White Sox’s Nicky Lopez returns to Naperville to help open new turf field

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Naperville Central High School alum and current Chicago White Sox shortstop Nicky Lopez rounded the bases back to his roots on Saturday, May 11, as he threw out one of the ceremonial first pitches at the official opening of Naperville’s first synthetic turf baseball field.

You know, I only grew up probably, you know, two minutes down the road. So we used to come here all the time and, and play,” said Lopez.

Field #5 gets new look with synthetic turf surface

But Field #5 at DuPage River Sports Complex at 2807 Washington Street now has quite a different look, thanks to a collaboration between the Naperville Park District and the Naperville Little League.

“So, Naperville Little League baseball approached the park district a few years ago with an interest in introducing synthetic turf ball fields in the community,” said Naperville Park District Executive Director Brad Wilson. “And certainly we saw that as a great partnership opportunity, and our board of commissioners was very supportive and we worked out an agreement, moved forward, and now we’re standing on the first of what will likely be a few fields in the community.” 

Chicago White Sox partnership with Naperville Little League helped make upgrade possible

Also playing a part in the new field was Lopez’s team, the Chicago White Sox, whose five-year partnership with Naperville Little League helped free up some funds for the cause. 

“So the partnership with the White Sox really began with their jersey program, and what that is is they bring the sponsorship of all the jerseys and hats to our program which saves us a lot of money, and with that we were able to reinvest those funds into different ventures, such as something like the synthetic turf field,” said President of the Naperville Little League Board David Page.  

The Naperville Little League chipped in $100,000 of the roughly $275,000 needed to make the switch.

“Baseball and softball have been ingrained in American culture for generations,” said Naperville Park Board President Mary Gibson. “And to continue the tradition of America’s pastime here in our community, it’s important that youth ballplayers have access to exceptional facilities like this, where they can learn, play, and most importantly, have fun.” 

Benefits of synthetic turf fields

The turf field has some benefits over a natural grass field as it allows games to be played whether rain or shine, helping to avoid rescheduling issues.  

“Because of the drainage, it allows you to play when there’s a little bit of rain or rain the night before,” said Chicago White Sox Director of Youth Baseball Michael Huff.  “You’re not putting some types of dust or diamond dry on puddles, you’re not worried about raking a field hoping that the sound of the wind can dry it up, you are able to have both practices and games almost at any type of condition, so you don’t have as many games being backed up.”

More turf makeovers to come in Naperville

Next up in the lineup of field replacements is one at Knoch Park, which should be ready for play in 2025. 

But in the meantime, this new generation of players is ready to batter up at DuPage River Sports Complex’s newly renovated Field #5, with big league dreams that someday, just might come true.  

“I was in their shoes at one point, I was a little kid aspiring to be a Major League Baseball player.  And now to be in my shoes to be able to get back in and make these kids days and get them happy and excited about baseball is special,” said Lopez.

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