Community pitches in for South Valley field - Albuquerque Journal

Community pitches in for South Valley field

Leland Begay learns how to operate a Bobcat skid loader while leveling the ground for the “Ball Field of Hope” project behind the Mission Training Center in the South Valley on August 17, 2022. (Chancey Bush/ Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

An overgrown and weed-strewn baseball field in the South Valley is proving to be the gift that keeps on giving.

Located behind the Mission Training Center on Markham SW, the field is being scraped and leveled to prepare it for a new layer of red clay soil; a Bobcat front-end earth mover is being used to teach people how to operate heavy machinery; and an elm tree that was sharing its bounty along the first base line was severely trimmed, and the branches and leaves will be used to feed giraffes, zebras and elephants at the ABQ BioPark Zoo.

The “Ball Field of Hope” is a joint project of Mission ABQ/Mission Training Center (affiliated with Sandia Valley Nazarene Church), which owns the property; the United Way of Central New Mexico, which donated $7,000; and Catholic Charities Center for Educational Opportunity and Career Pathways, which was looking for land to use for students in their heavy equipment operator course, said Sarah Azibo, community impact manager with United Way.

In addition, Joseph Montoya, a co-owner of Safety Zone Credentialing, donated his training time and the use of a Bobcat, JPR Decorative Gravel donated the red clay dirt, and the ABQ BioPark sent a person to trim the elm tree and cart away the debris.

“Each year I get calls from coaches from South Valley Little League and softball teams wanting to use our field for practice, and they’d come out but would first have to clear out goatheads and burn weeds and all that great stuff,” said Patti Rivas, director of the Mission Training Center.

The coaches “would make it work,” she said, “but we always wanted to have a proper field for the teams to practice on.”

She said the coaches told her repeatedly over the years that the South Valley has an abundance of Little League and softball teams, and while there are enough fields for them to play official games on, there are few fields for practice sessions.

Sitting at the controls of the Bobcat was Leland Begay of Shiprock, who most recently worked as a wildland firefighter in Colorado. The job had a number of drawbacks, he said.

“Two weeks on, two days off, straight 16- to 18-hour workdays, not getting breaks and being away from family for long periods,” said Begay, 37.

Operating earth-moving equipment comes easy to him, he said. “I’m mechanically inclined. It’s something that comes naturally for me and I’ve always had an interest in working with the soil. I’m really looking forward to a new career, and this looks like an exciting opportunity,” Begay said.

The ground preparation portion of the project is expected to be completed shortly, while the construction of dugouts, spectator stands and fencing will come later and require further fundraising, said Rivas.

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