The Picayune Youth Athletic Association (PYAA) will hold their Baseball Season Opening Day ceremony and games at Friendship Park on Saturday, March 22, at 9 a.m., on field 4.
Baseball, T-ball and softball for children ages 4 through 13 will begin with fanfare and a community celebration that will include the NJROTC and Pearl River Central Show Choir performance.
PYAA and the City of Picayune have been hard at work to ensure the fields and grounds are ready to make the best experience possible for local athletes and their families.
Eli Ouder, vice president of the board of PYAA, and Tim Craft, vice president of the baseball department are looking forward to sharing the recent additions and upgrades with the community.
While the PYAA has made a small increase in fees this year of $10, the money has been reinvested into the park, Craft said.
Batting cages have been formed and are ready for concrete to be poured.
“The league paid for the batting cages to be formed and now Huey Stockstill, Inc. will be donating the concrete to complete them,” Ouder said.
There have been major renovations to field 3, an outlying field where vandalism has occurred over the years.
“There is still work to be done on field 3,” Craft said. “We need to get the fencing fixed and things like that, but instead of demolishing the field, we decided to level it and invest in filler and grass. The Bermuda grass cost our league $1,000 a pallet and the fill will cost over that per load.”
In addition to upgrades on field 3, Craft and Ouder made dedicated T-ball fields for the youngest athletes. There are now two fields that are almost completed, which are scaled down from the baseball fields.
“In years past, the T-ball players just had to practice and play ball on the grass,” said Craft. “Now they will have their own fields and will be able to have a better experience.”
Harvey Miller, City of Picayune operations manager, said there are many improvements being addressed on the grounds to ready it for baseball season.
“We have worked with MDOT to restore drainage to a large section of ditch along Hwy 11 that had become clogged and was constantly flooding our grounds. Our Public Works department came in behind the ditch clean up to landscape and slope the area to further facilitate drainage. We are currently restoring bathrooms that were vandalized and worked with the Utility Authority to bring sewage to maximum capacity,” Miller said. “This spring will see more ground maintenance and vigilance of our park.”
Parent and Pearl River Community College Vice President for Economic and County Development Scott Alsobrooks, said the PYAA and Friendship Park provides a great venue for Picayune and Pearl River County youth to get outdoors and play organized sports with other kids their age.
“Many of us that grew up here in Picayune and Pearl River County have fond memories of playing sports at Friendship Park,” Alsobrooks said.
David Stockstill of HSI explained why his company invested in the park years ago and continues to invest in it.
“Ten years ago, there were a lot of people at HSI who had children going through the programs at Friendship Park. Those programs produced the same kids who have gone through and brought home state championships. It is worthwhile, and has paid off,” Stockstill said. “The coaches and people who handled the sports made a big impression on the kid’s lives. This is why we felt it was so important to donate the land and help all children have the same experience and influence.”
Both Stockstill and Miller expressed the value of the volunteers who give their time and efforts to the programs at the park.
“I would like to say that this program is going in the right direction, thanks to Public Works, Grounds and Beautification, the PYAA board and their vice presidents, and the other volunteers who give so freely of their time to build this program for our children,” Miller said.
“I hope the people who volunteer their time continue to do so because they have truly made a difference in helping our children stay on track at such an impressionable age,” Stockstill said.