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Harrison adding baseball, softball, golf practice facility

CADIZ — Reuse/rehab is one of the more popular trends in construction these days. Why build something new if there’s an existing structure that can fulfill a need with a few updates?

At Harrison Central, one of its venerable facilities is taking on new life using that philosophy.

The John W. Stephenson Center — home to the Huskies’ boys’ and girls’ basketball teams and the volleyball program for years — has a new role with the opening this fall of the new Harrison Central K-12 school across the way.

The former industrial arts wing, which sits below and adjacent to athletic facilities, is being transformed into an area that can be used by the school’s baseball, softball and golf teams to fine-tune their games while the weather outside is frightful.

“We’re making it, basically, an indoor facility for baseball, softball and golf,” Harrison Central head baseball coach Mike Valesko explained.

“It will have everything from a golf simulator to batting cages to a putting green. The whole facility will be turf. It’s about 4,600 square feet and the ceilings are roughly 16 feet high, so we’ll have plenty of space.

“The kids are really excited about it.”

This past summer, the space served as a holding area for equipment being moved from the old school to the school new. But once everything was removed, the transition from bandsaws and planers to cages and simulators began.

“We knocked down some walls at the end of last school year,” Valesko explained. “We got a little bit of a late start on it, but myself and (golf) coach (Todd) Dunlap and (softball) coach (Darrin) Young have been working on it.”

Valesko said having such a facility will pay dividends, especially with winter conditions just around the corner.

“Before, we’d have to go to Scio to use batting cages,” Valesko explained. “Getting kids from Cadiz to Scio, especially in the winter, just wasn’t the best situation. So, when this opportunity came up, the school jumped on it.”

Valesko expressed his appreciation to everyone in the district — from Superintendent Dana Snider on down.

“We just have so many great people here,” Valesko said of the district administration. Even though they might not be the baseball coach, or the softball coach, or the golf coach, everyone is pulling in the same direction.”

Valesko pointed to boys’ basketball coach Justin Clifford, who, during the day, serves as an assistant principal for the junior/high school.

“A lot of coaches only look out for their own program, but someone like Justin (who coached the baseball team prior to Valesko) was looking out for everyone in that situation.”

Earlier this summer, the football team saw their locker room and coaches’ office revamped with the boys’ basketball team moving to the new school. Also, LED lighting has been added to the facility.

“The batting cages, with the netting that we bought, you can actually hit golf balls inside it, too,” Valesko said, describing the area’s versatility.

For the baseball team, the new digs will complement new toys they have at Robert Mazeroski Memorial Field at Sally Buffalo Park. There, a state-of-the-art batting facility was constructed recently utilizing grant funds received from the Pirates Charities’ “Fields for Kids” matching grants program.

“Our kids, I don’t want to use the word spoiled, but they are definitely taken care of,” Valesko said. “We have, I believe, the nicest outdoor hitting facility in the State of Ohio.Now, to come inside and have something that’s, I believe, 15 feet from the best weight room in the Ohio Valley.

“It’s tremendous what we have here.”

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