Firefighters come to the rescue of damaged baseball diamonds

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AVON, Ind. -- The dangerous area left behind from strong winds Wednesday night will no longer be a hazard for young baseball and softball players. A handful of Washington Township firefighters came to help clean up destroyed batting cages late Thursday morning.

The winds were so strong that a gust blew down two batting cages. Video provided to CBS4 showed strong winds churning up what appeared to be a "gustnado," according to the National Weather Service.

Leaders with the Avon Junior Athletic Association (AJAA) asked for volunteers to help clean up the area Thursday. That's when the firefighters got involved by moving mats that, when dry, weigh at least 150 pounds and were likely closer to 200 pounds after getting wet from Wednesday's rain.

“This is just another part of what we step out and do helping the community get through a bump in the road, if you will," said Bataalion Chief Jon Joseph.

The work the firefighters put in didn't take long, but was essential in getting the area cleaned up. The wind not only scattered nets and mats with the batting cages, but broke a few aluminum poles that the nets wrapped around.

"It's sheared to a point that if you touch the edges it will cut you pretty bad," said AJAA executive director Jarod Turner. "We need to get this cleaned up before we can open back up today."

The firefighters’ work allowed Turner and other AJAA volunteers to remove the poles and any loose pieces. The athletic association's field manager said safety would not be the reason to why the fields couldn't open Thursday evening. Most of the fields did open, but a few stayed close due to wet conditions from the rain.

"Those guys are the epitome of what it takes to be a service organization," said Turner. "Community servants like the fire department are always here to back us up."

There are roughly 700 children who play baseball or softball at the AJAA fields each summer. Thousands of children participate in at least one of the program's nine offered sports.

The number of participants is expected to go up starting in the fall when the AJAA begins a new program called the Athletic Scholarship for Kids fund, or ASK fund.

The program will give Avon youth the chance to play who might not be able to afford the opportunity otherwise. More than a quarter of the 9,000 students in the Avon school district are eligible for free or reduced lunch. The AJAA is following the same federal guidelines to get more children to participate with their peers.

“A lot them who qualify for those programs probably don’t have the same opportunities to play sports who don’t qualify for those programs," said Turner.

The AJAA will begin giving out the scholarships in the fall, when enrollment begins for the association's basketball program.

It's holding a golf outing fundraiser at the Prestwick Country Club on Friday, June 30. The outing begins at 1 p.m.

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