Shaler Area Little League players will take their first swings of the 2019 season inside a new batting cage on Burchfield Primary School’s property.
According to Pat Gallagher, the league’s director emeritus and former softball commissioner, the organization has hired Allison Park-based F.T. Fencing Inc. for the $20,000 project, which will include a 12-foot-high chain-link cage with a gated and locked enclosure. The structure will rest atop sod.
“There is a netting batting cage up there right now, but there is a playground right there, and sometimes the balls get through, and we’ve got to be safe for everybody,” he said.
“If we donate and get a cyclone fence in there, that ball can’t really go out and hurt anybody,” league president Greg McDonald said.
He said the organization is grateful to the Shaler Area School Board for voting at its February meeting to accept the batting cage donation. The league will maintain the cage, even though it will exist on district property.
McDonald said the league raised the money for the new cage through its annual Mother’s Day weekend golf outings, events at local businesses and corporate sponsorships. The purchase also is possible due to the nonprofit’s disciplined budgets, he said.
“We’re extremely blessed to have the money that we have in our bank account — that we have these resources to pull from to do stuff like this,” McDonald said.
In 2016, the league installed a $20,000 pavilion adjacent to the Burchfield ballfield concession stand.
“We built it to be shade after the kids ate. You know a lot of the younger kids play at Burchfield. When they play for our organization, that’s their first impression of the league,” Gallagher said.
He admitted that his involvement with the league requires time and dedication.
“But if you enjoy your kids — it’s about the community and it’s about the kids. That’s one of the main reasons that I do it.”
Shaler Area Little League has 350 players, with more than 200 regularly playing at Burchfield, according to McDonald.
The public is invited to the league’s opening day April 27 at Kiwanis Park ballfield, 1 Meyer Road, Shaler. The free event will start at 9 a.m. and feature face painting, snow cones, balloon animals, bounce houses, the Eat’n Park Smiley and Pittsburgh Pirates “Great Pierogi Race” mascots, Shaler Villa Volunteer Fire Co. firefighters with their truck, music and, of course, baseball.