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Just east of the offices of Brenneman Pork on 155th Street between Kalona and Washington, the paved road ceases and becomes gravel.
Shortly thereafter on the north side of the road perched on an elevated position from the road it stands watch over, a backstop becomes visible. Amidst the crops, mostly harvested, and smack in the front yard of Erin and Tim Brenneman is a different kind of field, a baseball field.
Upon noticing the field, the obvious question presents itself. Why is there a baseball field in their yard?
“I just love the game. I think it’s a romantic game, it’s timeless,” Erin Brenneman said. “We just think it’s a neat game. I’d just love to look out my living room window and see kids play baseball. It’s a dream.”
“We’ve always wanted to do it, it was just a matter of getting the proper time and people lined up,” Tim Brenneman said.
The pair said the idea first came to them in the spring of 2016, with work starting on the park towards the end of the summer. Dan Waterhouse out of Washington helped the pair with the moving of the dirt for the field, Jeff Seelman from North Liberty assisted with the field, and Ace Electric is doing the electrical work, which will include lights.
“That’s something that we want to put in,” Erin Brenneman said. “We are looking for lights.”
“It’s definitely the biggest expense of the ball field and right now that wasn’t in the budget to put them on,” Tim Brenneman added. “That would be a goal for the term of the ball field.”
Erin Brenneman said they are hoping to latch on to a team that is getting rid of their lights and making the transfer to LED, but acknowledged they still have to get poles that can handle the fixtures. She said that aspect would probably be the “icing on the cake” for the project.
Though the spot for the field was easy enough to pick out, the pair were surprised by the amount of detail that went into the project, especially concerning leveling off the field to make sure it drained just right. That included making sure the field had the right materials. The dirt was a ball field mix delivered from Robbins, Iowa with a ratio of clay and sand to help water flow. The entire infield remained dirt because the pair hopes to have the field used for both baseball and softball events by area teams.
For grass, they went with a Rizomataus Tall Fescue blend, courtesy of Big Country Seed in Tiffin. The specific blend requires less irrigation and is more drought resistant.
Before winter comes, there is still a few more things they hope to accomplish. As of right now, the bases, with the exception of home plate, and the pitching mound are merely flags in the dirt. They also hope to get the concrete for the dugouts poured, install the foul poles they got from Kirkwood, and install the outfield fence.
Despite the chill, they say the family is out there most nights playing catch or doing some hitting, the family posts pictures of such sessions on the Pig Pen Park Facebook page. The pair’s vision for the field is so much more than a family hangout area, but one they hope will help better the community, not only on the field, but with sharing the importance of farming as well.
“One of the things I really want to do with it is bring the farm aspect to it too. So, if we have a tournament and we have people from outside the community come, they can see the farm as well,” Erin Brenneman said.
“That’s down the road a bit, but we definitely wanted that portion to be evident.”
The first goal, however, was to make the field available for the local teams to use. They said that the Mid-Prairie and Bulltown programs have already reached out to assist.
“For the local baseball teams and softball teams, fields are short and a lot of times the fields in the community struggle when there’s rain. So, we built this one to be a good field if it’s raining, we can use it still,” Erin Brenneman said.
They hope the field will be a destination for a few tournaments, including a memorial tournament for Tim’s uncle Gene, who passed away Sept. 18. The Brenneman’s say they will be able to hook up their Pork Producer trailer for concessions.
Oddly enough, the Brenneman’s are not alone in their residential ball field. The pair have been in contact with Iowa Valley Assistant Wrestling Coach Wayne Ziesman with the hopes of possibly doing a backyard tournament down the road.
Despite the fact that is still a little ways down the road, with spring being eyed as when it will become fully functional, it hasn’t stopped those curious about the project from taking a look at the project.
“Every Sunday evening we definitely have people driving by at a constant rate, kind of like ‘Field of Dreams,’” Erin Brenneman said.
Most of the plans right now are simply just that and it will be months to see how the whole endeavor pans out, but it has certainly become a topic of conversation. Even the Brennemans don’t know where things will go at this point, but Erin Brenneman is pretty confident about one thing.
“It’ll be fun.”