Squirrel Hill Baseball and city look to improve Lederman Field

Squirrel Hill Baseball and city look to improve Lederman Field

Representatives from the Squirrel Hill Baseball Association (SHBA) met with City Councilman Corey O’Connor last month to discuss improvements to Stan Lederman Field at Frick Park. According to Brian Jacobson, an SHBA coach whose involvement with the association began nearly a decade ago, participation in the organization’s programs has grown 126 percent since 2010, with 877 players between the ages of 3 and 18 participating last year. Improvements to the facilities there, however, haven’t been seen for more than a generation.

“Frick Park and Stan Lederman Field have become a focal point for the Squirrel Hill community,” said Randy Frankel, SHBA’s commissioner.

In a presentation delivered to O’Connor and representatives from his staff, Jacobson said that between March and October the field receives nearly eight months of continuous use from SHBA players, local and regional tournaments and Pittsburgh Allderdice High School Girls Softball games. Such utilization delivers a substantial economic impact to the surrounding area. This year, 110 teams from outside of Squirrel Hill, along with nearly 1,400 family members, traveled to Lederman Field for multiple tournaments and games. Based on SHBA’s projected calculations, more than $200,000 — a lot of it on dining and shopping — were spent in Squirrel Hill.

Often, “teams are coming to play baseball but make a weekend out of it,” noted Frankel, who explained that in the past traveling teams and family members have chosen to go out to eat, attend a Pittsburgh Pirates game and stay overnight in nearby hotels during a three-game tournament.  

But the bevy of games, participants and spectators has taken its toll, and for roughly 42 years the field has remained “essentially unchanged,” said Jacobson.

“The biggest thing is that it’s unsafe,” remarked Buddy Valinsky, an SHBA coach who is also head coach of Allderdice’s varsity basketball team.

Both the third base and first base light poles are tilted, and because the right- field lights are positioned toward trees instead of the outfield, there is a darkening effect in right field. In order to improve performance and drainage, the infield requires resurfacing and crowning (a process of sloping the field from the middle in all directions). And the outfield, with its “deep, dirt patches” that nearly touch the infield, is in need of new grass.

Jacobson and the group identified other areas, such as the bathrooms, concession stand and poorly lit walkways, that also require attention.

At the meeting’s conclusion, everyone was “in agreement,” said O’Connor, a one-time summer league MVP, who added that the group’s requests were “pretty reasonable.” “We know how critical the field is to so many families and kids in Squirrel Hill.”

“I played there from when I was 8 until 12. … I coached there for at least eight years and took three teams to Cooperstown,” O’Connor recalled. “My dad coached there. … It has a huge connection for all of us.”  

Moving forward, the parties are committed to both repairs and research.

Improvements will be made to areas requiring the most attention, and over the next few months SHBA will gather “preliminary numbers” for what the ultimate project costs will be, explained O’Connor.

During that time, SHBA will partner with potential funders to help raise necessary dollars, added Frankel.  

Echoing the councilman’s sentiment, Frankel thought that the meeting “went great.”

Both O’Connor and Lynette Lederman, the councilman’s executive assistant and wife of Stan Lederman, whom the baseball field is named for, were “a great help,” the commissioner said.

Lederman Field has enabled lifelong friendships, said O’Connor, who added that the players he coached were in his wedding.

“I know for myself and others, without that field there wouldn’t [be] those friendships,” he said. “That is why there is a sentimental effort to put something together that will last for a very, very long time.”

Adam Reinherz can be reached at adamr@thejewishchronicle.net.

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