Softball field will be converted for baseball dimensions for 2014 season

The new modular buildings that will house Gervais Middle School this year are all but complete. The buildings sit on the west side of the campus where the high school’s former tennis courts were last year and extend south.

Right on top of what was formerly left field of the varsity baseball field.

While a shortened left field wall 150 feet from home plate would certainly give the Cougars a unique playing experience in 2014, the school district opted to go with a much more practical plan and convert the high school’s varsity softball field for baseball use next season.

“Because we have room out there to extend the fences, and looking at the parameters of it, that’s really the only place we can put it,” said Tim Bowman, Gervais High School athletic director. “We looked at some other options on the back of the crow’s nest and taking it out toward the shop building, but it’s just that the dimensions weren’t there.”

In order to convert the softball field, the school’s maintenance crew will first move the fences back 100 feet.

“And then, of course, we want to move the plate out about 8-10 feet and then start building the diamond from there,” said Bowman.

The school will design the field with the help of varsity baseball coach Lindsay McCargar and maintenance manager Tony Miller. Bowman said the infield will likely mimic the old field, with grass throughout. The only dirt showing would be cut out around the four bases and the pitcher’s mound to prevent mud when the weather inevitably turns wet in the spring.

“It just makes sense playing baseball in March, April and early May that we have as little dirt as possible,” said Bowman.

The time frame for extending the fence is set for mid-October, before the time change from Daylight Savings and the fall rainy season pushes any remaining work to spring.

“We’re hoping to extend the dugouts down the baselines a little further and then enclose them,” said Bowman. “But that probably won’t be this year, just because of timeframe.”

With the baseball team taking over, that leaves the softball team looking for a new playing field as well, and Bowman is considering several options in anticipation of the 2014 season. The field at the new elementary school is an attractive option because it already has dugouts. It would need to be modified to fit play at the high school level, including the addition of netting to prevent foul balls from entering a neighborhood residential area, but that is a minimal expenditure compared to what it would cost to build new dugouts from scratch.

“I know our softball dugouts cost us $9,000 to put in when we did that six years ago,” said Bowman. “I just don’t think we have it in the budget to do it this year.”

The other option is to convert the vacant field that butts up against the fence that borders Highway 99E. That option is favorable to softball coach Kyle Buse because it would leave the elementary school field open for younger teams in the future.

“I’d like to get some kind of a middle school program going again, and if we’re over there using the (elementary) school field, what field are they going to use?” said Buse.

He said that the team can pledge support to help renovate the field and bring it up to OSAA standards.

“I’ve got plenty of parent and player support to put in some hours and make the field playable,” said Buse. “We’re hoping with enough school support and community support, we’ll get that field at the high school set up for next year.”

The decision has yet to be finalized, and Bowman said the school district is still taking bids to see what it would cost to make field modifications. He appears to be leaning toward playing softball at the elementary school in the interim until the school district can raise enough money for dugouts on the field next to Highway 99E.

“I’m not saying that at some point that won’t be the softball field, but the one that is closest to being ready would probably be the grade school field,” said Bowman.

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