EAST PROVIDENCE — The plan to renovate the softball field at East Providence High School received a significant boost Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 25, when on behalf of the General Assembly Rep. Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence) presented head coach Rob Traverse and four of his seniors with a grant check worth $7,000.
The grant money brings the total amount raised to date for the project to $12,500. Coach Traverse along with softball parents and the Friends of Townie Athletics fund-raising organization have been working diligently over the last several months to procure the necessary funding for the project, which would make the dilapadated facility suitable for varsity-level use.
“This is a great story for girls’ sports,” said Rep. Hearn. “I was in high school before Title IX and there were no sports for girls except for cheerleading. There was no soccer or softball. So if you weren’t picked to be on the eight-person cheerleading team you didn’t play sports.
“I’m so excited to get behind a project for girls’ sports, to help them get this stadium project off the ground. There’s so much wasteful spending being done. It’s nice to do something that really impacts a community like this project does.”
One of the key reasons why the softball program wants to play its game on the high school grounds is expenses. Budget cuts have put a premium on use of buses for EPHS athletic teams, something the Townies currently must do to and from their current of Pierce Field.
“I’m so pleased that the state was able to jump-start the fundraising campaign for such a deserving project,” Rep. Hearn said. “This is not only for the safety of the girls, but for the benefit of the other teams and organizations that use the fields in back of East Providence High School. The girls softball team will no longer have to be shipped off campus to practice and play their games two miles away from the high school. With this grant as a first step, these young women and other teams can play in a space that everyone can be proud of.”
Coach Traverse said because there was no longer bus transportation available for them to Pierce Field, parents were beginning to show concern over allowing older students shuttle some of the younger students to games because of the liability.
“We’re thrilled that Rep. Hearn was able to help us get this grant,” he added. “I’d like to thank her and the General Assembly on behalf of the East Providence girls softball team. We’ve been working to put this together for about two years, and this will finally allow us to play games on campus and dispel any worries from parents about transportation. It has really been a pleasure working with Rep. Hearn because she has been really positive and supportive of this project.”
According to Coach Traverse, the softball field renovation project will be completed in three phases. The first phase, which will be mostly funded through the grant from the General Assembly, is to build a chain link fence around the field. Part of the fence will be permanent, but the fence enclosing the outfield will be portable. The portable fence will allow other organizations like the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) to take advantage of the green space in the off-season.
The second phase of the renovation plan is to build two dugouts, which will act both as a shelter for the teams during cold spring days and storage for the team’s valuable equipment. The final phase will be to upgrade the field with seed, fertilizer and an infield mix for the playing surface.
Coach Traverse said he continues to work on gaining more funding. He’s awaiting to hear if the EPHS softball field project will be selected by Home Depot as part of its national field-improvement program. In addition, he’s working with East Providence House Rep. Helio Melo (D-Dist. 64) and Sen. Daniel DaPonte (D-Dist. 14) in trying to procure another significant grant.
It was obvious from their smiles and from the large banner thanking Rep. Hearn for her efforts that the E.P. softball players present Tuesday were appreciative of all the support the project has received.
“I’m excited that we’re going to be playing here,” said Lucianna Medici, one of the four EPHS softball seniors on hand for the grant presentation along with classmates Lindsee Allienello, Amy DeCastro and Nicole Strik. “It’s great that we’re going to be the first team that actually gets to play here at the school at home.”
Added Ms. Allienello, “You always play better on the field you practice on every day, so we’re really looking forward to playing here.”