by Bob San
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
A new era of Osseo High School baseball and softball will officially begin Friday, May 17, when a dedication of the new lights at Memorial Field will take place at around 6:30 p.m.
The new lights, and a new scoreboard, are the results of a fundraising campaign spearheaded by community residents. The Osseo School District received $250,000 from the Hennepin County Youth Sports Facility Grant program. The lights project received $50,000 in matching funds from the Osseo School District Legacy Fund. The $300,000 covered the lights for Memorial Field and for the girls’ fast-pitch softball field.
The district also received roughly $24,000 from the Minnesota Twins Community Fund, to be used to purchase the scoreboard for Memorial Field.
Shaune Younkers of Osseo, who is credited by all involved as a key advocate who brought various parties together to raise the funds, said she always enjoys the community feel of a relaxing evening watching baseball or softball games and she wants to bring that enjoyment to her community.
“I grew up in Maple Grove with my dad running three softball leagues most years,” Younkers said. “I love all sports, but especially love the ‘community feel’ of baseball and softball. There is really nothing better than sitting out on a summer night and watching a baseball or softball game under the lights.”
Thanks to the efforts of Younkers and many others who volunteered time and labor in the campaign, Osseo and area baseball and softball fans will be able to enjoy that community feel of America’s favorite summer games.
The lights are located at Memorial Field and at the softball field. According to Osseo High Athletic Director Ray Kirch, the lights and scoreboard are ready to go. Immediately after the dedication ceremonies, the Osseo Orioles baseball team will a game against Elk River, marking the official return of night baseball at Memorial Field.
Memorial Field was originally built in 1949 and according to Younkers, did have lights.
“Over the years the lights become costly to operate and to maintain,” Younkers said. “They were dismantled and sold probably about 10 or so years ago.”
Kirch said the lights will benefit the high school programs as well as programs in the community.
“It gives us the opportunity to host double-headers,” he said. “I would also see them being used by our area summer programs. It provides some summer baseball and/or softball evening games.”
Younkers hopes the new lights and evening games will draw people into the community, providing another form of entertainment to both young and old.
“My hope is that the lights at Memorial Field can help facilitate multi-generational spectators in the stands,” she said. “Osseo has a diverse demographic. We have young families and we also have senior citizens in their own homes, in condominiums and in residential care facilities. I really feel that Osseo is unique because it is one of the few towns where you can walk, drive your motorized wheelchair, your lark or your golf cart to watch a game at Memorial Field or the girls fast-pitch field. I would love to see a program develop where some of our seniors from Osseo become ‘superfans’ for the baseball players or softball players.”
Younkers is elated with the results of the fund raising effort but said she received tremendous support from people from various levels in the community.
“This was the most positive experience that I have ever encountered. We were so fortunate to deal with passionate people,” she said. “The residents of Celtic Crossing (located just behind Memorial Field) were amazing to work with. People literally came out of the woodwork to help with this project. Billy Christensen of Dicks Bar dismantled all of his town ball photographs for me so that I could make copies for the application. Hennepin County commissioners Mike Opat and Jeff Johnson were very approachable and eager to help with questions. The staff at the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission were unbelievably helpful. The city of Osseo passed a resolution to show their support unanimously. The school board passed the resolution to show support for this project unanimously. That isn’t the usual way that the votes go down. Ray Kirch (Osseo Senior High Activity Director), Patty Phenow (Activity Assistant) and Dr. Bob Perdaems (Osseo Senior High Principal) were always eager to meet and work on the application. Todd Eernissee, a parent whose son had graduated this past year, worked endless hours to help get this application ready. This process restored my faith in local politics being able to play a positive role in our community. When most people are on the same page, we can do amazing things.”
Younkers feels especially proud of playing a key role in bringing lights to Osseo High for two personal reasons. She is a graduate of Osseo High and she wants to show her children the value of community involvement.
“I graduated in 1987. I played varsity tennis all through high school and then all four years in college,” she said. “My husband (high school sweetheart) played football, was on the swim team and ran track. I really wanted this project to work because it would show my kids that sometimes you can get many different organizations and people from different backgrounds to work towards a common good. To have so many people, from so many different backgrounds (political parties, city residents, business owners, county and school district) all working together for something positive for our youth was amazing. I feel it is our duty as citizens and parents to promote healthy, productive activities for our young people (athletics, drama, music, school government) in any way that we can.”
Contact Bob San at [email protected]