Bellevue Sports Athletic Association
In the heart of Bellevue stands one of the city’s best held secrets.
Tucked away at the end of McPherson Drive between the Harpeth River and Harpeth Bend Drive, sits the Reese Smith Jr. Ballpark and Bellevue Exchange Club Sports Complex.
The Ballpark, originally known as the Bellevue Babe Ruth Ballpark, started in 1971. At the time the ballpark was one of only a few Babe Ruth ballparks in all of Nashville. Teams from all over Nashville were represented at the park. The Nashville Babe Ruth league consisted of teams such as Lee’s Chapel, Bob Stanley Cabinet, Jantzens, Leo Johnson, Patterson & Associates, Fire Department, Police Department, Sheriff’s Department and VFW, just to name a few.
In the 1970’s until 1980, the park was also the proud home of the Bellevue High School Owls baseball team.
In 1973 a group of parents decided it was time to start a Little League organization at the park. Led by coaches like the late Bill Carder and Tommy Pomeroy, the Western American Little League was born. Fields two and three were added to make this new league a reality. In the spring of 1974, little league play began at the park.
In the early 1980’s the Bellevue Exchange Club received the deed for the original part of the property from Reese Smith Jr. Over the next 20 years three more fields were built to accommodate the growth of baseball as well as the addition of girls’ softball. In the early 2000’s Cecil Branstetter allowed for some of his property to be used to expand the program.
During the early 2000’s the organization running the 12 and under baseball and softball programs were looking to secure a long term lease with the Bellevue Exchange Club. One of the requirements to help secure the long term lease was the organization had to be a 501c3 Non-Profit.
After reviewing the paperwork to become 501c3, the board of director’s for the league decided to start fresh with a new corporation and switched from the name Bellevue Community Athletic Program to Bellevue Sports Athletic Association, Inc.
After about a year the IRS granted Bellevue Sports Athletic Association, Inc. 501c3 status. Soon afterward the Bellevue Exchange Club and BSAA, Inc. signed a new 15 year lease agreement.
For the next nine years it was youth baseball and softball as usual. Then in May of 2010, the members of BSAA, Inc. woke up to find the Reese Smith Jr. Ballpark 15 feet under water. The waters were still rising. Before the flood waters started to recede, the ballpark was beneath 18 feet of water.
It was almost three days before the park could be inspected for damages. The main concession stand and field house were severely damaged and required the building to be totally gutted back to the studs, joist and rafters. Field equipment was damaged beyond repair and what was able to be repaired took lots of mechanic work.
Being private land and under lease, BSAA, Inc. was unable to receive Government assistance on the loss and damages. BSAA Members led by Jeff Demonbreun (Demonbreun Construction) and Gabby Bethshears spent the next week hauling debris, material, and mud away from the main facility. Jeff Estepp (Jeff Estepp LLC) secured necessary permits and Todd Goodman (The Goodman Company) brought several pieces of equipment and trucks to assist.
Within a few weeks, games were being played again. It was almost a year before the concession stand and field house were open for use. Over $150,000 in damages had been sustained and with the dedicated members and community volunteers the rebuilding had been substantially completed in about a year.
In 2012 and 2013 the Bellevue Exchange Club Foundation and BSAA, Inc. worked on clarifying and reworking the lease. In November of 2013 a new 15-year lease was signed between the Bellevue Exchange Club Foundation and BSAA, Inc.
With the new lease in hand, there was another major project to tackle. Lighting on the original Babe Ruth field could no longer wait. The original equipment had stood for more than 40 years and had to be replaced.
BSAA, Inc. started the daunting task of securing funds to replace the lights and poles. Fund-raising had begun, but major help was needed to raise the $175,000 to make the project a reality. BSAA, Inc. president Todd Sneed lead the charge to obtaining the one grant that could make the dream of lighting the field a reality.
Paperwork was sent to the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, an organization funded by Major League Baseball. Shortly after an email came, and then a phone call. BSAA, Inc. had made the short list of possible grant recipients from the BTF/ MLB.
In early spring of 2014, BTF Executive Director Cathy Bradley flew to Nashville from New York to visit the Reese Smith, Jr. Ballpark.
Cathy spent a few hours with several BSAA board members, a representative of the Bellevue Exchange Club and our electrical contractor. Cathy then flew back to New York.
With all the ballparks across the United States in the running for the grant, it was unknown as to whether BSAA would get call it was looking for. Weeks passed by until it was time for the BTF voting committee to meet. Shortly after the meeting, the call came. Cathy informed us that BSAA, Inc. got the thumbs up from the committee and would be receiving a grant. Cathy went on to inform us that we would be receiving a grant in the amount of $74,500.
President Sneed didn’t stop there. He was also able to secure a Babe Ruth/Musco Lighting grant for $15,000 making the project a true reality.
The future is definitely bright at Bellevue Sports Athletic Association. Both the board and volunteers are happy to say that not one cent of the tax payer money went into completing this project.
That is a source of great pride for everyone involved in this project.
Spring sign-ups have started now for the 2015 season! Register now for both baseball and softball with BSAA, Inc. at the Bellevue Exchange Club Sports Complex, home of the Reese Smith, Jr. Ballpark.
Register online today at www.bsaainc.org.
See you at the park.
This article was published courtesy of the BSAA
BSAA Hosts Bellevue's Field of Dreams