Birnamwood dedicates new ballfield

Matsches return for ceremony
By: 

Leader Photo by Miriam Nelson Alice and Norman Matsche, left, receive thanks from Birnamwood Little League players and coaches July 10 at a dedication ceremony for the new Rivertronics Stadium they funded.

Birnamwood hosted a dedication ceremony for the new Rivertronics Stadium on July 10.

Former Birnamwood residents Norman and Alice Matsche, who live in Wood River, Illinois, donated $500,000 for the new grandstand and concession area. Rivertronics is the name of the business the Matsches started in Wood River in 1967.

Mason Meverden presented a bat signed by Birnamwood Little League players and coaches and the Birnamwood BABA team to the Matsches at the dedication.

On one of his trips back to Birnamwood in 2016, Norm Matsche stopped in at the library, where Chanda Kersten thanked him for donating money for the Matsche Center.

“I asked her what else they needed. And when she said, ‘A new ballpark,’ I said, ‘Done,” Matsche said.

Matsche said he and his wife were pleased with how the project turned out, which generated considerable community support.

The ballfield was moved out about 10 feet, so the infield and pitcher’s mound were redone. The field gets plenty of use by the Little League, BABA and the Oldtimers League. There are about five games played per week, or about 40 to 50 games per season.

Resch’s Tile donated all of the ceramic tile for the project, and Jeff and Nikki Fraaza donated labor and the roll-up door on the concession stand.

The concession stand is run by volunteers, with revenue used to pay for umpires and maintenance of the ballfield. Originally, it was a tiny space holding a small refrigerator and a couple of electrical outlets. It’s now a spacious area with plenty of counter space, shelving and electrical outlets to handle the new coolers.

“The design fits the needs and allows us to have a successful concession stand for serving our fans hot food and cold drinks,” volunteer Charity Fraaza said.

Tyler Tautges served as master of ceremonies for the dedication. The program also included Judge Earl Schmidt, who offered a prayer, and the color guard of Birnamwood American Legion Post 341.

The land for the ballpark was donated sometime between 1881 and 1885 by John E. Roepke when the Birnamwood Baseball Club was first organized. In 1964, a pole-type grandstand was erected.