The 'jewel of all fields' in our own backyard

If you're in search of a field of dreams on the Eastside - and a burger whose reputation precedes itself - swing by Lee Johnson field at Peter Kirk Park.

"Peter Kirk is seen as the jewel of fields," says Kirkland Baseball Commission (KBC) chief Glen Beard. "The field is dressed, the coaches don't have to put lime out; we've got the concession stand, the scoreboard. It's like a professional field."

PK burger is back

Sweetening the package is the famous "PK burger," which had been MIA for the past couple of years. Its triumphant return now is credited to veteran volunteer concessionares Diana Caldwell and Barb Woolsey, who are back in the saddle and behind the counter after a short hiatus. Two bucks gets you a juicy burger, complete with grilled onions that you can nearly smell from the pool.

All proceeds from the concession - usually between $10,000 and $20,000 a season - eliminate the need for additional fund-raising. About $5,000 goes back into the field, according to Beard, with the remainder funding uniforms, umpires, scoreboards, bleachers and the like.

While the city officially maintains Lee Johnson field, KBC "tries to maintain a good relationship with the city," according to Beard, and, for instance, pitched in $150 worth of lime for the jamboree. KBC would like to install a sign in the outfield or under the scoreboard there.

The 22-year-old organization also plays at and pays for the upkeep of the fields at Lake Washington High School, Juanita High School, Kirkland Junior High and Kamiakin Junior High. Beard says the organization donated the Juanita scoreboards and the Kamiakin backstop and has recently "spruced up the field" at Kamiakin. KBC is working on getting new bleachers there, too.

KBC, which runs the Kirkland arm of the national PONY ("Protect Our Nation's Youth") League, kicked off its season on March 12 under periwinkle skies with its first Grand Slam Jamboree. Twelve of the 14 KBC teams played three innings or 70 minutes to give every kid at least one at-bat. There are three league divisions: pony (ages 13-14); colt (15-16) and palomino (17-18).

Beard, who has two grown boys, has been a loyal volunteer with the PONY League for 14 years. "There is a place for every child to play - we're the only rec team that will take anybody," he says. "The prices are $200-$250; our goal is to keep it at that level. You can't play baseball anywhere for that price."

The volunteer-run organization, which accepts any 13-18-year-old boy or girl in the Lake Washington School District, teaches baseball fundamentals and focuses on improving skills. This year, all KBC coaches attended a coaches' clinic. For the past two years a pre-season batting clinic has been offered to all 13- and 14-year-olds, something which the commission hopes to continue.

The regular season runs through the last day of school to avoid the typical summer attrition rate. The City Tournament is at the end of June and the Firecracker Tournament over the Fourth of July weekend.

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