SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE
A public parking lot at Birdie Tebbetts field is the
staging area for a stormwater project that will ease flooding
in the surrounding Holmes Beach neighborhoods.
HOLMES BEACH – Despite a parking lot jammed with drainage pipes and heavy equipment, Birdie Tebbetts Field is open for business.
Make that, open for play.
No one has reserved the baseball diamond for a long while, and very little, if any, unscheduled baseball or softball has been played on the well-kept grounds in recent memory, according to Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger.
But anyone is welcome to play a regulation game or goof around with a ball and glove.
And if no one is playing ball, it's the only place on Anna Maria Island where dogs are allowed to run off leash. The entrances to the field have gates with latches to keep dogs inside, and trash cans and bag dispensers at all entrances make it easy to keep the field clean.
The city has no plans to close the field to people or dogs, Bohnenberger said.
"We don't have any intention of changing that," he said. "The only way that would happen is if there was extreme abuse on the part of the dog owners."
"I don't find that to be the norm," said Ruth Uecker, who has collected nearly 1,000 signatures of people favoring a part-time, on-leash dog park somewhere on the Island's Gulf beaches. She plans to make a presentation to Bradenton Beach commissioners in February.
"So many people use it there would be a huge voice" against those who did not clean up after their dogs," she said.
"They've been very, very, very good about picking up," said Holmes Beach Public Works Superintendent Joe Duennes.
March is the target date for the stormwater project to be completed and the shell parking lot to be usable again, he said, perhaps in time for the Anna Maria Island Art League's Springfest on March 10 and 11, which will be held on the soccer field next to Birdie Tebbetts Field. At Winterfest earlier this month, festival-goers struggled to find parking on side streets during the popular two-day event.
The Manatee County Parks and Recreation Department gave Holmes Beach some funding for Tebbetts Field with the agreement that the use be preserved, according to Manatee County Commission Chair Carol Whitmore, a former mayor of Holmes Beach.
George "Birdie" Tebbetts was a resident of Anna Maria Island and a professional baseball player, manager and scout. He was a catcher for the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians and managed the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Braves and Cleveland Indians. He scouted for the New York Mets, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Florida Marlins. He died in 1999 in Bradenton.