For as long as anyone can remember, Cranston East baseball players have arrived at the Cranston Stadium fields after school and changed for games in the parking lot.
With no locker room facilities available, it’s not as though they had much of a choice.
This season, that’s all going to change.
Returning players on the team, with Matt Corey at the helm, and some of the coaches have been working on a project to fix up the building that was formerly a bathroom in right field and turn it into a locker room for the players. Taking it a step further, they’re also renovating the batting cage and turning it into a state-of-the-art facility. When it’s all said and done, East players will have a whole new approach when they arrive at the stadium after school.
“They’re excited,” East assistant coach Ray Rotondo said. “Let’s face it – every kid at East, since whenever, has dressed in a parking lot, even if it’s wet out. It’ll be very nice now.”
Rotondo and former head coach Mike Walsh – who stepped aside this season to coach at URI – had the idea to renovate the stadium facilities, and it began back in October.
In order to fund the project, they came up with the idea of selling 4x8 foot sponsor signs to hang in the outfield. The signs are still on sale right now, but close to 20 have already been purchased.
“It’s going to look like McCoy,” Rotondo said.
The sponsor signs are professionally designed, and cost $500 dollars for year one, $250 for a renewal in year two and a $135 for a renewal in year three. The signs will be hung for seven years. All of the money goes towards the Cranston East baseball program.
And the players have embraced the sales pitch. They’ve gone out in the community to try to find potential customers for the signs and, therefore, the new facilities.
They met at a local Dunkin’ Donuts, game-planned a sales idea, and then went out to try to get it done.
“I said, ‘Go this way, go that way,’” Rotondo said. “They went out, and they talked nicely to everybody. I was explaining to them that, ‘You’re going to fail at this. This is sales.’ If they hit one out of 20, we’re good.”
When the players haven’t been out trying to find sponsors, they’ve been putting their own time into starting the renovations. Many Saturdays and Sundays, they’ve been at the stadium.
They’ve helped to rip off the old roof on the bathroom, and then shingle the new roof. They removed old broken windows from the building and sealed up the space. They took out the bathroom, and a drop ceiling is in place.
For the batting cage, they’ve put in the new poles already, and other materials are on the way.
“It’s very positive,” Rotondo said. “I think the kids have learned a lot about hard work. They’re all taking turns.”
The goal is to have everything completed sometime over the next two months, and then have the sponsor signs hung in time for the start of baseball season, which is April 7 for the ’Bolts.
If everything is in place, it should be a win-win for everybody. The signs will be seen for a seven-month baseball season, with over 200 games being played at the stadium during that time. The team, meanwhile, will have the opportunity to improve with better facilities on hand.
“You know how kids are today – they want to see all this stuff,” Rotondo said. “It’s a cool thing. It can only help.”
The current sponsors include The Sleeping Giant, NetFence, Elmwood Sports, The Bridal Shop, Iggy’s Doughboys, Second Time Around Sports, Bucci Insurance, Coastway Community Bank, Calvino Law, Dunkin’ Donuts, Rhode Island Baseball Academy, 3 Guys Hydroponics, The Garden City Group and Taco.
But there’s still a lot of work to be done, and Rotondo is hoping more sponsors join the fold. If anyone would like to purchase a sponsor sign, they can contact Rotondo at (401) 862-4082.
There will also be a fundraising breakfast held on Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 3) from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Dave’s Bar & Grille, located at 2339 Post Road in Warwick.
Cost of tickets to the breakfast are $10, and all proceeds will benefit the baseball program.
“I think that the people of Cranston East should be very proud of these kids,” Rotondo said. “They’ve gone out in the community, and on top of that they’ve done all the work.”