Southerners
Softball players get together to talk strategy before a game Tuesday night. Though the Eclectic Youth Ball Organization season began last week, the league will celebrate Opening Day Saturday at the newly renovated Aaron Park. Photo by David D. Goodwin
Softball players get together to talk strategy before a game Tuesday night. Though the Eclectic Youth Ball Organization season began last week, the league will celebrate Opening Day Saturday at the newly renovated Aaron Park. Photo by David D. Goodwin

Season opens at renovated Aaron Park

Published 8:09am Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Eclectic Youth Ball Organization’s Opening Day festivities will follow tradition.
A parade of pickups will course through town at 9 a.m. Saturday, laden with excited players clad in fresh bright uniforms. When they arrive at the ballpark, the teams will encircle the diamond, waiting to release balloons when their team name is called.
Just the usual spring tradition. But the site of this year’s festivities might surprise a few. Eclectic’s Aaron Park has a fresh new look this spring, after construction crews, parents and volunteers worked throughout the last six months give the ballpark a grant-funded facelift.
“It’s great to see all the hard work coming to a head and see the park looking so good,” said EYBO President Rich Ryals. “People from Reeltown who were here for a game said they never thought Aaron Park would ever look this good.”
Games began at the ballpark last week, with 311 players on 28 teams. Saturday, the parade will kick off the day’s festivities, and Ryals and Mayor Michael Holton asked Eclectic’s citizens to line the streets in support of the players. Ceremonies will begin as soon as all the teams are in place.
Holton and Councilwoman Wanda Estes will throw out the ceremonial first pitches for baseball and softball, respectively. Ryals said they asked them to do so to acknowledge the town’s role in making the grant possible, and in getting the park finished and cleaned up for the season.
“The city has really come to the table this year to help the ballpark,” he said.
Holton, who is coaching on the team of one of his sons, said he’ll be trading hats throughout the day Saturday.
“I will be the coach and the mayor, driving kids in the parade and then throwing out the first pitch,” he said.
The league received $250,000 for the renovations through a health and safety community development block grant. The funds came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.
It paid for a new retaining wall, increased handicap access, a public address system and a pavilion with new bathrooms.
Ryals said they just finished the walk-through on Phase One, and are waiting for permission on Phase Two. The second phase will include more sidewalks and a second pavilion to serve fans at the lower baseball field. There is also a Phase Three in the works, which will be the installation of a new playground, he said.
“We still have a little more to spend,” he said.
Saturday’s parade will begin at Elmore County High and continue up College Street to Alabama Highway 63 through downtown.

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