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A league of hard workers

TALENT — A small but determined army of volunteers donning a mix of paint-spattered work clothes and orange Home Depot T-shirts converged on the Phoenix-Talent Little League fields along Talent Avenue Saturday.

The 60-plus volunteers — composed of moms, dads, coaches, ball players and Home Depot employees — employed an arsenal of paint supplies, fresh lumber and lawn and power tools.

Going beyond the typical spring cleanup effort, the workers sanded, primed and painted benches and dugouts, redefined fields, planted trees and repaired damaged benches and structures.

The youngest players dabbed primer onto the walls of eight dugouts while older players helped groom fields, adding topsoil and sharpening field edges.

A yellowed scoreboard was spiffed up, and parents, players and board members shared a free lunch while brainstorming ways to tackle a gopher problem and raise money for additional repairs.

Little League board member Zac Moody said the labor was the biggest work effort in decades at the ailing fields.

The 150-plus Little Leaguers ages 4 through 12 who use the fields are just weeks away from their April 13 opening ceremonies.

The league leases the fields, behind Chuck Roberts Park, from the city of Talent and has an agreement until 2025.

Wanting to keep making good on the league's agreement to maintain the complex, Moody approached Home Depot volunteer coordinator Charlie Weeks for a small donation of paint. Weeks said his employer could do that and more.

"He came in and said, 'I got this thing I'm doing and wondered if you could donate some paint or something,' " Weeks said. "And I said, I think we can do a little better than that. Not only could we donate some paint, but we'll send our Team Depot out to help paint the place and get it fixed up."

Speaking over the noise of tractors as volunteers raked fields and uncovered sprinklers, Moody nodded toward Fire District No. 5 firefighters preparing lunch.

"The kids all get a Home Depot apron and a free lunch," he said. "It's really nice to see the community and these local businesses supporting these kids."

Talent resident Kevin Holland, one of many volunteer coaches for the league, coordinated painting efforts and helped with the fields. "It's fantastic to see a local business caring about the kids and the community," he said. "I've been thanking everyone I see in an orange shirt today."

Following this weekend's work, the league's board of directors plans to design a master plan to address ongoing needs at the facility.

"We want to have a plan in place and keep things going so we don't do all this work and have to start from scratch every few years," Moody said. "This field is a part of the community, and we want it to be a place the kids can be proud of."

Phoenix Elementary students Nick Goff and Martin Scala spent their morning painting dugouts and shoveling dirt.

Martin, 10, noted that chores often are required to bring the fields into playing condition in the spring.

"Last year our field — like all the dirt was covered with puddles and it took like four people to shovel up dirt and fill the holes in," he said. "So it's already looking a lot better. The tractors are coming in and the dirt is coming in. This is really good."

Nick, 11, said the fields were "really messy and had a lot of rotten wood and stuff, and the grass was hard to play on because of gopher holes.

"It's been this way pretty much since I was in T-ball, but now it's going to be like ... awesome. And brand new," said the second baseman. "My mom went to this same Little League field, and it was probably like the same way, so it's nice to see people want to help us kids get a better field to play on."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance reporter living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com

Hannah Scala, 8, of Medford, left, and Raelyssa Goff, 8, of Phoenix, paint the outside of a dugout Saturday at the Phoenix-Talent Little League complex. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore - Julia Moore