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Harrison Central will debut its new all-turf athletic fields on Saturday

Pictured is the softball field on the Harrison Central High School campus in Cadiz.

CADIZ — The wait is over. When the home plate umpire yells ‘Play Ball’ Saturday, it will mark the debut of Harrison Central’s new all-turf baseball and softball complexes..

The Huskies’ “Fields of Dreams” will hold opening days as the softball team entertains Buckeye Local at 2 p.m. at its on-campus facility while the baseball team hosts Shenandoah at noon at remodeled Mazeroski Field inside Sally Buffalo Park.

“It’s truly a dream come true. It’s priceless. It’s everything we asked for and more,” softball coach Darrin Young said of the nearly $2.5 million facility. “It’s kind of nice to come here and not have to worry about dragging and lining the field. You throw three bases out there and you’re ready to go.”

“We’ve played a couple of scrimmages on it so far. It plays really, really well,” Young added. “I thought it would play a little fast, but it is similar to dirt. The girls were pleasantly surprised with how it plays.”

Young said he was approached by members of the Harrison Hills school board about two years ago about the possibility of developing a field on the school campus.

“They said they had a small piece of ground available. They didn’t know whether a softball field would fit in it, but they told me to see if I could make one fit,” Young said. “I did some research and found a (NCAA) Division II school in Decatur, Ill., — Milliken University — that had a really nice field. We pretty much mirrored our complex after theirs.”

Turf fields are becoming the thing of the future, according to Young.

“Edison has gone all-turf and there are some other schools thinking about going to it,” he added. “It will be expensive up front, but there will be no cost to maintain it, mow it, water it, line it, etc.”

The dimensions are 220-feet down the right and left field lines, and 235 to center. There is bleacher seating for approximately 225 fans directly behind home plate. A spacious press box behind home plate sits atop a building that houses a home clubhouse with lockers for each team member, restrooms and showers; as well as a concession stand and public restrooms. A terrace with tables and chairs surrounds the press box. The team dugouts are the sunken down variety and provide a lot of room. A batting cage is located outside the playing surface down the rightfield line.

The infield and warning track are a Washington Ball mixture of a reddish color. The green outfield has strippings of all different types with an enormous colorful HC located in centerfield.

“That sets off the entire place,” Young noted.

“The warning track around the field is a different material. It kind of crunches when you step on it,” Harrison Central Athletic Director Ray Hibbs said. “It’s like a real warning track should be.”

Hibbs also said the outfield surface is a couple of inches higher than the infield surface.

A multitude of companies had a hand in the construction, Hibbs said.

Harrison Central had used the Cravat Coal Cadiz Girls Softball Complex high atop Sally Buffalo Park since its consolidation in 2000.

“It got progressively better as the years went on,” Hibbs said. “It took a lot of work by a lot of individuals to get it to where it is today.”

The Motz Group, from near Cincinnati, did the turf work. It also did the turf work at Wagner Field several years ago. Hammond Construction of Canton is doing the other work.

“It’s going to be special,” Young said of Saturday’s home opener. “I’ve been to some college softball facilities that don’t look like this.”

THE BASEBALL team has played its games at Mazeroski Field since the consolidation, but didn’t own the facility until earlier this year when it purchased the eight acres from the Village of Cadiz.

Sale of baseball field was completed in late January, according to Harrison Hills Schools Superintendent Dana Snider. The village of Cadiz received $100,000.

“First of all, we’re extremely thankful for the administration, school board and everyone involved at the school to provide this opportunity for the kids. Our school district has done a phenomenal job with investing in our kids in every aspect of their life,” head baseball coach Mike Valesko said. “We feel that we have the best educational facility that anyone can have, as well as some of the best athletic facilities that you’ll find in the country. We’re true believers that anytime you invest in kids you can’t make a bad decision.

“To get to the point where the facility is ready for opening day has really been a great team effort. The work that our architect company, Thrasher Group, and the contractor, Border Patrol, has been amazing,” Valesko continued. “We believe that Thrasher Group designed the best baseball facility you’ll imagine and Border Patrol put that dream to reality.”

Valesko said the new facility isn’t just for kids today, but for the future, as well.

“The all-turf facility will impact generations of kids in our community. We’re excited to not only host our high school games but also help develop the talent in Harrison County,” he stressed. “The facility will provide our guests an amazing experience while also giving our kids great opportunities to achieve their goals.”

The dimensions are the same as before — 320-feet down the right and left field lines and 375 to center.

“It was a great decision by the village of Cadiz,” Snider said, referring to the district’s ability to begin construction last year in order to be ready to play this spring.

“We’re very thankful to the village,” Snider said.

Five accessory structures including a two-story concessions/press box, two dedicated restroom facilities, a home dugout with clubhouse, and an away dugout with a storage area. The project includes bleacher seating for 500 spectators, a batting cage, parking for approximately 150 vehicles, all fencing required for enclosing the facility, and other work.

(Staff reporter J.D. Long contributed to this story.)

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