Walker Stadium transformation

Jun. 12, 2014 @ 11:44 AM

Over the past three years, Walker Stadium in Lenoir has undergone a transformation, and with the efforts and support of a community, the stadium is back and better than ever before.

Three years ago, Jeff Martin led a group of people to start a campaign to get Walker Stadium back into playing condition. Some key members of that group include Kelly and Todd Hawkins, Tracy Hall and Robbie Byerly. The field was originally leased for a youth team to have a place to play. Now Walker Stadium is the home to a 15U team, an 18U team and two All American Collegiate Baseball League (AACBL) teams in the Caldwell Warriors and Carolina Freedom.

“There has been a big group of people with a vision and desire to fix up Walker Stadium,” said Caldwell Warriors General Manager Rob Wedding. “A lot of people have put in a lot of time and money to put together a great stadium and field with professional dimensions.”

The original Walker Stadium had an infield of all dirt. Throughout the renovation process, a solder machine was used to cut out an infield and turn it into a grass infield. The solder machine was also used to cut out a warning track in the outfield. Some other work that has been put into renovating the stadium includes sandblasting the stands, the dugouts were painted and refurbished and efforts continue to add a new backstop fence, batting cages and two bullpen areas.

“When we got together a few years back, we decided we wanted to get Walker Stadium back in to play,” Kelly Hawkins said. “It’s truly a labor of love. It’s been a tremendous group effort. It has taken a lot of manual labor and money out of our own pockets. But through fundraisers and the support of a lot of people in this community, the project has been a huge success. Jeff Martin has really been the driving force behind this whole process”

Saturday marks opening day for the AACBL. There are a total of five teams in the league. Joining the Warriors and the Freedom are the Mooresville All Americans, the Rowan Patriots and the Morganton Militia. Caldwell will host Mooresville in a double-header on Saturday with the first game beginning at 2 p.m. at Walker Stadium. The Freedom will first play at Walker Stadium on Friday, June 13.

The teams are made up of college baseball players from all over the country and some players from outside the country. Caldwell has even welcomed a player from Japan.

“There are a lot of people thrilled to have such a high level of baseball back in Lenoir,” Wedding said. “The young men playing are excited and they are loving the southern hospitality here.”