CADIZ — The wait is over. When the home plate umpire yells “Play Ball” on Saturday, it will mark the start of Harrison Central’s new all-court baseball and softball complexes.
The Huskies’ “Fields of Dreams” will hold opening days as the softball team entertains Buckeye Local at 2 p.m. at its on-campus facility while the baseball team hosts Shenandoah at noon at the renovated Mazeroski Field inside Sally Buffalo Park.
“It really is a dream come true. It is priceless. It’s everything we asked for and more.” softball coach Darrin Young spoke about the nearly $2.5 million facility. “It’s kind of nice to come here and not have to worry about dragging and lining up the pitch. You throw three bases there and you’re good to go.
“We’ve played a few scrums on it so far. It plays really, really well. Young added. “I thought it would play a little fast, but it’s like dirt. The girls were pleasantly surprised at how it played out.
Young said he was approached by members of the Harrison Hills School Board about two years ago about the possibility of developing land on the school’s campus.
“They said they had a little land available. They weren’t sure if a softball field would fit in there, but they told me to see if I could make one. said Young. “I did some research and found a (NCAA) Division II school in Decatur, Illinois, – Milliken University – that had really nice terrain. We pretty much mirrored our resort after theirs.
Grass fields are becoming the thing of the future, according to Young.
“Edison has gone all-terrain and there are other schools that are considering going there,” he added. “It will be expensive initially, but there will be no cost to maintain it, mow it, water it, line it, etc.”
The dimensions are 220 feet along the right and left field lines and 235 down the center. There are bleacher seats for approximately 225 fans directly behind home plate. A spacious press box behind home plate sits atop a building that houses a clubhouse with lockers for each team member, restrooms and showers; as well as a concession stand and public restrooms. A terrace with tables and chairs surrounds the press box. The team canoes are of the hollow type and offer plenty of space. A batting cage is located outside the playing surface on the right field line.
The infield and warning track are a mixture of reddish-colored Washington Ball. The green outfield has strips of all types with a huge colored HC located in center field.
“It triggers the whole place,” Young noted.
“The warning track around the pitch is a different material. It creaks when you walk on it. said Harrison Central athletic director Ray Hibbs. “It’s like a real warning track should be.”
Hibbs also said the outfield area was a few inches larger than the infield area.
A multitude of companies were involved in the construction, Hibbs said.
Harrison Central had used the Cravat Coal Cadiz Girls Softball Complex atop Sally Buffalo Park since its consolidation in 2000.
“It has gradually improved over the years” said Hibbs. “It took a lot of hard work from a lot of people to get to where it is today.”
The Motz Group, of near Cincinnati, did the turf work. He also did turf work at Wagner Field several years ago. Hammond Construction of Canton is handling the other work.
“It’s going to be special” Young said of Saturday’s home opener. “I’ve been to college softball facilities that don’t look like this.”
The BASEBALL team has played its games at Mazeroski Field since consolidation, but only owned the facilities earlier this year when it purchased the eight acres from Cadiz Village.
The sale of the baseball field was completed in late January, according to Harrison Hills Schools Superintendent Dana Snider. The village of Cadiz received $100,000.
“First of all, we are extremely grateful to the administration, the school board and everyone involved at the school for providing this opportunity for the children. Our school district has done a phenomenal job investing in our children in all aspects of their lives,” said baseball head coach Mike Valesko. “We believe we have the best educational facility anyone can have, as well as some of the best sports facilities you will find in the country. We believe that every time you invest in children, you can’t make the wrong decision.
“Getting to the point where the facility is ready for opening day was really great teamwork. The work of our architectural firm, Thrasher Group, and contractor, Border Patrol, has been amazing,” Valesko continued. “We believe Thrasher Group has designed the best baseball facility you can imagine and Border Patrol has made that dream come true.”
Valesko said the new facility is not just for today’s children, but also for the future.
“The all-grass facility will impact generations of children in our community. We are thrilled to not only host our high school games, but also help develop talent in Harrison County,” he underlined. “The facility will provide our guests with an incredible experience while providing our children with great opportunities to achieve their goals.”
The dimensions are the same as before – 320 feet along the right and left field lines and 375 in the center.
“It was an excellent decision on the part of the village of Cadiz”, Snider said, referring to the district’s ability to begin construction last year in order to be ready to play this spring.
“We are very grateful to the village” Snider said.
Five accessory structures including a two-story concessions/press room, two dedicated restrooms, a dugout with clubhouse, and a dugout with a storage area. The project includes bleachers for 500 spectators, a batting cage, parking for approximately 150 vehicles, all necessary fencing to enclose the facility and other works.
(Reporter JD Long contributed to this story.)