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Association Spotlight: Aitkin

By dp, 02/24/21, 7:45AM CST


From backyard practices and dreams, to a complex funded by a grant and good neighbors.

Brand new Field 5 dugout

Aitkin Youth Fastpitch

A $24,000 grant is all it took to get the ball rolling.

Hundreds of volunteers and hours doesn't hurt.

Aitkin Youth Fastpitch's first informal practices happened in a family's backyard and wherever we could find an open field in 2017.

In the Spring of 2018, they discovered the unused space behind our elementary school and the dream for our own youth softball complex was born.

They started with both private and local business donations and were blessed with an army of volunteer labor inspired to create a new complex that would come to be known as “The Roost”.  

After a three-month long grant writing process Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association Youth Development program awarded the Aitkin Youth Fastpitch with a matching $24,000 grant from their “Baseball Tomorrow Fund”.

That grant got people in the area excited. The community stepped up and donated a staggering $200,000 in labor and cash donations.

The original field had damaged metal benches sitting right in the line of foul balls and fencing that was falling apart.

There was no water, electricity, dugouts, bleachers, field maintenance equipment, storage room, or any kind of playing equipment. Since then, they have added all those things are more including an announcer's booth and sound system. 

They hosted the inaugural Rumble at the Roost 10-Under and 12-Under tournament last year and had a great turnout.

They presented awards and gave out a team sportsmanship award associated with a prize of free entry to next year's tournament.

With more fundraising and volunteer efforts they plan on building a picnic pavilion with standard bathrooms, covered seating, and room for concessions.

Article from the Aitkin Age Newspaper

The girls of summer have arrived in Aitkin with the inaugural season of Aitkin Youth Fastpitch (AYF). What started out two years ago in a local family’s backyard with eight girls has now grown into a fully developed organization.

The program starts with pre-K and kindergarten in the Big Dreamers level run by parents and coaches one night a week for four weeks to introduce the basics of softball and have fun with the kids. The “in-house” levels are for 8U, 10U and 12U. The 14U and 16U have travel teams. Each of these levels had tryouts for travel teams called the Flying Gobblers. All totaled, this developed into 150 girls playing on 16 different teams on four fields with 30 coaches.

The AYF mission statement is “to foster a love of the game, stress sportsmanship, teach fundamentals and encourage community involvement.”

At a recent tournament in Champlin for 8Us, 10Us and 12Us with 50 teams participating, the Flying Gobblers swept the sportsmanship awards and will receive free tickets to a Minnesota Twins game and participate in a pre-game parade at Target Field later this summer.

More than 120 volunteers and members of the AYF rebuilt two softball fields behind Rippleside Elementary in a seldom used area now referred to as the Roost. Two years of fundraising with an enormous amount of volunteer labor created ball fields to be proud of.

Help from outside the community was obtained after a three-month-long grant writing process when the Major League Baseball Players Association awarded AYF with a $24,000 grant from their Baseball Tomorrow fund. In order to use grant money for projects, the AYF took bids submitted by contractors itemizing the cost of projects. Those bids have been accepted.

One of the projects to create safer fields is to build new dugouts with protective fencing set away from the foul lines in a more traditional arrangement. Bleachers will be installed and plumbing was trenched in by volunteers from Larson Plumbing and Heating and Dutch’s Electric which will provide for field maintenance and drinking fountains at the two fields.

As the number of girls participating grew, so did the need for more team sponsorships to provide uniforms and equipment for the players. Aitkin businesses once again stepped up to support the Flying Gobblers. Season one is drawing to an end, but the excitement for season two has already begun.


Want to help support Aitkin Youth Fastpitch

It's real simple. Send some teams to their tournament on June 18-20 this summer and enjoy the games and the lakes! Tournament flyer below.

2nd Annual Rumble at the Roost