BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - The revitalization of a Middletown park is complete after years of patience and persistence.
Those who put in the hard work hope it can pave the way for a revitalized community.
Originally known as ‘Diamond 8,' Rathman Fields at Smith Park was home to nearly a dozen little league fields for decades. Those fields went away as the City of Middletown struggled through the Great Recession.
Plans to build new fields took shape around three years ago, when Chris Urso, a newcomer to Middletown, brought the idea to Walter Dapper, a long-time resident.
“We decided to take it upon ourselves and build something,” Urso said.
By February 2017, the bricks for the dugout had arrived, and a home plate sat in the dirt as a promise of things to come.
Urso says the scope of the project was daunting.
“To lay brick-by-brick, again, I did not know how big of a project this really is,” he said.
It was not a big-budget project. Urso and Dapper relied on donations and their own hard work.
One donation in particular came from the Cincinnati Reds Community Foundation.
“Sometimes I thought it would never be done, " Urso said surveying the new backstop and handsome brick dugouts. “But now it is complete. It’s a lot of fun to play here.”
“The community needs this,” Dapper said. “They need it. Hopefully this is something that starts something else.”
Urso has similar hopes.
“You see it throughout the community. There is life here, and I am excited that people are now seeing it outside of Middletown.”