Heather Laurent grew up as a community member of the Nazko First Nation and remembers her childhood fondly.
After the mother of five moved back to the community — located on the west side of the Fraser River 100 kilometres north of Quesnel — last year, she was disheartened to see the lack of options for local youth to entertain themselves.
It hearkened her back to a time when as soon as she got off the bus after school, she and her friends would rush to the diamond to take advantage of the remaining day.
The local field her memories were made on has fallen into disrepair in the last decade. The 2018 floods that ravaged the area furthered the damage to the field, which is located a baseball’s throw away from the Nazko River.
The fences were destroyed, and the bleachers are no longer fit to sit upon.
“Just within the last two months, I began noticing that the youth were bored,” said Laurent, “so I thought we should try to give them a safe area that they could play baseball and have little scrimmages and whatnot.
“So a couple community members and I went down and evaluated the diamond itself, and the grass is outgrown and there are some fences that need to be repaired.”
The task was a daunting one, but they got started on it anyway.
“When I walked on the field, the grass was right up to my hips, and I’m about five-foot-five,” she said. “A few of us brought hand-pushed lawnmowers, but the grass was so thick that it was taking a lot longer than we figured.”
With so much maintenance to be done, they decided to turn to local business to see if they might be able to lend a hand.
David Porter is a co-owner in CanLava Mining Corp., which operates the largest commercial volcanic deposit quarry in North America a short distance from Nazko.
He said Laurent came into his office and talked with one of his fellow owners about the diamond plans.
“He immediately said, ‘you’ve got to talk to that guy over there’ — which is me!” Porter said on a phone interview while he was in Indiana at a baseball camp with his son.
“‘He’s the baseball guy and the guy that makes these types of decisions for us.”’
Porter, who has coached the sport for the last 12 years, decided to check out the field to see how he could help.
He realized the field was in horrible condition but started thinking of solutions right away.
“I reached out to Emcon Services, and they gave me the name of their grass cutter, so I’m going to ask him to cut the lawn. I’m also going to ask Emcon to come with their loader, so that we can dig out holes where the posts should be on the fence and put those in place.
“Then we’ll peel out the infield, and I’m going to bring in a whole load of red lava sand — which is used on the Quesnel field — and we’ll lay it and roll it.”
Porter also has plans to make the mound extra special.
“We’re going to build a black mound, using black lava sand,” he said. “I think it will be great for ball diamonds all over the place. It really sucks up water.”
They will then put in the bases and a home plate, and Porter is hoping — once the field is up to snuff — to bring in a couple players to help put on a clinic for the youth.
He thinks the newly revamped field will be great for everyone.
“Baseball personifies life,” he said. “It’s one of the greatest games. You want to get better at it, you practise. That’s what life’s really about.”
Laurent has high hopes for the finished product too.
“We just want to bring baseball back for this younger generation and give them something to look forward to,” she said. “We want them to learn to love baseball again.
“There was a 10-year gap where they haven’t had a safe area to practise baseball, so it never came up in their thoughts.”
Some kids, like 12-year-old Kayden Harris, travel to Quesnel diamonds to play the sport, but the hour drive each way is impractical for many, so the sport has not been as popular, with many kids choosing to entertain themselves with video games and T.V. instead.
“With this ball field being prepared and fixed, kids like Kayden can gather their friends and family and practise a sport that they truly enjoy, rather than travel all the way to Quesnel,” said Laurent.
For anyone interested in helping out, Laurent says they will take whatever assistance is offered. Work on the field is scheduled for Aug. 5-9.
“Just bring a rake or a shovel, and I’m sure there will be little jobs assigned to a number of people.”
She added donations of used baseball gloves would also be highly appreciated.
Laurent can be reached on her home phone at 250-249-5377 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.