WASHINGTON, Pa. - Forty-five times a year, Consol Energy Park serves as the home of the Washington Wild Things of the independent Frontier league.
For the past few years, however, it's been a ''field of dreams'' for area high school teams, too.
Now, more than ever before, local baseball teams are taking advantage of the opportunity to take the field at one of the tri-state's best facilities.
A handful of local teams, will play games at Consol this season.
That's music to the ears of Wayne Herrod, special events manager for the Wild Things.
''I really pushed for more games this year,'' Herrod said. ''Last year, we played alot of games here without really pushing it.''
Consol Energy Park has been a hub of non-Wild Things activity since it opened in 2002 as Falconi Field. The facility has been big on college baseball, serving as home of the California (Pa.) Vulcans. West Liberty and Wheeling Jesuit have also played games there.
''They have a 30-year deal with us,'' Herrod noted of Cal.
It's versitility was enhanced three years ago when turf was installed.
''We couldn't do all these games without it,'' Herrod stated. ''It takes about five minutes to take up the area around the plate and get the mound ready and we're ready to go.''
It's more complicated than that. But the turf has limited the number of logistical steps it takes to stage a game. That, in turn has allowed Consol to host more events. Trinity High School in Washington also uses Consol as its home field.
''It's been tremendous,'' Herrod said. ''It was a lot more than I thought it would be.''
Herrod received assistance in drawing area teams to Consol from Justin Edwards. The current West Liberty baseball coach played for the Wild Things for three years (2009-11).
''He gave the link to the (OVAC) website and I emailed all the coaches and probably eight to 10 called,'' Herrod said. ''I think next year I'll have 15 to 20 teams coming from Ohio and West Virginia.''
Teams in the immediate area start playing at Consol on Thursday night when Bellaire and Shadyside battle. First pich is set for 7 p.m.
Shadyside head coach Mike Meintel looked at it as a win-win for both teams.
''My team, coaches, parents and community are excited about it,'' he said. ''It will give the players a chance to experience that pro ballpark feeling.
''It's a great recruiting tool for baseball in general. I hope we can make this an annual event with Bellaire.''
Bellaire head coach John Patrone agreed.
''We are really excited to play there,'' he said. ''It's great that their organization gives high schools the chance to play on a pro field. I think the atmosphere will be great for the fans, too.
Patrone said he was approached by Meintel about moving the game to Consol.
''I asked our AD (Molly Feller) about it and she thought it was a great opportunity,'' Patrone said. ''In fact, she suggested That I ask Mike if we could play the 7 p.m. game so more people could attend.
''I know the boys are looking forward to it.''
Herrod said there is a fee for the teams to ''rent'' the facility. Many times, however, those funds are recouped somewhat through ticket sales conducted by participating schools.
All of the high school and college games conclude by the time the Wild Things start their season. The high school season wraps up with the WPIAL championships. Herrod said Consol recently signed a three-year extension with the league.
''You can get here in pretty good time from a lot of places,'' Herrod noted.
The Wild Things open their season Thursday, May 15 at Florence. The home opener is Tuesday, May 20 vs. Frontier.