Athlone Athletics will very soon celebrate 20 years of existence. From the early days after the Dynamoes and Wolves baseball clubs opted to merge their forces, there was always the urge to strive for anything better than what we had before.
From humble beginnings in this very same neighborhood, we toiled away at our game on any open space where a baseball field or part thereof could be marked out. At times we dodged trees and streams that were in our way, but the dogged determination to one day have a facility that we could call home, was always a priority. The base of the club started with 40 senior players and 20 juniors many of whom are still playing at the club 20 years later. Today, we boast a total membership of 200 active members ranging in ages from 5 years to 70 years. Coupled to this we have many volunteers who are active in many other activities within the club. The core of the club being the executive committee also consists of volunteers who do not earn a dime for the time and efforts that they put in.
The vision at our very first Annual General Meeting was to become the biggest and most successful baseball club in the Athlone area. We would like to think that we have succeeded in fulfilling this task. Energies were transferred to get ourselves a home venue where we could implement our training programmes and to host our opponents. We had little success in securing any long term leases at venues which had become available in the area. We had become nomads for a number of years until the opportunity arose at our current venue. After years of negotiations with the City of Cape Town we finally saw light at the end of the tunnel. These negotiations with the City of Cape Town and the Vangate Mall developers eventually culminated in what we now call the Parktown Sports Complex.
Because the membership of the club is always striving for something better, the next phase was to find the funding and build an indoor centre that could be used to enhance player performance, and provide a facility that would improve baseball in our community. This has been achieved through the assistance and funding received from The Sports Trust of R 460,000 (Four hundred and sixty thousand rand).
We now boast an indoor training centre with 4 batting lanes and 2 pitching lanes. There is also storage and office space for coaching staff. A gym area has also been built on an upper floor. With all of this in place, we will be able to condition our players much better.
At present, we are hosting Major League Baseball’s African Academy for TEN days. I can safely say that the coaching staff of Major League Baseball is satisfied with what they have seen thus far.
The vision never ends. Who knows what our next phase will be.
Lastly, we would like to thank those who have contributed in fulfilling this phase of our vision.
Ms Cathy Bradley of the Baseball Tomorrow Fund based in the USA
Mr Gert Bam, Director of Sport, Amenities and Recreation for the City of Cape Town
Mr Edwin Bennett, CEO South African Baseball Union
Mrs Anita Mathews, Executive Director of The Sports Trust
Mr David Burch, Jolinde Construction
This list of persons could go on forever, but the last and most important persons who should get credit for their efforts would be Roderick Siljeur for always believing in this dream and Nathan Kerchhoff, a club member who has been instrumental in providing the plans for this project. He has also been the project manager, having to spend hours on site.
On a lighter note. Over the years, we have attracted many players from USA, Czechoslovakia, Botswana, Germany and Zimbabwe. These players performed under extreme conditions with fields that looked like cabbage patches, no showers, obviously no clubhouse, a 7 seater minibus to have an emergency meeting after practice. BUT, they stuck around and are still in contact. At a team talk after practice one evening, one of the German players noted that he enjoyed playing at Athlone Athletics because they had the biggest clubhouse in the world and would stretch his hands out towards the heavens and stars at 8.00pm at night to indicate the size. Now that’s what I call patience. He should be here now.