United Shores preps for second season
BY STEVEN SKIPINSKI
OU News Bureau
Baseball season is right around the corner, and the United Shores Professional Baseball League has plans to break ground on a new stadium.
Minor league baseball made its debut in Utica last year when Jimmy John’s Field opened its doors to the public.
The league has four teams, which play exclusively at Jimmy John’s Field. The teams include the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers, the Eastside Diamond Hoppers, the Utica Unicorns and the newest addition, the Westside Wooly Mammoths.
“The USPBL is planning on building another stadium in the near future,” Austin Prebelich said. “The details about the location are still being worked out.”
Prebelich, a former pitcher for Macomb Community College, is the field’s head groundskeeper, which comes with an abundance of work.
Every day, Prebelich shows up at 7 a.m. to pattern the lawn, add conditioner to the field, edge the infield, water it, aerate it, resurface the bullpen and give the field a final look. On game days, he sometimes finds himself at the field until 1 a.m.
The addition of the Wooly Mammoths will place more responsibility on Prebelich this season.
“Adding another team will definitely add more stress,” Prebelich said. “People were very excited to hear about the new team, so I don’t mind the extra work. I think we averaged about 3,500 per night, so we are hoping the new team will keep the crowd fresh and energetic.”
Last season, the three teams played 50 games each for a total of 75 regular-season games.
According to the league’s website, nine players were picked up by major league organizations in 2016, and the league is scouted regularly by major league teams.
Mark Albertson, league director of operations, hopes that expanding the league will add the hype that is needed to keep Jimmy John’s Field active this season.
Albertson oversees the field, ushers, ticket takers, parking lot attendants, guest services and the grounds crew.
He said he doesn’t plan on making major changes, but there is plenty of upkeep.
“Over-seeding is something we need to do a lot more this year,” Albertson said. “Last year, we went a little thin and had some trouble areas.”
Cutting costs is going to play a large role in how much money the league will be able to budget in the upcoming seasons. Albertson said that changing light bulbs throughout the stadium would save a significant amount of money, which he can put into field upkeep.
Albertson and Prebelich are converting an old building on the property into a storage facility for the groundskeeping equipment. Prior to the renovation, Albertson rented out a building near the field to store the larger equipment.
Prebelich said Jimmy John’s Field is still running the same promotional gigs as last year. For instance, kids run the bases for free after every game, Thirsty Thursdays has $1 draft beer and fireworks are on Friday nights.
In the offseason, Jimmy John’s Field put up a billboard off M-59 to catch the attention of passersby.
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