Trent Maloney Memorial advocates for baseball fields

Mother of late 9-year-old offers to lead fundraising campaign
By: 
Warren Bluhm
News Editor

The memory of 9-year-old Trent Maloney is fueling a drive to build a varsity baseball field or fields at the new Oconto Falls Middle School.

Trent died Feb. 28, 2020, of complications from cardiac arrest a few weeks earlier, and his mother, Randi Maloney, appeared before the Oconto Falls School Board on April 8 to ask their support in the endeavor.

Family and friends created Trent Maloney Memorial Inc., which has provided more than $6,000 in scholarships to seven Oconto Falls High School students over the past two years. Its biggest event is a baseball and softball tournament on the second Saturday in August, which started in 2021.

Maloney said the goal is to build new baseball fields on the middle school property and have naming rights in honor of her late son. The group is asking the school board to commit to building the fields with the support of Trent Maloney Memorial Inc. and allow them to help seek donations.

“We want to create something permanent, and we want Trent’s name attached so his friends, family and community can remember him for years to come,” she said.

The varsity and junior varsity teams are currently bused to Abrams for practices and games, and Maloney said having the fields at the new middle school would save that almost-daily 28-mile round trip.

The memorial organization is willing to provide seed money for the project and help raise further donations if it has the school board’s blessing, she said. Its wish is that the Class of 2029, which would have been Trent’s graduating class, would be able to play on the new fields when they enter high school in the fall of 2026.

The ball fields were in the original plans for the middle school that were rejected by voters in $49.9 million April 2022 referendum, but they were removed along with a number of unrelated projects for a successful $37.6 million referendum that November.

President Clint Gardebrecht told Maloney the board is sympathetic to the cause.

“We sincerely appreciate you bringing the community involvement and everything around Trent and everything that represents,” Gardebrecht said, but he and other board members hesitated to make a commitment right away because of the fiscal issues.

The middle school construction is ahead of schedule and under budget so far, so some funds might remain in contingency to be used toward the athletic fields. However, Gardebrecht said that project would have to compete with the other needs that were set aside between April and November 2022.

That said, he said the board is interested in continuing discussions.

Twenty-year board member Ken Harter, serving his last full meeting after deciding not to run for reelection this year, cautioned that it would be premature to make a commitment before mid- to late summer.

“We’ve been concentrating on getting this building built,” Harter said. “There’s been a lot of discussion by a lot of groups on what they would like to see developed on that land. You make a good point that these are facilities we don’t have that are convenient and meet the needs, but I think the best bet is to get the building built and then we can start looking at the use of the rest of the land.”

Having a group ready and willing to work on a fundraising campaign is a plus for the project, he added.

Superintendent Dean Hess said he’s been told that the campaign to build the high school softball fields, which took place before his arrival, really took off once construction began.

“Sometimes people will hold back until they know that you’re serious, and when they see that they say, ‘OK, you’re going to make this happen; I’ll step forward.’”

The board did commit to a feasibility study for the baseball field project.

Board member Emilie Trudell told Maloney that she wished the mother didn’t have to be there under these circumstances.

“During the presentation, I kept thinking I wish they wouldn’t even have to be here to present this,” Trudell said. “But how amazing of the Trent Maloney Memorial group to turn something very, very sad into such an amazing opportunity for our community.”

wbluhm@newmedia-wi.com