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East Brewton baseball complex continues to take steps forward

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
With the passing of each day, the completion of the R.T. Johnson Ball Park Complex in East Brewton gets a little closer.
"It may be a little far fetched, but we'd like to be playing a few games on it before this season is over," East Brewton Youth Recreation Director and Little League president Joey Shell said. "If we can't get there this year, we definitely want to be there by next year."
With a combination of 15 baseball and softball teams using the current facility at W.S. Neal High School, the need for the new facility was an obvious one.
"We've got our 11-12s, we've got the 9-10s, the 7-8s, our t-ball kids and a couple of softball teams all trying to use the same field and we don't play on Wednesdays because it's a church night. The field is in constant use," Shell said.
The idea of the complex started to materialize in 2000. The 40-acre site where the complex is being built was bought from Johnson in the fall of 2001.
The project took another step forward in march of 20002 when the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs awarded a grant for the project.
The look at the faclity site changes every day. The lighting system has been installed and the roof on a 1600 square feet concession stand is near completion. A sprinkler system is in the process of being installed.
One of the next big steps will be the installation of the sod playing surfaces.
"If we can get the sod in place, that is one reason why we're hopeful we can play there this year. We're hoping we can do that sometime in May. However, we haven't even take bids for that part of the project yet," Shell said.
Like most monumental projects, the East Brewton Complex is running up against some unexpected expenses.
"We've found out the hard way a lot of the materials like fencing have nearly doubled since we originally started the project. The United States has shipped a lot of those materials overseas because of the war in Iraq and it has caused the price of materials to jump. We're still in need of additional funds," Shell said. "We could be short on sod money or fency money or both. Right now we're hoping to have enough for at least one Little League field and one Babe Ruth Field. When we're done, we want to have two Babe Ruth and two Little League fields."
Shell said the complex has received state of the art scoreboards from Pepsi, but it could have do without bleachers at the beginning.
"We certainly want to have bleachers, but it will depend on our funds. If nothing else, people can bring their lawn chairs and watch the games from there for a while until we get the money for bleachers," Shell said.
Shell said there have been countless businesses and individuals contribute to the project.
"For starters, East Brewton mayor Terry Clark and our city council have worked hard trying to seek funds for us. Herrington Forrestry helped move the light poles with 18-wheelers. Bernie Sellers helped unload the light poles and Southern Pine helped install them. Escambia County commissioner Todd Williamson has contributed a lot to this project. We've had several people volunteer to help out and donate various items," Shell said.
Shell indicated the weather has given the project a boost this spring.
"A year ago there were quite a few rain days that slowed things down, but this year it's been very dry and we've been able to get a lot of work done," Shell said.
Approximately 250 kids and 60 volunteer coaches are participating in East Brewton youth baseball this season. Shell wants to point out though the complex is not just for the youth of East Brewton.
"When it's said and done, we want to host some of the Little League interleague games with Brewton. It will give us a chance to host some tournaments. It will be great when we're finally done," Shell said.