Barnesville shows off new diamond in Beast

BARNESVILLE – The Beast of the East utilizes basically every baseball diamond in the area during the annual event.

Only one, however, is often times referred to as ‘Beast Heaven’ by the teams and umpires assigned there.

Yes, the newly remodeled diamond at Memorial Park is that place and it didn’t take the upgrades to earn it that name.

Because of the work of the late Paul Reed in getting the Beast of the East to western Belmont County and now his surviving family’s efforts to maintain the level of hospitality and support, Barnesville has become a site that people are anxious to get to during the four-day Edgar Martin Classic.

“Barnesville has always been a baseball town,” Barnesville High School head baseball coach D.J. Butler, who was serving as the public address announcer and official scorekeeper for the Beast, said. “I think the number of people who turn out to watch these games kind of proves that.”

During a morning game on Friday, the stands behind home plate were packed. And most of those were wearing their Shamrocks’ gear.

“They just come out to watch baseball,” Butler said. “A lot of communities in the Valley, it’s football first and then maybe basketball, so it’s awesome to have this kind of support for baseball.”

The Barnesville site, which has hosted the 16U division all weekend, will welcome teams that finished fourth place in their pools today as the Edgar Martin Classic winds down.

“The atmosphere that we have here is something the teams look forward to,” Butler said. “Paul Reed’s family has taken over since he passed away and they’ve just continued to do an outstanding job. I was honored when they asked me to help them.”

The Beast of the East has been coming to Barnesville for the entire eight years that Butler has been affiliated with the Shamrocks’ program.

“I think our park is as nice as any in the area, so it’s nice to be able to showcase it through this event,” Butler said.

The showcasing consisted of basically an entirely new field, but most of the work, which caused Barnesville’s high school team to move down the road on State Route 800 during the spring, probably isn’t even noticeable by the average fan.

“From the sprinklers to the water lines, new sod and the finishing touches like the crushed brick have allowed it to come a long way,” Butler said. “Basically, the entire field is brand new. Even the infield has a different infield mix on it.”

When the project began after the weather finally broke, the Beast of the East was kind of the target event. It was done prior to that and the park has played host to youth league games, slow-pitch softball and hosted the East Ohio Colt Tournament just last weekend.

The new infield mix was tested during the colt tournament. Despite what Butler called a “steady rain for 45 minutes,” the field didn’t even require any diamond dry.

“We just walked right out and played,” Butler said. “Between the material and the drainage system, it’s definitely served it’s purpose.”

According to Butler, much of the funding for the field project came from the ‘Home Run Club’ in Barnesville, which benefits baseball from high school down to the youth programs. The Village of Barnesville also played a huge role and brought S&S Field Company in from Pennyslvania to finish the project, including putting the infield material and building the mounds.

“The Operators’ Union Apprenticeship Program did a lot of the early labor, including the drainage,” Butler said. “Then we just had a huge number of community members donate hours and time out here.”

The outfield – along with having new sod – was leveled and graded off, which Butler thinks might be the most noticeable part for the average onlooker.

“You could sit here (in the stands) and look out to left field and you might only see the outfielder from his knees up, literally,” Butler said. “The foul lines would disapper as you got down to the pole and it’s functional to where the grades meet the drains.”

‘Beast Heaven’ plans on welcoming back the event in 2015 and beyond.