Miller Field renovation will be a hit for Little Leaguers

Miller Field renovation will be a hit for Little Leaguers

Image Credit: Tom Rife

When completed, the renovation of the Miller Field baseball complex will be a home run for the Little Leaguers in Wooster Youth Baseball.

Two years in the making, the overhaul of the historic venue on East Highland Avenue is well underway. WYB President Brian Ritchie is hopeful the work can be finished in time for opening day in the spring. Two baseball diamonds are being relocated and refenced — complete with “Green Monster” walls in the outfield. There will be an all-new, more centrally located concession stand to replace the unit built in 1980. There will be improved parking as well.

“I’m very excited about it. We all are,” Ritchie said this week as heavy equipment operators moved dirt and crushed cinder blocks and other debris, filling large dumpsters to the brim.

In the wake of a Denton Fuller Field upgrade last spring, Wooster Youth Baseball got the green light in October to proceed with the second and third phases.

The facility, positioned in a basin where Highland intersects with Portage Road, is the headquarters of Wooster’s only program officially affiliated with Little League Baseball and Softball, the world’s largest youth sports program. WYB serves youngsters age 5-12. The complex also is bordered by the Dix Expressway four-lane highway.

“Fixing up Denton Fuller was the first phase. Now we’re looking forward to getting the north and south fields redone,” said Ritchie, in his seventh year as WYB’s president. “We’re moving those two fields a little bit to address the drainage problem we’ve always had with rain washing down from the high bank there.”

Ritchie said the north and south diamonds will feature “skinned” (dirt) infields rather than grass. He said in the long run, the skinned infields should be safer for the players and much easier for the volunteer organization to maintain. Denton Fuller Field has a dirt infield and fenced dugouts that are uncovered. The old, wooden, roofed dugouts at Denton Fuller were removed as part of the spring work.

“One of the cool features about the new north and south fields is that they will now be closer to the highway and will have Green Monster walls like the one at Fenway in Boston,” Ritchie said. “If a kid can hit one over that, it will really be something to celebrate.”

Fundraising for the renovation work is ongoing. Ritchie said at the outset, the north and south fields will not have lights.

“We’re still in fundraising mode,” he said. “We couldn’t reach our original goal, so for now we’ll only have lights on Denton Fuller.”

Money has been raised through donations, grants and foundations. Ritchie said WYB has experienced excellent support from the business community and the city. The organization also works in conjunction with Wooster Summer Baseball Inc., a separate organization that oversees the action for kids grades 6-9 at the PNC Fields site on Akron Road.

“We meet together and have board members who are on both groups,” Ritchie said. “This really helps.”

Though WYB had reduced numbers in the spring, Ritchie predicts participation will eventually return to prepandemic levels.

“I do expect it to be a slow grow,” he said. “We normally would have 25-30 teams for ages 5-12. I think in February we could have closer to 20.”

In addition to lighting on the north and south fields, phase three will include the renovation of the existing T-ball field. The small block structure that was in a corner of the complex has been leveled. It served as the original concession stand and even had an office for the ambitious Denton Fuller. Inducted into the Wayne County Sports Hall of Fame inaugural class of 1976, the late Fuller worked tirelessly to develop the Hot Stove League. He then focused on making the Wooster Little League program one of the best anywhere.

Arthur Miller contributed the land, and Fuller provided the momentum. Upon his WCSHOF selection, some suggested Fuller would have been a financial genius had he devoted his efforts to business. Through his labor of love, he ended up leaving an impressive legacy to the youngsters of the community.