Bowman Field Commission tours stadium

KATELYN HIBBARD/Sun-Gazette Construction crews apply sand-based soil to the infield at Bowman Field Tuesday as part of a makeover the playing surface is receiving in time for the Williamsport Crosscutters’ home opener on June 20. Crews also poured concrete to create the dugout along the first-base line, which is far closer than the prior dugouts. Major League Baseball is funding the infield renovation in preparation for the inaugural Major League Little League Classic, a regulation game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals to be played before Little League World Series participants and their families only, on Aug. 20.

Standing on the patio deck of Bowman Field Tuesday afternoon, members of the Bowman Field Commission seemed awestruck at the sight below.

Construction crews were relocating tons of dirt, smoothing it out on the playing field, as other workers poured streams of wet concrete into place to secure the foundation behind new dugouts. Never-before-seen irrigation for sprinkler systems had just been installed beneath the turf of the 91-year-old stadium.

On Tuesday, it still resembled a construction site, not the pristine Major League Baseball-quality field it is expected to evolve into within the next few weeks, before the first home opener of the Williamsport Crosscutters, the single A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, which leases the stadium from the city.

The commission held its monthly meeting at

the field to learn about the progress since the March 20 demolition began, said Lou Hunsinger Jr., commission chairman.

“We’re right on schedule,” said David L. Witmer, on-site construction manager with Reynolds Construction Inc., of Harrisburg.

White plastic pipes poke up behind first base, as a question was posed to Witmer.

“That’s a part of the irrigation system,” he said.

Long tubes run through channels along the first-base line too.

“That’s the drainage system, carrying off any rain,” Witmer said.

Wooden footers mark the area where the base paths will be, where ballplayers run from first, to second, to third base and back to home plate.

The diamond has a combination of dirt and other material on it.

“They are blending sand and peat moss for the sod infield,” Witmer explained.

A truck with a long tube that carried wet concrete poured it into the area around the dugouts, which were placed closer to the home plate than before.

Other work crews added stone as backfill behind the dugouts. The site where the former dugouts were located will be reserved seating, said Doug Estes, Crosscutters general manager.

The seating is designed to bring the spectators closer to the action and, in some instances, at field level, Estes said.

On Friday, the crews are expected to pour concrete for the third-base dugout and next week they will add steel framing for the new box seating.

Ripped advertising posters along the outfield will come down and new plywood added, Witmer said.

The costs for the box seating and concrete work have been funded through a $1.25 million state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Projects grant obtained by the city through Gov. Tom Wolf’s Office of Budget, Estes said.

Jessie Novinger, city recreation director, joined the commission tour. She said she could see the patio used for events such as music concerts, cooking festivals and outdoor vendor shows.

“This will be a showcase for the city, a beautiful field,” Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said on the tour.

The Crosscutters play their home opener on June 20, Estes said. Best of all, the team and its opponents will play on a field that is built to major league standards, he said.

The field work, including the addition of bullpens where pitchers warm up, is being paid for by Major League Baseball and is part of the commitment to prepare the stadium for the Major League Little League Classic, a game featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals in August.

Both teams will play a regulation game on Aug. 20 as part of ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. The game will count for their seasons and will be played before Little League World Series participants and their families.

The game isn’t for general admission of the public, Estes said.