PLAINS TWP. — Opening day for Plains Little League baseball is Saturday, and a new concession stand is ready to accommodate fans, thanks to the generosity of area businesses and community support.
The former concession stand/press box was torched during a June 9 burglary that authorities allege was committed by Brian Gashi, who faces arson charges.
“This is where the fire was started,” league president Carl Yastremski said as he showed visitors around the second-floor press box of the remodeled facility on Thursday. “It sustained the most damage.”
Yastremski had been league president seven years, but he still didn’t know what to expect when it came to getting enough volunteers to rebuild the concession stand, which serves as an important source of funds for the league.
But in the first week after the fire, Mericle Construction gave Yastremski a look at the support that was to come over the next 10 months. The company donated materials and manpower to reconstruct the press box and add new lockers.
Downstairs, Yastremski pointed out new cabinets and counter tops donated by Lowe’s Home Improvement Center. Volunteers installed all the new fixtures and appliances. “The amount of volunteers we got is unbelievable. … It really brought the league together,” he said.
A new oven-like “greaseless fryer” replaces the fryers that building codes no longer allow without expensive fire-extinguishing systems. All the appliances are new as well.
Insurance covered many of the items lost inside the concession stand, but small individual donations from the community and fundraisers, such as a feel-good night with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees at the field that raised about $4,000, allowed the league to really upgrade its facilities.
A new asphalt walk was laid from a parking area to the bleachers to make it easier for people with disabilities to attend games. New dual batting cages were installed so two teams can practice off-field while others are playing on-field. A new light pole that’s up to Little League code replaces two decades-old wooden light poles.
And the outfield fence has been outfitted with a wall pad to absorb some of the impact should a player run into it trying to make a game-saving catch.
Not counting donated materials and labor, donations alone totaled about $30,000 Yastremski said.
And players as well as fans love the new facilities.
“I really like it,” said 9-year-old player Mason Baranski. “There’s no trash and it’s really clean.”
Yastremski said he hopes the community will turn out for the parade and opening day ceremonies on Saturday to help celebrate. “We want to show the people: This is what you did. This is from your community. And it will be here for years to come.”