The Twins are doing what they can to help grow the sport of baseball in Minneapolis and its surrounding communities. In some cases, that means helping out one field at a time.

THE TWINS COMMUNITY FUND, in partnership with Cenex, reconstructs and rebuilds fields in nearby communities each season as part of the Fields for Kids program. On Monday, that movement took hold in Hutchinson, Minn., where the program broke ground at the Northwoods Park on a project that will provide new backstops, dugouts and fencing, as well as field improvements.

"We at the Twins Community Fund really believe that ballparks are community spaces and places that bring people together," Twins Community Fund manager Stephanie Johnson said. "Whether it's for those youth baseball and softball games or in smaller towns, it's also where there's town festivals, or church services or charity softball games and picnics and all that kind of stuff."

FIELDS FOR KIDS, a matching grant program which will work with five fields in five communities this year, has provided $10,000 for the Hutchinson renovation. That grant was matched by a group effort from the Hutchinson Parks and Recreation, Hutchinson Junior League Baseball and the Hutchinson Softball Association.

Created in 1999, the Fields for Kids program has granted more than $4.3 million and has helped reconstruct or rebuild 789 ballfields across the upper Midwest and Southwest Florida.

The ripple effect of providing kids a place to play are both large and small. In some instances, communities have been able to host larger tournaments and field more teams throughout the year. In other cases, Fields for Kids has created opportunities to play that may have not existed in past years.

"What's been really exciting in Duluth is there's now an older kids baseball league that wasn't there before," Melissa Saftner, co-treasurer of Lake Park Little League in Duluth, Minn., said while discussing the $5,000 grant the community received in 2017.

In the case of Lake Park, Fields for Kids provided new dugouts that were rebuilt and pushed further away from the playing field in order to create a safer environment.

"The other night, a huge storm passed through, and the kids didn't have to run to the cars like they used to," said Saftner. "They were able to actually stay in the dugouts. They just really love having them."

This year, in addition to the renovation in Hutchinson, Fields for Kids will provide grants in Lamberton, Hartley, Stanley and East Grand Forks. Applications for 2018 are closed, but '19 applications will open in January.

"We think of these fields much like [Target Field]," Johnson said. "As a space that bring people together."
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