RED BANK REC GEARS UP FOR SPRING

Installers laid down rubber pellets as the base for the new artificial turf at Count Basie Fields in January. (Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

With the first day of spring less than a month away, Memone Crystian, director of Red Bank’s Parks and Recreation department, knows the throes of winter will soon be replaced by… other types of throws.

Her department has crafted a packed schedule of recreational sports for kids in Kindergarten through 8th grade to enjoy on brand new turf in coming months at Count Basie Fields. And in addition to the traditional baseball, softball and soccer offerings, lacrosse will be on the agenda.

The facility, which Crystian calls “one of the premier athletic fields in the county, if not the whole state,” boasts a full-sized soccer/lacrosse field, as well as full-sized baseball and softball fields. Replacing the natural turf cost about $2.1 million, with a  portion of the cost donated by Major League Baseball, which chose Red Bank for its Baseball Community Outreach program and will be hosting a Baseball Day ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 6, according to Crystian.

Baseball and softball season will begin that day. Participation fees range from $35 to $50 per child, based on age, for residents, and $50 to $65 for out-of-towners. Crystian said that she expects a large turnout for baseball and softball this year.

“They will get a chance to play on one of the best fields in the area,” she said. “Registration is going to be on a limited first-come first-serve basis.”

“I recommend parents register their child as soon as possible,” she said. “Spots are limited, and we don’t want to see any children disappointed.”

Crystian also said that the borough will provide children with equipment, including cleats and gloves if needed. Teams will square off against rec squads from nearby towns, including Fair Haven, Rumson and Little Silver.

For those who prefer a rectangular field to the diamond, Red Bank has teamed up with United Lacrosse, a Little Silver-based training operation, to bring local families cutting edge but affordable lacrosse training, according to Crystian.

“We brought in some of the area’s best professionals to affordably teach the kids the fundamentals of lacrosse, the fastest growing sport in America but a sport that’s very expensive,” she said. “We think the kids can be successful in this sport, but they will need to be taught how to play the proper way first.”

The lacrosse program will feature a camp-like atmosphere, Crystian said, with regular practices, instructional sessions, and also scrimmages and games.

“We’ll provide every child with equipment if needed,” she added, “and each child who signs up will be on a team. There are no other opportunities like this at these prices around, so we really encourage local families to take advantage of it.”

The lacrosse season will run from March 23 to May 18, and will cost Red Bank residents $35 to $45, and those from other towns $200. Crystian also assured that those who want to play both baseball/softball and lacrosse can do so.

“We designed the programs so that participation in both at the same time was possible,” she said. “We didn’t want anybody to have to pick one sport and miss out on the other,” she said.

The borough will also have a track and field team, starting in late May, that will participate in practices and several inter-league meets against other towns. Registration costs $40 for one child, $75 for two and $30 a child for three or more. The track and field runs at the track surrounding the football field at Count Basie and will end in July.

For those looking register, visit the parks and recreation department website, or by visiting its office at 90 Monmouth Street.

Cystian also expressed the need for coaches and assistant coaches at every level, no matter the level of experience.

“ All our coaches are volunteers, and their participation is so vital to these programs, we always need help all across the board,” she said. “Even if you don’t have a child participating this year, it’s a great chance to help out the community.”