Site changed from Chillicothe to OSU’s Bill Davis Stadium

”It’s gotta be the shoes.”

Yes, Mars Blackmon, it’s about the shoes.

Just like Spike Lee’s alter ego said to Michael Jordan in a series of shoe spots from the late 1980s, shoes can make all the difference in sports.

Or, in the case of the Bellaire baseball team, the metal cleats on those shoes.

When the Big Reds ousted Fort Frye last Friday night to win the district championship, Bellaire Athletic Director Molly Feller received a packet of information from tournament officials detailing the team’s regional tournament trip to Chillicothe.

But by Saturday morning, the destination had changed.

”We found out we couldn’t play in Chillicothe because the turf there doesn’t allow metal cleats,” Feller said.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association had long listed Chillicothe’s Paints Stadium as the regional site. But once Bellaire and Marion Elgin advanced, things changed.

”The issue is that we (state office) didn’t know the stadium had new turf that doesn’t allow for metal cleats,” Tim Stried, the OHSAA’s director of information services, said in an email to The Times Leader. ”We are not going to make Elgin and Bellaire buy new cleats in order to play there.”

The question then became, ”Where will Bellaire play?”

Feller said Saturday morning Columbus arose as the most-likely destination with Otterbein University and Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium at Ohio State as the leading candidates to play host to the contest.

”The state gave us a heads up and I thought they were very good about it,” Feller said. ”I told (OHSAA assistant commissioner Jerry Snodgrass) we’ll play anywhere, anytime. We’re thrilled to be here.”

Finally, Tuesday morning, the OHSAA decided to stage the game at Ohio State. First pitch will be at 5 p.m. Thursday the same time it was supposed to start in Chillicothe. Wheelersburg and Frankfort Adena will still play their regional semifinal in Chillicothe. First pitch there is set for 2 p.m.

”In the end, I think it works out better for everyone,” Feller said. ”It’ll be a great experience for the kids to play at Ohio State.”

Elgin athletic director Jason Hix agreed.

”The venue is closer for both teams and it’s a better facility,” he said. ”It’s a win-win for everyone.”

If Bellaire wins, a site will have to be selected for Friday’s regional final. That location likely won’t be in Columbus and be more suited to a locale between the two winners.

So, instead of having to drive nearly three hours and 200 miles to Chillicothe, the Big Reds and their fans will only have to trek two hours and about 130 miles to the Ohio State campus.

”It’s Ohio State’s field, the Big 10, I’m ready to go,” Bellaire senior Nick Patrone said.

His dad, Big Reds head coach John Patrone, is thrilled for his players, too, but not losing sight of the task at hand.

”It’s not just about being there,” he said. ”It’s nice being on that field, but we have a job to do.”

Thorp can be reached at rthorp@timesleaderonline.com