Mike Mannen snags city's annual volunteer award for his work on Tom McCall baseball field

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Forest Grove Mike Mannen has been working on the Tom McCall baseball fields for the last year, trying to get it in shape for youth baseball teams. The baseball field at Tom McCall Upper Elementary School flooded each winter. It was covered in weeds. The fence had been destroyed by vandals. The pitcher's mound wasn't the correct distance from home plate. There were no lines between bases.

"Everything was wrong with it," said Parks and Recreation Director Tom Gamble.

But now, "it's unbelievable," said Forest Grove High School Athletic Director Doug Thompson. "It's such a well-built, well-thought-out field. It something everyone in town can be proud of now."

Forest Grove resident Mike Mannen accepted the annual "Volunteer of the Year" award from the city's Parks & Recreation department at a recent city council meeting for the work he put into the field at Tom McCall. NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: CHASE ALLGOOD  - The baseball fields at Tom McCall now look professional, thanks to help from a local man, his dad and sons.

Working through the Forest Grove Junior Baseball Association for which he coaches and serves on the board, Mannen secured about $40,000 in funding to replace the grass, dugouts, fence, pitcher's mound, signs and just about everything else on the field. He also added a sprinkler system and improved the audience seating.

"I never drove by the field when I didn't see Mike, his dad or his sons out there," said Thompson, who's already gotten a lot of feedback from community members about how nice the field looks. "It's too bad those fields weren't taken care of for years."

The field rests on Forest Grove School District property but hasn't been maintained since the high school moved out of the Tom McCall building and into its current building on Nichols Lane a few decades ago. Since then, "the field has struggled along," Gamble said. The dugouts and fences at the field were in disrepair until recently.

Even though it's not a city facility, the Tom McCall field serves the whole city, Gamble said, because the youth baseball teams use it to practice. The Junior Baseball organization has not used the field for a couple years because it was in such bad shape, Mannen said.

"Every time I drove by it disappointed me," he said of the field. "It was an eyesore."

After hundreds of hours of work, Mannen hopes the project will be completed within the next year. He estimates he and his dad, Chester Mannen, put in nearly 500 hours of labor over the last year. Mannen's two sons, Tanner and Alex, also helped out.

Chester and Mike both played baseball for Forest Grove High School when they attended decades ago. Now a junior at FGHS, Tanner plays varsity. Eighth grader Alex plays with Forest Grove Junior Baseball. This is Chester's 56th year involved in local baseball and he still helps Mike coach. COURTESY PHOTO - The Tom McCall baseball field was overgrown, filled with weeds and not maintained before Mike Mannen came to the rescue.

Forest Grove Junior Baseball Association provided about $28,000 for new black vinyl fencing, seeds, roofing material, tools, lawn mower and other maintenance costs. Hillsboro Pump Service and Pipe Supply donated $8,000 in sprinkler and piping equipment; Firestorm Construction donated $5,000 of services excavating old dirt material; Precision Built Construction Company donated $4,000 to replace the dugouts. Brian Cool of Cool Sports Turf, Parr Lumber, Rick's Custom Fencing and Frye's Action Athletics also made donations to the cause. The dugouts have been repainted and rebuilt so they look professional and new.

"It's going to be an A-one field and that'll really help kids coming up the pike to our high school program," Thompson said. "Hopefully the kids appreciate it every time they step onto the field. I think it helps kids buy into the organization and what they're doing when they have pride in the community and program."

By Stephanie Haugen
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times
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