By Sue Moore
Ryan LaPorte, who serves as coordinator for Schoolcraft Township’s Swan Park, was honored by District 15 Little League as its Volunteer of the Year. District Administrator Joanne Wilson was present with a plaque and a formal presentation at the Township’s board meeting in October.
It recognizes Ryan LaPorte as a dedicated and loyal supporter of the 15 leagues of Michigan District 15 hosted each year at Swan Park. “Ryan’s been instrumental in field maintenance for regular season play. I’ve received the highest praises from our Little League guests on the condition of the fields. He’s also taken the lead in our hosting the four state of Michigan Little League All-Star tournaments at Swan Park over the last five years. Swan park has hosted approximately 540 players and managers plus countless family members who follow their teams to the township location. They praise Ryan’s hours of dedication on providing a first-class state tournament site,” Wilson said during the presentation.
The plaque reads, “Ryan LaPorte goes over and above in his commitment to the ideals and goals of Little League. Ryan LaPorte is a spirited and dedicated volunteer that supports the development of children participating in Little League baseball and softball.”
“He accommodates the players and families’ every need,” Wilson said. “He and his dad, Jeff, are in this for the kids. This year they spent $1,200 to rebuild the pitching mounds before our tournaments. He takes care of the fields as if they are his babies. It’s like a field of dreams for the players. It’s a small town with big town attractions.”
LaPorte isn’t satisfied with just maintaining the fields; he wants to enlarge and enhance the whole property. The goal is to build one more field, continue laying irrigation to extend to all six fields rather than the three it currently covers and expand the parking lot. The biggest project of all is to build a full-service concession stand by adding on to the existing block building. That will have a price tag between $80,000 to $100,000, so he envisions several years of fundraising to see the dream come true.
The development of Swan Park began 15 years ago when there was one softball field sitting idle on land that was purchased from Raymond and Lela Swan in November 1966. Jeff LaPorte asked the township if he could convert it to a baseball field so his son Ryan and his team from Schoolcraft would have a home field to play on. The dad is now retired and helps with the mowing and Ryan, age 28, has accepted the responsibility of managing the park as its coordinator. He is a graduate of Schoolcraft High School and Western Michigan University and holds a full-time job as a test engineer at Parker Hannifin. His mother, Patti, and sister, Katie, also help with the park.
The Township has a budget for park maintenance, covering expenses for anything outside of the Little League fences. The Schoolcraft Little League takes care of expenses inside the fences such as the irrigation system and the stone dust on the base paths. “Our goal is to make this an enjoyable experience for the people who use the park,” LaPorte said.
“This is the best place to play in the state of Michigan for Little Leaguers,” Wilson declared.