The idea began last year when the city was short a few pitching machines for the roughly 35 teams that use Chris Keffalos Park for baseball practice. So the Gathings, who own Bloomfield Machine and Welding, purchased two machines to fill the need.
"This year, we thought, if Farmington has automated batting cages, why shouldn't Bloomfield?" said Mike Gathings. "We're a big baseball community and the kids here really seem to enjoy it. So Joy and I started working on making it happen."
That meant calling on everyone in the area the couple knew to help install the cages before summer. The Gathings' appeals for help have brought together more than 20 individuals and local businesses to pitch in and make their wish to give Bloomfield youth first-rate equipment for practice and play a reality.
"The economy, the way it is, we've called and talked with people, and they said they'd donate money, or, if not, their time or help with pieces of the project," Mike said.
Doug Mize, an engineer at Souder Miller and Associates, agreed to donate design and engineering work for the project.
Ken and Helen Hare, who own Blanco Basin Land & Cattle Company, not far from the baseball field where the cages will be constructed, made a financial contribution on behalf of their business and themselves.
"Joy called us and we were more than happy to help," Helen Hare said.
The outdoor facility will feature four batting cages with pitching machines set at different speeds and lighting that costs roughly $30,000. The Gathings have collected over $5,000 so far along with various materials and equipment supplied by businesses, Joy said.
"What we don't raise, we'll cover," she said. "We are trying to do it as cheaply as possible, but without a doubt, it will be really nice when it's done.
At last Monday's council meeting, the Gathings made the donation official.
City Manager David Fuqua and council members were all smiles and agreed that the parks and recreation department will take ownership of the cages once construction is complete.
"We wholeheartedly thank the Gathings for making these cages possible for the youth in our community," Fuqua said. "This is a big deal."
The Gathings see the cages as more than just providing a local spot for batting practice.
"As a kid growing up, Bloomfield took hind seat a lot, but the city's been good to us," Mike said. "This is a community effort to invest more in our kids, give them a place to do positive things. That's what this means to us."
If you would like to make a contribution to the batting cages project, call Joy Gathing at 505-215-0634.
James Fenton can be reached at email@example.com; 564-4621. Follow him on Twitter @fentondt.