Sprucing up Pierce Field to revitalize Aurora fastpitch league

Written by Bob on May 27th, 2018

. – It’s old, it’s got an odd-ball configured outfield, and frankly, many a modern-era ball player would most likely prefer newer digs.

But not Kyle Pittman.

He has a fondness for 88-year-old Pierce Field in Aurora. Understandably so. The 27-year-old outfielder grew up learning the fastpitch softball game at Pierce. He’s played league games there since his introduction to the sport at 15.

And he gets to pitch to his heart’s desire in the Pierce Field city league. Not so much with the open-level Dolan & Murphy Shamrocks traveling squad where he primarily patrols the outfield.

But he does admit that Pierce has its peculiarities. Most notably, an outfield fence that starts out normal enough at 245-feet in left-field, but then begins angling out to 261’ in dead center, before cutting sharply back in to 196’ in right.

Odd dimensions, certainly, but none-the-less, Pittman loves the old park with its aging wooden bleachers behind home plate; and being tucked snugly in a residential and industrial area of Aurora only adds to its homeyness.

“Just about every ballpark you play in now everywhere is in a ‘cookie-cuter’ style complex with three to four fields,” said Pittman. “While those places are nice, I love being able to play in this old park a couple times a week.”

Pittman is one of hundreds of ball players who have played softball at Pierce since the ball park became home to a men’s city fastpitch league starting in 1931.

Though strong and stable for many years, the league – like many in the U.S. – has struggled to keep the tradition alive of late. But Pittman along with several volunteers are determined the league will carry on.

“This has been our focus the last couple years,” he said. “We have invested a lot of time and effort to revitalize our local league.”

To push league growth, a website www.aurorafastpitch.org and social media were started, and gender equality is being promoted.

“We are opening it up to women,” Pittman said. “We did this to help raise the level of competition pitching wise. We are still keeping the pitchers’ mound at 46-feet and won’t have any integration rules (certain numbers of women and men on the field). The feedback has been positive so far, and we have already received some interest from former college pitchers. We hope this helps bring in more talented players from both genders.”

Sprucing up Pierce is also in the plans. Money is being raised to build a 20-foot high fence in right-field to stop fly balls from rocketing over its diminutive dimensions and shelling the homes just beyond the fence.

“Putting a Fenway style ‘Green Monster’ in right-field would make the field even more unique and add a challenge to both outfielders and hitters,” Pittman said. “It would also keep the house directly across the street from being bombarded by home run balls.”

Upgrades also include a new scoreboard, more seating, renovating the maintenance and concession building, and erecting netting on the left-field fence to prevent home-run balls from striking pedestrians and traffic on Montgomery Road, added Pittman.

“My long-term plan is to get the place spruced up enough to be able to host major men’s fastpitch games there,” he said, “but we have to take this one step at a time.”

As for serving the grand old tradition of a city league, Pierce Field will do that in fine standing this season with five teams entered.

“Everyone who has been involved in fastpitch here in Aurora has gotten behind this new push to revitalize the local league,” Pittman said. “We are re-inventing Aurora softball from the ground up to being the game it was back in its heyday, and hope to continue the fastpitch tradition here in Aurora for many years to come.”

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