Creating the Ball Field of Hope

The real-world impact of the Choose Your Own Future college and career readiness Change the World challenge activity offered through United Way of Central New Mexico is taking shape in the form of a baseball field in Albuquerque’s South Valley. Offering opportunities for hands-on learning for adult career education students, engagement for community volunteers and collaboration among organizations, what is being referred to as the “Ball Field of Hope” is a promising community-led effort that will invite everyone to play ball!

The Change the World proposal submitted by Patti Rivas on behalf of the Mission ABQ: Mission Training Center community and members of South Valley Little League teams was selected by a committee in April 2022 as a project that met three necessary criteria of having the potential to strengthen community, will be led by community and can be completed with the community. Patti asked for contributions of chalk, dirt, and volunteers hoping to remove the goat heads and other hazards in the field to create a safe practice field for teams. Unbeknownst to her, another community organization was in need of land to use and transform for career education purposes.

Catholic Charities’ Center for Educational Opportunity works in partnership with Safety Zone Credentialing to offer a Heavy Equipment Operator certification course. Students pursuing training for this field learn to operate the equipment using the simulator. “The heavy machine simulator gives students a great foundation in how to operate the equipment and the next step in the program is hands-on experience with the real thing in order to take and pass the certification examination,” explained Tara Armijo-Prewitt, Center Director. “We need undeveloped land for students to practice using the actual equipment and this is a wonderful opportunity for students to apply their skills and see the impact they can have in the community.”

One month after Patti’s proposal was submitted, a planning team consisting of representatives from the four partnering organizations met at the field to envision the possibilities. Joseph Montoya, owner of Safety Zone Credentialing, laid out the steps needed to prepare the field for clearing, leveling and acquiring materials needed to create a low-maintenance, regulation Little League field.

In June, a group of four students joined with Joseph and Catholic Charities’ Program Coordinator Taylor Stanton at the project site to apply their knowledge and skills to measuring the field. They marked the bases, surveyed the land and determined where the field sloped. Students took turns at each base determining what work would be needed to create a perfect, level baseball diamond.

Mission ABQ: Mission Training Center community member, Albert Campbell, supported the effort and weighed in on the specifics of the pitcher’s mound. Having been a former baseball coach at Sandia High School and having worked to create many baseball fields as a heavy equipment operator himself with the City of Albuquerque for 27 years before retiring, Albert is very eager to see this field come to life. “It will be great to have a field not only for the little league baseball teams but for the girls’ softball teams. They need a space to play, too!”

Patti Rivas

“This is a way of giving back to the community,” explained Patti and JJ Gallegos, a South Valley Little League Coach. “We here in the South Valley have limited resources as compared to the greater Albuquerque metropolitan area. Families here in the South Valley are often forced to participate in areas of town beyond our boundaries.  This makes things difficult especially when families strive for choices to be closer to home.  The lack of local facilities tend to force our hand and pushes us away from our community. This ball field will change that and bring us all closer together.”

A fundraising campaign is underway to build upon the seed money granted by United Way’s Choose Your Own Future challenge service project fund. Safety Zone Credentialing has generously donated the use of equipment. Mission ABQ: Mission Training Center will contribute their resources to remove trees that have grown over the outfield.  Catholic Charities’ students will provide the labor needed to clear the field gaining experience through the effort and will receive stipends for their work. To contribute funds, resources, or materials to this effort, contact United Way Community Impact Manager, Sarah Azibo.

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