Former Saanich coach goes to bat for Lakehill softball

Family of Rick Withers makes donation for new dugouts at Lakehill Diamond #2

Staff Lakehill Little League and Softball president Angela Sawyer

Staff Lakehill Little League and Softball president Angela Sawyer

A longtime coach is once again stepping up to the plate for kids playing ball at Lakehill Park.

The family of Rick Withers has donated $15,000 to construct new dugouts for one of the softball diamonds at Lakehill, with the District of Saanich pitching in close to $10,000 to cover the remainder of the cost.

“The dugouts before were all wood and the wood was falling apart and the roofs were leaking,” said Lakehill Little League and Softball president Angela Sawyer. “It’s really a huge gift to our park to be able to do this for us.”

Those conditions led to Withers’ children, Darlana Bartle and Adam Withers, coming forward to chip in the funds for a pair of new dugouts for Diamond #2.

“We’re doing this because he loved baseball for so many years,” said Bartle, adding her dad continued to play the game he loved even as he battled the onset of Alzheimer’s.

“He helped coach my brother and myself here for probably 12 years. He was always here and it made him so happy. Now he has grandchildren here, so he would be so happy to know it’s continuing.”

The new dugouts are considerably larger than the ones they are replacing, measuring 8×30 feet as opposed to 6×20.

“These dugouts are quite a bit bigger than the other ones so they’ll be able to hold more kids and gear and all the rest of it. And they’re open air so they’ll get a lot more ventilation,” said Sawyer. “It’s so hot in the summertime and those dugouts are like ovens.”

Sawyer is more than a little familiar with the dugouts, having played at Lakehill from the time she was five until she was 18, and now coaches her nine-year-old daughter Ruby.

“Girls can play here for their whole childhood,” said Sawyer, adding the diamond is used almost year-round for different programs.

Lakehill Park includes six diamonds, with three used for baseball and three for softball, and sees more than 100 girls registered for softball. Sawyer reminds parents that Lakehill is still accepting players for registration ahead of a new season opening April 8. You can register through the website lakehillball.com.

Bartle said she spent almost everyday of her childhood summers at the ballpark, and some of the family’s happiest memories were created at Lakehill.

“My dad was coaching me, my brother would be the umpire, my mom and grandma would be watching from the stands, scorekeeping or volunteering at the concession stand.”

She said other friends and family members helped in raising the money, as guests to a recent party for her dad’s 62nd birthday were asked to make donations to the dugouts instead of bringing gifts.

The family’s donations will ensure Lakehill will be creating more happy memories for years to come, something that was very important to Withers.

“He just wanted everyone to be able to play,” said Bartle.