To the editor:
I have followed the recent discussions regarding the future of Nevada’s Billy Sunday Field (BSF) with great interest.
I have spent countless summer evenings at the diamond over the years, first while growing up here and now as public address announcer for NHS baseball games. Over the last couple decades, I have witnessed many needed improvements to the field and to the complex, such as spacious new dugouts, a new scoreboard, new batting cages and a new concession/restroom building. I have also witnessed all-too-many moments of shock and awe after watching nearby Indian Creek become a river and cover BSF with creek water and mud due to flooding. As a baseball fan, I appreciate the rich history and character which BSF possesses. As a taxpayer though, I question the prudence of continuing to throw tax dollars at a field which sees more than its share of flood damage and subsequent cleanup. I think the time is upon us as a community to consider construction of a new high school baseball complex ,located at SCORE.
Inclement weather is an obstacle shared by all baseball programs here in Iowa. In Nevada though, it is particularly challenging, since the town’s only high school baseball diamond sits in a flood plain. Not only is flooding a constant concern, but due to the high water table and poor drainage, the field is very slow to dry out and is often unusable up to several days after a rain. The end result is a loss of valuable practice time, lost home games or the “stacking” of games several days in a row. Not only is the program at a competitive disadvantage in these situations, it increases the injury potential for pitchers when recovery periods for their arms are shortened.
Extra road games create an unnecessary financial burden on our student-athletes, their families and the school district. In my senior year of high school, 1990, West Marshall graciously allowed us to play several of our home games on their diamond in State Center because BSF was flooded. Portions of the seasons of 1993, 1996, 1998, 2008, 2009 and 2013 were disrupted for weeks at a time due to flooding. Not having home games means no gate revenue for the school, no valuable concession income for the Booster Club and no extra traffic in town to stop at local businesses. Perhaps most important is the perception it leaves with our student-athletes, coaches and community that baseball is a second-class sport. I speak from experience, having honestly felt that way many times over the course of my 41 years here in Nevada.
Even if a new diamond is not built, at minimum the city is going to be looking at new lights for BSF. The current lights are too low, do not provides a safe light output and are simply outdated. Now their reliability for practice and games is an issue. Moving to day games would have a devastating impact on the program. Kids would have to choose between baseball and summer jobs or other sports practices, many families would not be able to see their children play and it would make it that much harder to find coaches and event workers. The school would be faced with hiring younger and more inexperienced umpires, since most high school umpires have full-time jobs.
I sincerely hope that the city and school board can find common ground and make a new high school baseball complex a reality. Our student-athletes deserve a facility which is removed from a flood plain, is safely lit and has dugouts where the paint isn’t falling off and the tops aren’t missing shingles. The school district has just finished a $17 million investment in our children. Some of that money went to renovate and upgrade facilities that the city uses, at no cost, for their programs. As a donor from the original SCORE fundraiser over a decade ago, I made a similar investment in our children to provide funds to be used for a new high school baseball facility. I feel it is now time for the city to answer the challenge and acknowledge its responsibilities in order to meet the needs of our school district and our citizens.