Hit hard…run fast…turn left!
The Major League Baseball Grapefruit and Cactus League play officially begins on February 23 for the thirty MLB teams but in South Texas, youth baseball is played year-round and Portland is welcoming tournament teams to the North Bay area. The new baseball and softball fields located at Municipal Park and the Sports Complex are bringing in visiting teams.
February 10 – 11, a UAAAS South Texas baseball tournament filled both sites. A group of young Cougar players were anxiously waiting for their next game and enjoyed sharing when they started playing baseball and what they love about the game.
Shane Ryan from Ingleside said, “It’s fun and one of my favorite sports to play.”
Ryan Doughtery from Skidmore joked, “I don’t know how long I’ve played. I never count.”
The other five team members who were relaxing together, are from Beeville. Bryson Boudreaux said his favorite thing in baseball is catching the ball and running the bases.
“I love hitting!” said Dylan Perez.
This love of baseball in South Texas led the Portland residents to vote in favor of a 2016 Bond initiative which included the $17 million for the two complexes. According to Matt Rogers, Sports Director, construction began shortly thereafter with an October 2017 Ribbon Cutting.
To long-time or previous residents, Municipal Park is located on the site of the former ”13-Acre Park” and the Sports Complex location was known as “Jacoway Field”. Municipal Park has five baseball fields covered with field turf, an artificial playing surface. The Sports Complex has softball fields with the same field turf. Rogers said they have portable pitching mounds so the Sports Complex can be adapted for baseball and Municipal Park can be suitable for softball.
The turf playing surfaces used on all fields have infill which is a mixture of coconut and cork for cushioning. This infill is below the blades of the artificial playing surface. Previously, small rubber pellets were used.
Rogers said they do have to keep it watered periodically. Keeping it moist helps with distribution of the infill. After heavy rains, the infill has to be redistributed and that is done with machines and sweepers.
Both Municipal Park and the Sports Complex have concessions, restrooms, covered playground areas and a splash pad.
There are also batting cages visiting teams can use before league or tournament games. The community can use them anytime there is not a tournament being held.
The Sports Complex includes a multi-purpose field which can be utilized by anyone on a first come-first serve basis unless there are tournaments going on. This field includes small soccer templates and baseball practice areas.
Behind the multi-purpose area is the football venue. The field is regulation size with soccer markings and a covered grandstand.
Municipal Park includes a basketball pavilion and a walking/jogging trail that completely encircles the facility.
“Gregory Portland Youth Baseball is affiliated with Pony Baseball”, said Rogers, “So we have age-appropriate ballparks for the Pony System, starting with T-Ball….”
He continued by sharing the two great advantages for Portland by having these beautiful complexes. First, the local youth sports teams have an opportunity to play at these marvelous fields. Second, from an economic development perspective, Portland’s ability to host tournaments brings people from out of town. These are young families who stay in local motels, eat in restaurants, fill up in the gas stations and visit other merchants. Some may even have time to visit attractions in the surrounding area.
Rogers said the final weekend in January there was a 50-team USSA South Texas tournament played at Municipal Park and the Sports Complex. On Memorial Day weekend, the USSSA Baseball State Tournament will fill the fields.
Between now and August 1, Rogers said he has already scheduled 20 tournaments. These include tournaments for USSSA Baseball, Perfect Game USA, Lopez Softball, USSSA Softball, Myra’s Sports and More, and DFW Fast-Pitch.
Portland is bringing baseball and softball teams from the state of Texas and they will bring an economic boost to Portland and the North Bay while the community has the use of top-notch sports facilities. It’s a WIN-WIN for everyone.
America’s pastime, baseball, is alive and well in My Coastal World!