It's an exciting time at Aurora Central Catholic.
Over the past few years, Chargers' athletic teams have made some huge strides on the playing field.
In 2011, St. Charles resident Jim Parker coached ACC's boys' golf team to the Class 1A regional championship.
The Chargers' boys' cross country team qualified for the Class 2A state meet a year ago, while coach Brian Casey directed the football team to its first playoff berth since 1997 last season -- and has the squad just 1 win away from being postseason eligible again this season.
The girls' basketball squad earned its first downstate berth in 2011-12, posting a fourth-place finish while the boys' basketball team has captured Class 3A regional titles in 2 of the last 3 years.
Not to be outdone, the Chargers' baseball team enjoyed a resurgence last year as second-year head coach Sean Bieterman guided the program to its first regional crown (Class 2A) since 2002.
ACC, which celebrated the 30th anniversary of its Class A state championship winning baseball team from 1983, finished with a 27-8 diamond mark last spring.
Meanwhile, the Chargers welcome a familiar name as its new softball coach -- longtime York mentor Tom Babyar, who guided the Lady Dukes to 7 regional titles, highlighted by his Class AA state quarterfinalist squad of 2003.
"He's a Hall of Fame softball coach," said Bieterman.
Next spring, the Chargers will also sport a new look for both their baseball and softball teams -- renovated fields.
"We're putting in suspension netting backstops for baseball and softball," said Bieterman, who also doubles as the athletic director at ACC. "We're installing 30-foot poles for softball and 40-foot poles for baseball -- with a wooden wall for both sides."
In addition to purchasing a full tarp, the baseball field will include a turf halo -- circular turf around the home-plate area -- that serves as a protection against dirt runoff.
The grounds will also feature a berm that will serve as a "fan hill" between the fields so fans could hypothetically watch 2 games at the same time.
Work on the 3 ½-weeklong project has already started and is expected to be completed by the end of the month.
"It'll give us that prostyle look," said Bieterman, who spent 10 years coaching baseball at Driscoll and Lincoln-Way Central before his arrival at ACC 2 years ago. "It's going to be something special."
Last year, Bieterman spent his first season at ACC improving the playing surface at both fields while trying to determine the next step in the process.
"You could see that both fields had a tremendous amount of potential," said Bieterman, a 1996 graduate of York High School in Elmhurst. "Year one, my job was to evaluate and assess what the needs were since we address everything equally.
"Last year, we put in a new irrigation system for both fields," added Bieterman. "We started talking it (this project) toward the end of last year -- how do you improve the aesthetics of everything?
"The goal was to have state-of-the-art baseball and softball fields renovated at a reasonable cost. That's a tough thing to get done."
During these tough economic times, cost efficiency is a key.
"Being a private school, we've got to be careful about how we spend," said Bieterman. "We've been fortunate with all of the donations that have been made to the programs. Thanks to parent donations, we'll have a storage area in the dugouts as well as a new sound system and warning track installed. We had 400 feet of fencing donated to us.
"The booster club has also helped us tremendously. A lot of people have invested in this. It's tremendous to have those resources."
The brunt of the project is being handled by Jeff Moeller's new company called "It Starts with the Turf."
Moeller, who lives on a farm in Hampshire, was the head baseball coach for 12 years at Westminster Christian in Elgin, where he guided the Warriors to the Class 1A state championship in 2010.
"I basically designed and built the field and program at Westminster Christian," said Moeller. "I put a lot of work into it."
Moeller spent 33 years working at the Ball Corporation (formerly U.S. Can) before losing his job in August just prior to the closure of the manufacturing plant in December.
That's when Moeller began thinking of ways to "reinvent" himself.
"I've always been good with my hands," said Moeller. "I've rehabbed three houses and built the backstops and dugouts at Westminster Christian.
"I run eight travel (baseball) teams in the summer and convert the barn into batting tunnels for winter training," he added. "This way, I figured I could work on field renovations during the day and baseball at night."
Bieterman, who had met Moeller during his days at Driscoll, ran into him again at a game last spring.
"They were honoring him at a Westminster Christian game when we were playing against them," recalled Bieterman.
"Sean told me about their field renovation plans at ACC and asked me things about it," said Moeller. "There's a lot of responsibility involved with the project but I'd like to think I've got a good reputation in the state and that I try to do things the right way."
Both men are firm believers in taking pride of their fields.
"Our program got better as the fields got better," said Moeller, whose Westminster Christian teams enjoyed 5 consecutive 25-plus win seasons from 2007-2011 after a 1-17 finish in the school's inaugural diamond campaign in 2002.
"You look around at the state's top baseball programs and they all have fields that are well taken care of," said Moeller, who is currently bidding for jobs at Judson University, Harper College and Plainfield South. "I think it reflects on how teams play and perform."
"I feel that building a top-notch facility is crucial to building a successful program," said Bieterman, who praised ACC principal Father William Etheredge for his "total commitment" to the project.
With increased future enrollment expected, Bieterman is doing his part to help ACC keep up with the times.
"Being in (Class) 3A, we're playing with the big boys," said Bieterman. "I look at a school like St. Charles East as one of the top-notch (athletic) facilities in the area. We're not going to be far behind."
You can reach Craig Brueske at firstname.lastname@example.org.