Mark Danuser drove north on Interstate 25 often for his job. While stuck in traffic, he would often notice the abandoned baseball field off 64th Avenue.
“I couldn’t figure out over the years why this just stood here empty,” said the baseball enthusiast.
On one of those drives, Danuser took a detour off the highway and investigated the field. It was connected to the old Mapleton High School, which closed in 1988. Although organizations have rented out the building over the years, the field connected to it had been neglected — weeds were waist high, trash littered the area.
A few years later, Danuser approached Mapleton Public Schools about a private-public partnership to rent the fields. The district agreed to sign a long-term lease and even rented out the 12,000-square-foot outbuilding that used to house the auto repair and wood shop.
Danuser sold his shredding company, and invested his and his wife’s life savings and a lot of hard work to convert the empty field into Here to Play, an indoor and outdoor baseball training facility at 601 E. 64 Ave.
“I’m proud of all we’ve done, but at the same time it’s a scary venture - we’re all in,” he said.
Some of the work that has gone into the property include stripping out the weeds, bringing in good dirt, building a foot path, leveling the field, building the dugout, painting the building and installing hitting cages and pitchers’ ramps.
“The original Mapleton High School campus was this community’s gathering place and its beloved hub of activity for many years,” said Whei Wong, chief communications officer at Mapleton. “Here to Play has invested its time, funds and talents to rehabilitate the baseball field and an old warehouse into attractive, usable space. Their efforts are drawing people back onto that site including our own athletes.”
Sandra Gonzales, Danuser’s wife, noted that the company has been there for a little over two years and has only been tagged twice.
“It shows they have pride this is in their community, I hope,” she said. “We want them to put down the spray paint and pick up a bat (and play).”
Here To Play offers one main outside field, with a berm for spectators, and a practice field that Danuser said will eventually be developed into a little league field.
Concessions and bathrooms are available inside the business. Also inside is a Pro Shop, where people can buy uniforms, a player’s lounge with TVs, baseball memorabilia, two pitcher’s ramps, a strength and conditioning area, and three batting cages - one of which is a virtual machine.
“We offer really nice facilities,” Danuser said. “Our goal is to be the premiere baseball training facility in this area.”
To learn more about Here to Play, visit heretoplayball.com.