Keeping the game going: Powerade Park 1 year after the Perryville tornado

ELKVILLE, IL (KFVS) - Fifteen years ago, Dennis Bastien said he wanted to help promote the desire to play baseball in southern Illinois' youth.

To accomplish this, he carved a piece of land from an old cornfield just outside of Elkville on Route 51 and built Powerade Park.

Bastien said it was a park with fields for youth baseball and softball sized for all age groups up to high school, three level-3 sized fields, triple-A rated lights, a 36-foot x 16-foot electronic digital scoreboard, and a large ballpark out front which was built from the blueprints of the field in the movie, "A League of Their Own."

Of course, it was complete with a grandstand and concession booths, which Bastien said thousands of people had sat in over the years.

According to Bastien, there were up to 200 different travel teams from all around the Midwest that came out to play ball.

On February 28, 2017, the Perryville Tornado destroyed the complex, tearing apart the fields, warping and ripping fencing from the ground, and leveling concession and pavilion areas.

Bastien said the huge digital scoreboard still hasn't been found.

"I don't mind confessing that I broke down," Bastien said on his initial thoughts seeing his field and years of work torn down. "It was 15 years into building it, 15 seconds to take down."

Bastien said he and his wife counted their blessings. His home, not far from the field, was intact, whereas he said some of his neighbors in his rural community weren't so lucky.

He said he considered rebuilding, but he and his wife talked it over and decided it was a sign that after over 50 years of playing, coaching, managing, and doing essentially any job remotely related to baseball, it may be time to slow down. Then, he had an idea to keep the spirit of Powerade Park alive.

"We would rather get the word out and donate it to little league fields, high school fields, junior high fields, youth complexes etc.," he said, "To build new fields, repair theirs, add new fencing, add new posts, add new dugouts, etc."

So he spread the word that he was going to donate any fencing, poles, equipment, and anything else that could be salvaged from the park to any program that might need them for repairs. Within a couple weeks youth programs and teams came out and helped him pick up the pieces of his field.

Bastien said pieces of the field made their way to youth programs and teams all over southern Illinois in Murphysboro, Grand Tower, Tamaroa and Crab Orchard, just to name a few.

Another was Robert E. Summers sports complex in DuQuion, where the president of DuQuion Baseball Inc., Chris Robinson, said they need a lot of repairs.

When asked about how he felt about the destruction of Powerade Park, Robinson said he had some mixed emotions.

"My daughter used to play there, she loved it," he said. "I feel sorry that it isn't down there anymore, but it helps us because we're nonprofit. We just run off donations and help."

The DuQuion complex has several fields ranging for different age groups. Much of the fencing is rusted out and bent from age. Robinson said they received at least 400 feet of fencing that could have run costs up to nearly $7,500.

Robinson said the complex is very busy with members of the DuQuoin community packing the stands to watch the 250 kids in the program play every year.

He said he wants the park to be up to standard. When summer comes around and the baseball season slows down, he and other volunteers from the community will go to work to get it there. He said there's even enough fence to put around parts of the complex to help keep people who have been vandalizing the park out.

Since Powerade Park's destruction, Bastien has accepted the role of Commissioner of the Prospect League, a college summer wood-bat league.

He said he was heartbroken to see the field fall, but he's happy to keep playing a part in southern Illinois youth baseball and have more time to spend with his wife and three adult children.

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