Two Orange High School varsity baseball players stepped up to the plate Monday speaking out about the need for shelters at district athletic fields before the school board voted unanimously to approve the $67,900 project.

Seniors Mason Shein and Ty Van DeMotte, both 17 and from Pepper Pike, said they attended the Orange Board of Education meeting to show their support for this proposal.

“We would really appreciate it if we could get this dugout thing moving because other teams have dugouts, they have bullpens, they have speakers and they have press boxes behind the plates,” Mason told school board members. “Our field is nice, I appreciate that we did the renovations but we feel that the dugouts would help with privacy and they would cover us when it’s raining.”

Other project supporters have previously expressed a need for players to get relief from the hot sun during games.

Mason told the school board that safety can be an issue as well.

“Sometimes during the game, there are foul balls that are hit and you don’t know where they are and they’ll land in the dugouts. It’s a safety concern,” he said.

The fields at the district’s campus fronting onto Chagrin Boulevard currently have no shelters.

After a brief discussion, the board approved the $67,900 proposal. The board of education will pay $25,800 for shelters at the varsity baseball and softball fields while Orange Community Education and Recreation department will contribute the remaining $42,100 for four fields at the Brady Cloverleaf.

Although Board President Melanie Weltman did vote in favor of the proposal, she still shared her financial concerns with the recreation department’s budget.

“I have some concerns about the recreation piece just because it is much more expensive,” Ms. Weltman said. “I know they have some major investments and they have a pretty fixed budget.”

Treasurer Todd Puster explained that the recreation department would pay for this project from a fund set aside for capital projects.

“This would be paid for from their reserves. They have about $4 million in cash reserves,” Mr. Puster said. “One of the purposes of that reserve is to pay for major recreation related capital items.”

Recreation department Director Jill Korsok also weighed in, showing support for the shelters.

“The shelters provide the players with adequate coverage and a safer environment,” she said.

Ms. Weltman also reminded board members that other expensive projects are coming up that warrant their attention, such as new football helmets and locker room renovations.

“While the expense for the baseball and softball fields is fairly limited in scope, I think it’s a want and not a need. That being said, I’m supportive of giving our teams really nice facilities and doing the best we can for our kids,” she said.

Board Vice President Beth Wilson-Fish added that field maintenance is a joint effort between the board, parents, athletes and staff.

The next Orange Board of Education meeting will be Dec. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Pepper Pike Learning Center.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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