CANARYVILLE — With an Opening Day deadline looming, workers at the neighborhood’s Little League ballpark are hustling to complete big time renovations.
Johnny Kozlar isn’t worried.
Kozlar, 24, of Bridgeport, is the president of the Canaryville Little League. The John Marshall law student has been at the helm for the last four years, presiding over a series of major projects to get the ballfield at 455 W. 45th Place back into playing shape. And they've all been done on time.
“We want to give the kids as much of a major league experience as possible,” Kozlar said.
The league’s latest project has workers installing a brick backdrop to surround the perimeter of the infield. The outfield will get torn up to accommodate a new sprinkler system and re-sodded, and the infield will get new dirt.
The project will cost about $35,000, among the priciest improvements yet for the league. Past efforts have included a leveling of the field and the installation of fences, bleachers and an electronic scoreboard.
The league relies on registration fees — ranging from $50 to $100 per player — and donations from the community to pay for the upgrades.
Joe Vidmar, the league's volunteer sponsorship coordinator, said donations have been steady since he joined the group a few years back. Nearly three dozen sponsors have signed on so far this year.
"We're not making money. We're making a park for the kids," he said. "There’s nothing like this in the city. ... How many parks you know have a scoreboard that’s run by remote control?"
This year, about 350 neighborhood kids are registered to play ball. They range in age from 3-year-old T-ballers to the preteen 12-year-olds. Boys and girls are welcome in the league.
"We're trying to work out a way where we don't turn anybody down," Vidmar said.
The ballpark, tucked deep into the neighborhood at 45th and Normal, has been a source of neighborhood pride.
The league wants to keep it that way.
"It's something we want to last for the next 50 years," Kozlar said.
Opening day for Canaryville Little League kicks off with its annual parade, which steps off April 27 from 42nd Street and Union Avenue and ends up at the ballpark.
T-Ball and Pee Wee leagues are full but several roster spots remain for older teams. See the league's official website for details.