Between issues such as proximity, time restraints and availability, finding a place to call home, much less a space to practice, is astonishingly difficult for youth teams of all sports, even though there are 370 parks located throughout the Houston area.
When the Houston Crush, a then-nine-and-under select baseball team, formed in 2015, they experienced firsthand how strenuous the process of locating a place to prepare for games actually is.
For the first several months of the team’s existence, the ball club was migrant as they bounced from park to park, searching for a more permanent solution.
“All of the boys are very dedicated to baseball,” said Crush manager and assistant coach Rob Rollans. “For some of them, baseball is pretty much everything to them, it’s all they have.”
Because baseball is so important to these kids, the need for a longer-lasting practice facility was necessary, especially since the team was starting to experience some success around the city and throughout the state.
It wasn’t until the Crush came across a field in their own neighborhood and learned how the city’s Parks and Recreation department operated that they were able to start practicing in a more stationary manner.
“We started going through the park’s website and renting the (Independence Heights) field,” Rollans said. “Prior to us going there, another team had been there, the Independence Heights Eagles with Coach Ed Gidrey, who is just a really fantastic guy.”
Gidrey took interest in the Crush and decided to help because he knew how arduous it was trying to pinpoint and remain at a practice field.
“When I was looking for a field, I came across Independence Heights Park and there was a team there, but they were playing football on the baseball field,” Gidrey said.
He ended up negotiating with the football team to allow his Eagles to practice on the field and eventually, he took over the field’s maintenance responsibilities. When he assumed the role, Gidrey began by transforming the place back to its intended use – a baseball field.
The Eagles and the Crush teamed up and continued taking care of the field, always out of their own pockets.
“(The Eagles) come out Wednesday and Friday and (the Crush) come out Tuesday and Thursday,” Gidrey said. “We’ll mow the grass on Saturdays, and if anything extra needs to be done, I’ll come out on Sundays.”
Since they were already maintaining the field on their own, the teams found out that they could adopt the ballpark and Gidrey did so in July.
Although the two teams made significant improvements to the field, they could only do so much considering they were doing so with their own money.
During Super Bowl week, the teams and their field got some much-needed help through the Rebuilding Together Houston Initiative. CenterPoint Energy, along with several volunteers, helped give the field a makeover.
“It’s a beautiful baseball field now,” Rollans said. “(CenterPoint) added dugouts and they brought us 24 yards of infield dirt. They carved out running lanes for first and third base. They made bullpens on either side. It’s nice now.”
Despite the beautification of the field, the players are still out there constantly after practice and even on their days off taking care of the field.
“They recognize that it’s ours to maintain, and they take it very seriously,” Rollans said. “They’re there because they take pride in it.”
In addition to taking care of the Independence Heights ballpark, the Crush have lend their time and efforts to other causes around the city.
In one instance, they helped raise money for an injured baseball player from another team whose family did not have insurance. Then, during the flood in April, the team was called upon to gather items and goods for families that were displaced by the storm.
“We’re trying to teach them life lessons in addition to baseball,” Rollans said. “They’re good kids and are the future leaders of the community, the city, the state. They’re learning a lot and we’re proud of them.”