When Mike Jones headed Mundelein's youth baseball program a few years ago he decided the program needed the "Red Monster."
Jones' dream before he died six months ago at the age of 50 was to model a 15-foot-tall wall after the Green Monster in Cooperstown, N.Y.'s Little League All-Star Village.
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Mundelein Baseball and Softball Association officials say they want to honor Jones by making his dream come true.
The group has raised just over two-thirds of the $50,000 needed to build the Red Monster at Overflow Field and fund other improvements, such as redoing the infield at Majors Field and improving the batting cages.
Other ideas include new and repaired fencing, dugout roofs, painting press boxes and the concession stand, and purchasing and planting new shade trees.
The fields are part of the 10-field youth baseball and softball complex off Midlothian Road, between Route 176 and Winchester Road. The MBSA program serves some 800 players and features the MBSA Memorial Day Classic, a tournament made up of 52 teams and 100 games.
The Mike Jones Capital Campaign continues to solicit donations and generate awareness, and organizers are looking toward an April 20 Opening Day ceremony that will include a celebration of Jones' life.
"It's going to happen," said MBSA President Kevin McKay.
Construction of the wall is expected to begin as the weather allows, and should only take a few days to complete.
Jones and Jim Eller, a former MBSA director, had once presented the idea for the Red Monster to the Mundelein Park and Recreation District, which expressed interest in the project. But everything came to a standstill with the economic downturn, and the idea was put on hold.
However, it was rekindled in the six months since Jones' death. McKay said the MBSA phone was "ringing off the hook" with people wanting to know how to honor Jones' legacy.
Jones and his family were active in local youth sports programs. He had coached his daughter's soccer and softball teams and his son participated in the Mundelein basketball feeder program.
"He (Jones) was so giving of himself," Eller remembers. They worked together many weekends to get the fields raked, lines chalked and bases placed, he added.
The MBSA received so many donations in Jones' name that in early January a core group of friends and neighbors began to discuss how to best use these funds. The group decided some kind of memorial should be constructed and dedicated to Jones' memory, and his idea for the Red Monster resurfaced.
They met to discuss how to make Jones' dream a reality. They were given permission for a special memorial collection during Carmel Catholic High School's annual Street Scenes fundraiser in February.
The idea received approval from the park district and the village for the projects. Another hurdle was cleared when McKay and others met with a homeowner in the Ambria neighborhood whose backyard is most visible from the field where the Red Monster would be erected.
Not only did homeowner Ron Iorio give his OK, he offered to talk to other neighbors and see what he could do to help fund the project.
For more information, visit www.mbsaonline.org, where supporters can make an online donation, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The mailing address is Mundelein Baseball and Softball Association, P.O. Box 606, Mundelein, IL 60060. For more details, call MBSA Executive Vice President of Operations Mark Rapplean at (847) 812-8964.