renovation” to his list of accomplishments. But when a community is willing and able to bring something to life for their kids, you can’t help but get involved.

At least, that’s what Phillips and CES Alabaster customers said about their experience fixing up the Calera Middle School softball field.

A field too far away

Phillips’s daughter is no stranger to the softball field. When she became a student at Calera Middle School and was just a year away from being able to join the softball team, her dad took notice of the school’s practice field.

“I’ve lived here all my life, and I never really looked at the softball field until that day. It was my daughter who ultimately led me to it,” said Phillips.

The Calera Middle School softball field was unused because of a lack of lighting. As days got shorter and the sunsets came earlier, the team couldn’t use their own field to practice — and they ended up at a park field almost eight miles away.

Softball teams typically have a full roster of 14, but the distance to the practice field had a direct impact on team size.

“The softball coach told me she’d had only 10 girls try out last year. There were several interested students that had no transportation to the field, so they couldn’t play ball,” recalled Phillips. “After hearing that, I took it upon myself to start getting the field back in good condition.”

It takes a village

Phillips may have started this project solo, but it wasn’t long before local business owners and CES customers joined in with their unique contributions.

He knew Daniel Dozier, owner of Dozier Electrical Services, had an auger — the perfect tool for digging holes for the new light poles.

“My team went into the store one morning to get some supplies, and Keith briefed me on the project and asked if we’d be interested in giving him a hand. And of course, we were glad to,” said Dozier.

Chad Northcutt is an account representative for Keystone Technologies at Bishop & Brogdon, and his connection with Phillips includes a big nod to sports. “Both of our kids play sports, so we’re always talking about that. Sports was a big part of the upbringing for both of us,” said Northcutt. “Keystone is a family-owned company like CES, with a passion for community outreach, so we decided to donate the area lights to light up the infield.”

Tim Holdbrooks, owner of Holdbrooks Electric and a long-time customer of CES, assisted with the installation of the poles and lights. Through business and friendship, he’s well acquainted with Phillips’s work ethic.

“When Keith takes on a project, he’s all-in, and he’s been that way for as long as I’ve known him. Whatever it takes, he’ll get it done — and when his customers see him doing hard work for the good of the community, it makes us want to get involved as well,” said Holdbrooks.

With donated lights and equipment, plus volunteered time and labor, the field was primed for its renovation; and the value of that collaboration was not lost on the participants. “Calera’s growing, but it’s still a pretty small town. To be able to come together and make something happen like that, it really reminds us why we live here,” said Dozier.

Taking the initiative

The project ended up involving a lot more than just lights. The field itself was overgrown with weeds and grass, the dirt needed a good resurfacing, and there wasn’t a functional fence.

Whatever the project needed, Phillips found a way. He put $2,500 of his own funds into the renovation of the field, even using his own lawn mower to get the grass under control — an undertaking that took roughly 10 hours over four days. He mapped out the location of the lights, dragged the field with a nail drag, and installed 182 feet of new fence.

Phillips spent nearly every day working on it, heading over to the softball field when he clocked out at CES Alabaster at 2:00 p.m. After about one month, the field was ready for use.

Fit for play

The renovation was a huge success, and the payoff was almost immediate.

“The coach put the try-out form on her door, and she called me to say she had 21 girls signed up. They have a full roster of 14 girls on the team,” recalled Phillips.

“It was a small drop in the bucket for us, but knowing it means much more to the kids and faculty at the school — that’s enough to see how the hard work paid off,” said Dozier. “There’s a sense of pride in being able to say that they have their own field and can practice whenever they want.”

Holdbrooks’s daughter played softball growing up as well, making friendships that are still with her in her 20s. “Being on a team and playing ball together has a huge influence on teaching responsibility, a good work ethic, and the camaraderie of teammates that you’ll have the rest of your life,” he said.

So, what’s next? According to Phillips, the baseball field, which he’s already begun working on.

“I want to say thank you to everyone who donated their time, materials, and labor to getting the softball field to a good place for the girls,” said Phillips — adding with a laugh, “Mark your calendars; we’re going to do it again with the baseball field.”

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