Working to complete a baseball dream at Hillcrest

Pat Sutphin / Katelynne Bueling, right, and Austin Denney, left, hold up a wall so teacher Mark Hillyard, center, and Guillermo Sanchez, can place a jack underneath it at Hillcrest High School on May 30. Once completed, the building will serve as an indoor baseball practice facility. Pat Sutphin /

Walls are going up, but there’s still much to be done on the Hillcrest High School baseball building.

The building, the senior project brainchild of two recent Hillcrest grads, will house an indoor baseball practice facility. But construction has slowed since work began in November, mostly due to a lack of funds.

Those spearheading the effort aren’t giving up.

Several weeks ago, the two 17-year-old graduates, Tyler Patterson and Tanner Stenquist, handed over the fundraising leadership role to the Hillcrest High School Booster Club. The club hopes to raise around $5,000 by the end of the month. That would bring the total amount raised since last fall to about $30,000 — enough to complete the project’s first phase.

The first phase work includes raising the walls and installing the roof, Booster Club President Lisa Patterson said. She also is Tyler’s mom.

“It’s definitely a work in progress,” Lisa Patterson said. “We’re optimistic, but we’re realistic. Of course, I wish we had someone who said, ‘Here’s $40,000, go finish your building,’ but unfortunately we don’t have that. We just have to keep working and never lose sight of the focus and our dream and what this will provide for the community.”

Interior work, which includes lights and electrical wiring, will be done during the project’s second phase. When that work will begin depends on how soon the Booster club can raise that $40,000.

So far, donated materials and labor have helped hold down the costs.

Local businesses have donated supplies and money. Construction work has been handled so far by Technical Careers High School students. With school out for the summer, the remaining first phase work will be completed by volunteers and parents, as well as students, Lisa Patterson said.

The 5,000-square-foot facility is located near the high school’s baseball fields. Once completed, it will feature two full-length batting tunnels, a netted area for T-ball and soft toss batting practice, as well as AstroTurf flooring for indoor drills.

The idea, Tyler said, was to create a winter and early spring practice area for the school’s baseball and softball players to practice during the cold months.

“It’ll help out the high school baseball and softball teams a tremendous amount,” he said. “I think winter workouts will be a lot easier to go about. Teams will be able to come in starting in December and November and start hitting.”

Youth leagues, traveling teams and summer teams will be able to use the space in the off-season.

Tyler and Tanner came up with the idea for the facility as their senior project, a requirement that all seniors must complete to graduate. Much of the past school year was spent soliciting donations and planning the facility. Both clocked far more than the 20 hours needed to complete the requirement.

“For a senior project, it was a handful,” Tyler said. “I enjoyed doing it and I learned a lot and I thought it was very beneficial to be a part of. But for two teenage kids, it was a pretty big project to spearhead — but we’re grateful we did it.”

For Technical Careers students, the project’s also been a learning curve. About 175 students have been part of the construction, teacher Mark Hillyard said.

Hillyard’s freshman class spent the afternoon of May 30 helping put up the walls for what will become the batting cage area.

“Building something yourself, you really see how hard it is,” 15-year-old Katelynne Bueling, said at the time. “But being part of it and knowing people are going to use it and I helped make it, is a really good feeling.”

For the moment, organizers are focused on completing the first-phase work. There is one goal, completing the building by the time Tyler and Tanner return from two-year church missions. They will start those missions in the fall.

“I know at times Tyler would get discouraged, but I think it provided them with some good opportunities,” Lisa Patterson said. “They spoke in front of the city of Ammon, in front of the (Bonneville Joint School District 93) school board and there were just a lot of opportunities. I think those were growing experiences and opportunities to communicate, work with adults and mature and grow at this point of life.”