Field of dreams deferred at J.J.

By Muneeza Iqbal

It can’t be very fun when a player dives for a ball during a baseball game and injures his or her knees because the playing surface is old and worn out. That’s one of the many problems at J.J. Walker Field in the West Village, at Hudson and Clarkson Sts., where the nearly 14-year-old FieldTurf is virtually begging to be retired and replaced.

The Parks Department agreed to have the beaten-up field renovated in April, however, has now had to put its promise on hold until next spring. Numerous features of the field need to be renovated. Artificial carpet will replace clay cutout areas around the bases, making it easier for the Greenwich Village Little Leaguers to slide, as well as making the field more aesthetically appealing.

It has been suggested that the outfield fences be raised to keep balls from landing on St. Luke’s Place and irking the residents there, according to Dan Miller, Greenwich Village Little League’s current president. But a consideration is that if the fences are made too high, kids won’t get the thrill of “hitting one out of the park.”

Another idea that’s been tossed around is that the fence behind the backstop similarly be raised to prevent foul balls from leaving the field.

J.J. Walker also frequently floods, so a new drainage system needs to be installed. In addition, the bleachers have to be refurbished to make them wheelchair friendly.

According to a resolution passed by Community Board 2 on the J.J. Walker redesign proposal, the field’s artificial-turf surface has long since passed its 10-year life expectancy, plus has been shown by testing to have one of the highest lead levels for a field of this kind.

Richard Caccappolo, former G.V.L.L. president, applauds the Parks Department for identifying the field as being in need of renovation and for being very cooperative.

However, Miller is upset that the renovations have been delayed, because now the young players might have to miss two seasons of baseball at their home field. He plans to temporarily relocate the league’s Majors Division games to DeWitt Clinton Park, on W. 53rd St., and the Minors Division games to Chelsea Park, on W. 27th St., which recently reopened after renovations.