It’s now safer and more comfortable for baseball teams to play at Eden Lake Park, thanks to Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Life Scout and Eden Prairie High School (EPHS) sophomore Blake Bidwell.
In August, Bidwell built two dugout shelters over existing team bench seating at one of the park’s three baseball fields for his BSA Eagle Scout Service Project. Also known as Eagle projects, these are significant community service projects considered the most challenging advancement requirement in Scouting.
Bidwell said he raised over $12,000 for the material and tools needed to create the steel shelters. After a year of planning and fundraising, he built them in August with the help of family, friends, and fellow Scouts from Eden Prairie’s Troop 479.
Combining sports with service
A lifelong baseball player, Bidwell says it was a natural fit for him to make his Eagle project about the sport. Bidwell started playing T-ball at age 3 and has been playing baseball since third grade. Last year he was on the freshman “A” team at EPHS and plans to play again next spring.
Bidwell also began umpiring this summer. The first game he umpired was at Eden Lake Park’s Field No. 2, where he built the shelters.
Talking about how he got the idea to construct the dugout covers, he said, “Four years ago I was playing baseball in Minnetonka and saw a plaque on the dugout that said it was an Eagle Scout project. Ever since, I had it in the back of my head that it could be a good project for me.”
In addition to tying his project to a sport he loves, Bidwell said he wanted it to be practical: “I really wanted to build something that got used.”
He said Field No. 2 was the natural choice since it is the primary field used for third and fourth grade Eden Prairie Baseball Association games, but it didn’t have a dugout. Instead, it just had exposed benches on concrete slabs.
“Dugouts are important to protect players from foul balls, because you’re not always completely focused on the game,” he said. “They also protect players when it rains and provide shade, which is really important in baseball because it can get really hot.”
Over the past year, Bidwell raised funding and made plans for his project. He said he was supported by generous donations from the Eden Prairie Baseball Association, Eden Prairie AM Rotary, the Minnesota Twins Community fund, American Legion Post 580, as well as friends and family.
He said it took about seven hours to assemble the 20-by-7-foot shelters. Manufactured by JW Industries, the structures’ posts and frames are galvanized steel, and the roof panels are white, powder-coated steel.
From Cub Scout to prospective Eagle Scout
Bidwell is a longtime BSA member, having joined Cub Scouts in kindergarten and Boy Scouts in fifth grade. He said Scouting has taught him a lot of valuable lessons, from leadership skills to self-reliance to personal discipline.
He said experiences like attending BSA’s top adventure camp, Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, helped him expand his boundaries and increased his motivation.
“We got up each day at 5 a.m. and walked 12 miles carrying 50-pound backpacks,” he said. “Ever since then, waking up early isn’t as big of a deal for me. Getting through hard things once makes it easier the next time.”
Bidwell added that he’s learned a lot of practical skills as a Scout, too. “Learning knots has been really helpful — I used my knots recently putting up a tarp, and another time when I was boating on Lake Minnetonka.”
Bidwell said his Eagle project has also helped teach him managerial skills and perseverance: “I learned how to talk to people, and how to be more assertive and confident in telling people what to do.”
Requirements to become an Eagle Scout include completing an Eagle project, taking on leadership roles, and fulfilling 21 merit badges, 14 of which are specifically required for an Eagle Scout.
Having completed his requirements, Bidwell is preparing for the BSA Northern Star Council Board of Review, an oral review of his Scouting requirements and experience. If he passes, he will be awarded the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest achievement in Scouting.
Meanwhile, on Aug. 31, he installed the dedication plaque for the dugout shelters, which are ready for baseball teams to use and enjoy. Bidwell said, “I’m really proud of how the project turned out and thrilled that people in the community are already starting to use it.”
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