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Baseball gains stature Sunday

by: Vern Uyetake, Showing pride in one of the two new scoreboards that Safeco Insurance donated to Fields Bridge Park are, from left, Scot Gelfand, Gelfand Insurance Group; Joe Monahan, coordinator, West Linn Baseball; Ken Worcester, parks and recreation director; Rich Williams, board president, West Linn Baseball; and Tom Trussell, graphic designer with MediaWorks.

In not accepting an initial 'no' for an answer, there's a resident empowerment - an energy that becomes apparent when opposing sides are able to reach compromise.

West Linn Baseball is a recent beneficiary of compromise. Months ago at the first thought of erecting a scoreboard for a baseball field at Fields Bridge Park, negative responses came from all directions.

The answer 'no' echoed throughout the city - from local residents, city leaders, the planning department and the parks and recreation advisory board.

But baseball coaches as well as Scot Gelfand, representing potential donor Safeco Insurance, Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester and graphic artist Tom Trussell of MediaWorks all worked to achieve agreement.

The results of their efforts will be dedicated and lighted Sunday afternoon in a public ceremony at the park near the Tualatin River and Willamette Falls Drive.

'It's exciting to see this whole effort come to fruition,' Gelfand said. 'We overcame the hurdles and figured out what worked for the community, the city and Safeco.'

Through the mediation efforts of Trussell and Worcester and the flexibility of Safeco Insurance and its PlayBall Program, Gelfand said, there was a complete turnaround of opinion.

Unanimous no votes by the parks and recreation advisory board, Willamette Neighborhood Association and the city's planning department were turned around into unanimous yes votes.

'The hurdles that we overcame, at the time, seemed very large,' Gelfand said, 'but we persevered and listened, and now the kids get what they deserve and what the community deserves.'

Gelfand credited Safeco Insurance with the flexibility that made a huge difference. Instead of the standard scoreboard that the company offered to a number of cities around the nation, Safeco approved the idea of constructing two much smaller scoreboards of a different design.

Gelfand also recognized Trussell as a mediator, who created graphic designs that everyone, including Safeco, agreed were acceptable.

'Seeing the finished product is better than trying to visualize it,' Trussell said. 'Plus, I wanted to ensure that the visual impact of the finished scoreboards would be minimal because of the beautiful setting of the ballfields in the park. After a couple of designs and renderings, everyone involved was happy.'

The entire effort, which directly benefits more than 800 families involved in youth baseball, was a donation: about $30,000 from Safeco, about $8,000 from the baseball association to cover additional costs of the two scoreboards, and the untold value of Trussell's work as graphic designer and mediator.

The smaller scoreboards allow top-of-the-board space for logos representing the city and West Linn Baseball as well as smaller spaces at the bottom for recognition of Safeco and Gelfand Insurance Group.

No one appears to be objecting to the idea of advertising on public property, since the words are small and the boards do not face the road.

'Based on the new size, it's not even really advertising anymore. It's mainly for recognition of the donor,' Worcester said.

There are several groups that should be proud of this accomplishment, Gelfand said, including baseball players, coaches and board members as well as parents, local business owners and the chamber of commerce.

'What's good for the kids is good for the community,' he said.

And that's the same motivation for leaders of Safeco Insurance, according to Bill Norman, vice president of agency relations.

'We're pleased to provide the residents of West Linn with something that offers young people a positive, team-oriented activity,' Norman said, 'one that teaches them about the importance of leadership and community involvement.'

Sunday's festivities include food and official recognition from the city and the donor. In the afternoon, the 12-year-olds will have the privilege of first use of the state-of-the-art scoreboard during their baseball game.

These days, Gelfand has trouble hiding his pride in the outcome of the efforts of many people. In his mind, he likens this new baseball field to a delicious cake.

'A cake is so much better with frosting on it,' he said. 'A baseball field without a scoreboard is still pretty nice, but to have scoreboards on top of that is the frosting.'