Garaway seeks community support for synthetic infields for baseball, softball

Garaway seeks community support for  synthetic infields for baseball, softball

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With long-term savings and safety in mind, Garaway High School is currently moving toward a huge improvement project for its baseball and softball facilities, with the end goal being the installation of synthetic turf that would create several key benefits to the school and community.

The decision to pursue new turf infields for both fields came with plenty of thought and discussion, and the committee hopes the community will understand the value in terms of finances and work in caring for the fields.

“This whole thing began primarily focused on baseball because over the years the infield has developed a severe lip,” said Chip Amicone, Garaway High School athletic director and committee member.

He said the school has done plenty of cosmetic surgery on the infield over the years, trying to fix and reshape the dangerous lip on the infield on both the front and back of the dirt area.

“We were continuing to nickel and dime it, and we weren’t getting any closer to a solution,” Amicone said. “We had a company come in, and it was going to be close to $50,000 for them to come in and level out just the back of the infield. That didn’t even include the pitcher’s mound or home plate areas that were also in need of repair.”

Amicone said the school would have to come up with a way to seed or sod areas of the field, and the company that quoted them was going to do the work before the season, but they called and said they were booked and couldn’t do it by then.

Amicone was in the process of having parent-athlete meetings at the beginning of the school year and began inquiring of the parents as to their feelings about putting in new turf.

“I was sort of joking, but the more people I talked to, the more we realized that we would never have to deal with these issues ever again if we got turf,” Amicone said.

The idea was a home run with parents, and the idea began gaining some momentum. In came Matt Mullen, who had guided the group that built the turf for the football field, and he provided some guidance for the ad hoc committee to work with.

Then things got serious, and Amicone said the small, unofficial group who was searching for answers decided if they really wanted to pursue turf the right way, they would need an official committee.

They quickly realized if they were doing it for the baseball field, they needed to also add the softball field to fix all the issues at one time.

“We felt that if we were asking the community for that amount of money, it made no sense to turn right around and ask them for more two years later,” Amicone said.

By June the committee was rolling and received approval to move forward from the Garaway Schools board in June.

Not long after that, the committee created pledge forms and began canvassing the area businesses that might be willing to donate in kind or financially. They also got forms in the hands of parents with youth coming up through the program, knowing those youngsters would gain full benefits from the new infields.

“We’ve been very encouraged with the meetings we have had and some to come that will be big meetings,” Amicone said.

The committee’s goal is sizeable. Amicone said the hope is to get all the money pledged by the end of July, which creates a window to get the fields in place for next season.

“The further we go into August, our chances dwindle, and if we get to September, I doubt there will be a chance to get it done before the spring season,” Amicone said.

The committee connected with The Vasco Group, a well-known company that constructs projects like this, and the estimate for both infields, which would extend 10 feet past the infield dirt on the baseball diamond, would be $531,000.

Many of those asked to donate have asked about the merit of turf and the cost of the upkeep of the current fields. Amicone said the current process has been trying to constantly fix and refix the fields.

“The turf is permanent,” Amicone said.

One of the reasons the Garaway community is excited about the idea of a new turf field is because they have seen the benefits from the football field. In addition, several counties have gone this route to save time and money over the years, and Amicone said the projection is other schools will go to turf, especially with spring baseball and softball teams playing so many games in such a short period during the spring when weather can wreak havoc on schedules and games are lost because schools can’t reschedule them without dropping other games.

“It’s difficult to tell people exactly what we will be saving financially because we have invested so much money into nickel and diming these fields over the years,” Amicone said.

That process has included picking up brick powder at Beldon Brick and scattering it around the field to build up the base, a process that can introduce small chunks of brick into the field.

“I can’t begin to tell you how much time we have invested as staff, coaches and even players in terms of preparing these fields,” Amicone said. “It would be costly to have someone come in and do that. The time savings is immeasurable.”

The new turf would allow games to be played even if it rains right up to and into game days.

“There’s so many benefits to turf,” Amicone said.

Then there are the safety factors. With the drastic drop or increase in elevation from the infield to the outfield, Amicone said they are fortunate nobody has been badly injured trying to make a play and having a misstep on the large lip.

Packets spelling out the exact steps in the project are available, and there are three ways people or businesses can pledge. The first is a one-time donation, the second is one check per year up to five years and the third is to donate monthly over 60 months.

Amicone said every little bit helps them inch closer to the turf project becoming a reality.

Anyone wishing to donate or who would like further information can contact any of the committee members, who will get them a donation packet.

“It’s a chance for our community to be a part of the legacy of the school in improving our facilities and expanding opportunities for our athletes in future generations,” Amicone said. “It’s exciting to think about, especially for our athletes.”

Checks can be made out to Garaway Athletic Boosters and include “Baseball/Softball Turf Project” on the memo line. Checks and donation pledges can be sent to P.O. Box 5, Sugarcreek, OH 44681.

Jordan Hartzler is the committee chair, Alisha Numbers is the treasurer and Amber Miller is the secretary. Other committee members include Chip Amicone, Justin Elmore, Ari Yoder, Andrew Gordon, Mike Yoder, Matt Mullen, Anna Kimble, Beth Amicone, Allison Stutzman, Stacee Miller, Dale Lendon, Brian Sitzlar, Mandy Sitzlar, Rick Johnson, Brad Misko, Cathleen Misko, Lisa Keller, Brooks Numbers, Jess Numbers, Ian Numbers, Seth Gerber, Josh Starner, Jon King, Andrew Miller, Ben Minard and Angie Herman.