Inside Pitch Magazine, January/February 2021

The Change Up: Pig Pen Park, Washington, Iowa

We built it...and they came!

by Erin Brenneman

Pig Pen ParkThere is something about the sound of a bat hitting a ball that is special. It is comfort food for your ears, along with the sound of baseball chatter and laughter from the dugouts. As our kids were growing up, we created a makeshift baseball field on our farm so cousins and friends could stop by for a round of batting practice. Soon, we realized that we had the opportunity to make something truly special. After all, it is one of our philosophies that when life gives you the opportunity, build a longer table and not a taller fence. In this case, we were to build a baseball field.

The precedent here was, of course, the movie Field of Dreams, but instead of the “if you build it…” whisper, all we heard was “how will you build it?

By its nature, the farm offered the advantages of heavy duty equipment and storage space, but there was a lot of research to be done. And there was the announcing to my husband Tim’s parents that we were cutting down a part of the corn field – which equates to pig feed – to build a baseball field. We worked with a local couple, Jim and Bev Seelman with MBA Incorporated, who had made it a true art, profession, and family business designing and creating athletic fields.

We chose a functional eight-foot chain link fence. Our foul poles were brought to us by Jim and Bev, who were redoing a local field. We chose a portable mound and an all dirt infield that could accommodate all levels of baseball and softball. We selected a hearty grass for the outfield and a specific dirt blend for the infield. A Musco lighting truck was parked in our driveway. Eventually, the local high school offered to let us have their old scoreboard. The size and shape of the concrete pad around home plate was dictated by the size of the dugouts, the bleachers and open space to walk.

Corn was cut, the field leveled, seed planted. The dirt was spread and rolled. And rolled. And rolled. It took a few months for nature to do its thing, but before you knew it, “Pig Pen Park” was born. We scheduled a successful opening day that played out like a daydream, complete with music, a hot dog bar, and soft serve ice cream. We noticed that younger kids wandered towards the swing set, so we moved it closer to the field, and set up a tot-sized field with bases, bats and whiffle balls. Our youngest son named it “Piglet Park.” Parking quickly became an issue, so now we have a gravel lot, and have since added porta-potties. In honor of Wrigley Field, we created our own roof top on a storage shed, overlooking the kids’ space. We turned it into a small loft with dugout benches for seating and sliding glass doors leading out to a deck. Over the second winter, permanent lights were installed.

Teams have come from all over to hold special games at the “Pig Pen.” The local high school team has come out to practice simply for a change of scenery. Organizations have asked us to donate “a night at the ballpark” for local auctions, complete with grilled pork burgers compliments of our farm. That first full season we played around 35 games, and the second season nearly doubled that.

We are constantly awestruck and honored we get to call this place home. Sometimes, we duck back into our house and gaze out the window at our new backyard. We think back to that first vision of what could become of those lonely white lines painted across our grass in the shape of a diamond. What we got was more elaborate and more rewarding than we could have ever imagined. It is America’s favorite pastime, right here on our favorite piece of America’s heartland.

Follow Pig Pen Park on Twitter @PigPenPark and Instagram @PigPenPark

Inside Pitch Magazine is published six times per year by the American Baseball Coaches Association, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt association founded in 1945. Copyright American Baseball Coaches Association. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any way without prior written permission. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained herein, it is impossible to make such a guarantee. The opinions expressed herein are those of the writers.