HAMMOND | When Kevin McCloskey initially got "involved" with the Hammond Optimist Youth Sports baseball program, it was simply in the capacity of a fan cheering on his son.
"That's when Kyle started playing about seven years ago," McCloskey said. "At the time, I didn't think too much about volunteering because I thought there were already too many volunteers, and I would just get in the way as a third wheel."
Now the HOYS league vice-president and head of field maintenance, McCloskey wouldn't mind having to deal with some third wheels. If anything, they could at least stand around and provide some shade.
"The heat wave we (recently) had made it a little tough," McCloskey said. "We just put down new sod, and I was out here watering it six to seven times a day to prevent it from burning up."
The new sod was installed at the two fields to be used for the Cal Ripken Major/60 (12-and-under) World Series, Aug. 9-16 at the Hammond Optimist Youth Sports Complex.
"Whenever you lay new sod, you have to make sure it takes root before you start playing on it," said McCloskey, who used to provide lawn care for the Archdiocese of Chicago. "The reason they have so much trouble with the sod at Soldier Field (during Bears games) is they keep replacing it game by game and it never has a chance to take root."
In addition to the sod, new dirt and clay is being added to the infields, pitching mounds and plate area.
"We used to have a tear-dropped-shaped mound, but we had to round them off to comply to Cal Ripken World Series standards," McCloskey said.
With Joe MacDonald, who helps with the surrounding maintenance, McCloskey often spends more than 10 hours a day at the complex.
"I actually love coming out here," McCloskey said, "and I'll love coming out here for the World Series."