After about two years of planning and a full year of construction, the Tamaqua Area Girls Youth Softball Association (TAGYSA) now has a place they can call home in Rush Township.

Noticing the lack of a permanent location for the girls and challenges involved, association members, volunteers and community members came together in a campaign to give the girls a diamond of their own.

Opening the field to games recently, association members have finished the second of six phases of construction of the new Tamaqua Area Girls' Youth Softball Complex, located next to the Rush Elementary School in Hometown.

In addition, the TAGYSA received a proclamation announcing a grant in the amount of $11,975 via the Baseball Tomorrow Fund (BTF). Association members said that the grant is providing funding for a backstop, open dugouts and baseline fencing.

The softball players, ages 5 to 16, will now have a facility they can be proud to call their own. The purpose of the fund is to promote the growth of youth baseball and softball participation throughout the world.

Since the fund's formation in 1999, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have committed more than $23 million to ensure the availability of safe playing fields and equipment, improved coach training and related program expenses to increase the opportunities for children to learn and enjoy the game.

"The Baseball Tomorrow Fund is honored to help the Tamaqua Area Girls Youth Softball Association expand and improve opportunities for girls' sports," said Cathy Bradley, Executive Director of the Baseball Tomorrow Fund. "We hope that this dedicated softball field will encourage new players and support the continued growth of the program in this community."

"I believe our girls' softball facility will be a model for all of Schuylkill County," said Chuck Joseph, association secretary and project coordinator. "I am anxious for the opening games to be played on the new field so the community can experience our new facility."

The association was officially formed two years ago with an election of officers. They are Mike Nichols, president; Robert Seltzer, vice president; and Joseph, secretary.

The campaign, titled 'Girls Need a Diamond,' started in 2011 when the association recognized that girls interested in softball deserved a better facility that would be used strictly for girls' softball," "In the past, our girls have been using borrowed or even shared fields," said Joseph. "It was difficult to schedule practices and games. When league games began, there were no fields for teams to practice. The one field we did have could only be utilized three days a week due to Youth Baseball practices and other sports teams needing the field. The other field, owned by the Tamaqua Area School District, was mostly used for the girls' youth softball, but was nothing more than a playable field with a backstop."

Construction of the softball field began in August 2012. Wayne Postupack of Northeastern Hydroseeding provided his services for excavating, grading, constructing drainage, trucking and spreading top soil as well as infield mix.

"The overall design of the softball facility involves an open concept; meaning there will be no obstructions when viewing the field of play," said Joseph.

Phase three of the project incorporates the purchase of a portable outfield fence that volunteers will erect. This is also part of the grant.

The fourth stage will involve the erection of a preconstructed 10-foot by 16-foot building to be used for a concession stand and equipment storage closet. The building will be custom built for the girls by Amish carpenters for George Donnon of Donnons Dairy Farm, and will be donated to the association.

Association members added that the field will be used each year for girls aged 5-16 for practices and games. Joseph said the association's program is made up of about 85 girls ages 8 and under, 12 and under and 14 and under.

"At the completion of the project, we feel these girls will have great pride in their new facility, which will help build their self-esteem and comradery," said Joseph. "It is the hope that more girls will participate in the youth softball program by having a new softball facility the girls can be proud to call their own which will help build their self-esteem."

Phase five will include the ordering of open dugouts, which will also be installed by volunteers and supervised by Postupack.

The final phase of the project will be the ordering and placement of a five-tier bleacher system. Grant funds will help pay for the dugouts and bleachers.

"Our goal is to make this facility a model for Schuylkill County's girls' softball," added Joseph. "The last stage of completion is expected to be completed by 2014."

Other major supporters of the project included the Tamaqua Area School District, who provided the property for the new facility; George and Debbie Donnon of Donnon's Dairy, who supported the project by donating top soil and the concession stand as well as ongoing maintenance of the field. Also recognized were Dave Kerstetter, who supplied electricity; and Mark Boyle; for providng carpentry work for completion of the concession stand.

TAGYSA is still accepting in-kind and monetary contributions for the purchase of maintenance equipment to uphold the quality and safety of the field. Those interested in supporting the project may contact Nicholls at (570) 449-3077.