‘The Field’ is a dream come true for baseball family
For Jim Schroeder, the baseball field he built in his backyard isn’t so much a field of dreams as it is a field of family.
Six years ago, Schroeder’s family moved into its new home on E1/2 Road, and the back of the 31/2-acre lot was filled with dust and tumbleweeds. Jim, though, saw it as a place where his sons, Ty and Sam, could play baseball.
“My dad had a dream that he wanted to build this baseball field, so he just got out there on his Bobcat and started doing it,” recalls Ty, now 13. “It doesn’t have a name. We just call it ‘The Field.’ ”
Jim surveyed the lot, laid sod in the outfield and installed the sprinkler system. He had to buy some gravelly dirt for the infield, and he made sure the baselines were up to Little League code.
The boys had just started to play tee-ball, and Jim was their coach.
“He just built it so we’d get better at baseball and we’d have something to do,” 11-year-old Sam said.
Jim designed the field to serve a variety of purposes. It could be used as a 60-yard football field or a soccer field, depending on his sons’ interests. They could use it for barbecues and fireworks.
Mostly, he hoped it would help him raise good kids by providing an alternative to modern youth distractions such as video games.
“As a parent I find that kind of thing frustrating, because the kids just aren’t that in touch.
They’re spacey, and they won’t carry on a conversation,” Jim said, explaining his feelings about video games. “It takes away from a child’s imagination.”
Jim’s dream is that his children will go outside, step on the field and imagine it’s the bottom of the ninth in the World Series with the bases loaded, and only they can throw the winning pitch or knock one out of the park to win the game.
“Yeah, it’s OK,” Ty said of the video-game restriction, “because we have ‘The Field’ instead.”
The boys said they practice or play games on the field nearly every day. They have to help maintain it by mowing the outfield or grading the infield, using Jim’s riding lawn mower, a job Ty actually enjoys.
The boys now play in the competitive league for the Western Conference Baseball Association. Their team is called the Coyotes, and Jim is still their coach. The Coyotes practice on The Field four times a week during the season.
Some parts of the outfield are “a little short,” Jim said. Often one of the Coyotes hits a home run out of the park and into an adjacent neighbor’s backyard or maybe hit a house.
“Then we send someone over there to apologize,” Jim said.
Luckily, most of his neighbors enjoy watching games from their backyards.
“They’ve all been pretty receptive and patient about it,” he added.
So far, no windows have been broken.
Jim said when he wins the lottery, he’ll install his own “Green Monster,” referring to the 37-foot-high left-field wall at Fenway Park in Boston.
The Coyotes are in fourth place in their league.
“I’ve really enjoyed watching the boys out there both as a spectator and a coach,” Jim said.
What really makes him happy, though, is when his boys invite him to play an impromptu game.
“It’s pretty neat when your boys actually want you come to play with them,” he said. “It’s just a wonderful feeling.”