Clemmy Holmes’ $70K face lift will be completed soon as the infield, known for its unpredicable ground balls or “Clemmy Hops” gets a fix.
The entire infield at the ball field is being re-done including the pitching mound and the warning track from dugout to dugout along the backstop behind home plate. A new irrigation system is also being installed for the infield that will serve both the grass of the infield and the dirt portion as well.
Step one of the job is nearly completed. The grass of the infield, the grass in front of the dug outs and the grass behind the home plate was killed off. This process causes the roots of the grass to release from the dirt. The job of removing the grass can then be completed without having to remove a lot of dirt.
More dirt will be hauled in for the infield and sod will be laid down at the completion of the project.
Nebraska City Parks Commissioner Patrick Wehling said ground balls at Clemmy Holmes have been taking bad bounces for years due to unavoidable field erosion. Over time, the dirt area of the infield shrinks as the grass creeps outward and the erosion of dirt creates an uneven transition from grass to dirt. Ground balls that hit this uneven ground bounce erratically which can lead to players not being able to play the ball as normal. It can also lead to fielders being struck by the ball.
With this process, the uneven transition from grass to dirt will be eliminated.
“When you go from dirt to grass, it should be nice and level,” Wehling said, adding that reworking the infield is a project that’s done every 20 years on average. The irrigation project might seem like a nice bonus to re-working the infield.
It’s actually more than a bonus.
By getting a new irrigation system for the field, the dirt will be more playable and the field will be maintained more economically.
Fields subjected to summer heat dry up and get hard. And the field dressing, which is added to fields to make them more playable after rain, can be lost.

With hard infields, players become reluctant to slide because it’s uncomfortable. With the dirt infield being regularly watered, the soil stays soft and sliding isn’t as hard on the players.
Keeping the infield soft also makes it possible for the surface to retain its field dressing.
Wehling compared the field dressing to top soil on a farm field. When its dry, the top soil blows away.
It’s the same thing with field dressing. Wehling said, when the field is dry, you can actually watch as the wind takes away field dressing. When that happens, the field loses money as much as it does dirt.
To maintain the field dressing each year, pallets of the stuff are distrubuted across the field at a cost of $600 per pallet.
Last year, Wehling estimated that the city purchased some 20 pallets of field dressing to maintain its fields at Steinhart Park and at the Nebraska City Softball Complex.
In reviewing the Clemmy Holmes project, Wehling said the total cost, which includes the removal of the grass, the dirt work, the installation of warning track, the new irrigation and the pitching mound rebuild, would be close to $70K.
About $60K of that cost will be covered by grant funds from the Paul, John, Anton & Doris Wirth Foundation Inc. of Nebraska City.
Wehling said fundraising activities by the Nebraska City Baseball Association will cover the left over balance.

Other projects
While the infield work at Clemmy Holmes certainly represents a major project, it’s by far not the only work that’s happening at Nebraska City ball fields these days.
Wehling, who founded the Nebraska City Baseball Improvement Association, has been hard at work upgrading other ball fields, both at Steinhart Park and at the Nebraska City Softball Complex. The most recent project by the association was adding a new concession stand at the softball complex. Thanks to the fundraising power of the association, grant money and donations, both monetary and in-kind, the softball complex has a concession stand that will be used by various organizations for fundraising activities.
Wehling said there are other projects being considered by the Nebraska City Baseball Improvement Association and also by the Nebraska City Baseball Association. He said the organizations work well together. Being a board member for the Nebraska City Baseball Association and the founder of the Nebraska City Baseball Improvement Association has been advantageous. As Nebraska City Parks Commissioner, Wehling said communication  between the organizations has been enhanced. Having great communication is important so that the programs can apply for grants and work cooperatively on projects. “It’s been a good mix,” Wehling said.
In the future, Wehling said he expects that the Nebraska City Softball Association will be more active in seeking funds and getting projects done as well.

Clemmy’s lock
Citizens might have taken notice that Clemmy Holmes Field, when not in use by teams, is now locked. Wehling said, as Parks Commissioner, he made the call to lock the field up in an effort to prevent vandalism. While Steinhart Park is a public space, Wehling said consideration should also be given to the fact that a lot of work has gone into the park and said that those investments should be protected. Clemmy Holmes has been victimized in the past as the concession stand has been broken into on numerous occasions. Most recently, nets in the batting cage had to be replaced after someone went into the cage with a knife and cut up the nets.
Wehling also noted that the idea of locking up a park is not unique to Nebraska City. As a coach of traveling teams, Wehling said he has noticed that a lot of other communities in the area lock up their ball parks.