A New Varsity Softball Field for WMHS
As presented to School Committee Meeting on 1/23/2019
Ted Williams once said that “hitting a baseball is the single most difficult thing to do in any sport.” a player who fails at two-thirds of their At-Bats is considered successful. Softball is the same in that respect and important in the High School experience because of that- because it is a game of failure.
On the softball field, these young women learn that failure is just part of the game, you deal with it and move on. They learn how to work as a team, each of them with a different job but functioning together toward a common goal. The game, while simple at its core, is actually quite complicated, involves a variety of different skills and strategies and sometimes requires the individual to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the team. All sports require skills, but not so many diverse skills as are required in this game. The other side of that coin is that size doesn’t matter. There is a place for everyone in this game!
There are many of us who have been kind of surprised and continually disappointed for years in the fact that the WMHS Varsity Softball team has no field on campus to play on. They have been playing at Vets field which is a nice location but it’s a Mens Slowpitch field and 2 miles from the High School Campus.
The High School Campus has a nice Football Field, a nice football “practice“ field and Track & Field facility (which I know at one point took a lot of work to make happen), nice tennis courts, a beautiful baseball facility (on which they have approved spending another $200,000) and a run-down, virtually unused softball field (“Blatz”) at the North end of the campus behind the Woodville School.
Except for the softball field, we think this is great. A few years ago, they did a great job on the Fieldhouse renovation taking a tired old 1970’s facility that was never that good (I was there when it was new, class of ‘76) and turned it into an excellent facility. That’s what we would like to do with Blatz. WMHS has an excellent campus, but the aforementioned sports facilities had fallen into disrepair, some to the point of being unusable, before they were upgraded. So it is now with the Softball field.
We feel the time is past due that we take that remnant of pre-title IX policy and turn it into a real field. As with the other sports at the high school, our goal is a quality, regulation field that everyone wants to play on. This doesn't just show Wakefield’s commitment to the sport but it also gives the players a sense of pride in the sport that they play and who they represent. We do not intend to undermine any other projects in the process, we just want to do the right thing that will provide the greatest benefit for all. Something the team, the school and the town can be proud of.
The renovation we are proposing would cost less than the $200,000 they are talking about for the baseball field improvements, and would create a paradigm shift where this softball field would no longer be something to joke about but rather take pride in. We don't disagree with performing those improvements to the baseball field, but without them the team can still play there. It's not like they would have to drive 2 miles to share a field with a rec league.
The issue of constructing a new high school has always been in the forefront of any conversation about improving Blatz. Since 2008 when my 24-year-old daughter was 13, until now, it's been kind of an urban myth that no one knows where it started, but folks just keep repeating the story that someone else told them. The rumor says that Blatz is needed either to build the new school on or as a laydown area for construction materials, depending on who you talk to. Two of the three of us working on this proposal are construction professionals, familiar with large projects and we can assure you that the High School site is tight and will require a great deal of planning to execute. In our opinion, Contractors would be reluctant to use Blatz if for no other reason than it would require construction vehicles accessing the site through a parking lot being used by High School students/personnel and while K-4 students are being dropped off for school.
The town has taken the first step toward a new High School which is the submission of the Statement of Interest (SOI). Notification of approval (or not) of that SOI will be in December 2019. this leads to the next step- the Invitation to enter the Eligibility Period. It is good this process has begun, but it is a process that best case won’t get in the ground until Summer 2024. Therefore it is premature to speculate that anything has already been established, including the date of breaking ground, the location of the footprint, laydown area, site access during construction, etc. The process will take about 5 years (from January 2019) before they can break ground, providing SOI is approved. If you want to look at a viable solution to getting the new High School built, you should be looking toward Walsh Field, which could be relocated as part of the new school work. Wakefield needs a new high school, there is no question and that should and will happen regardless of what happens at Blatz, but that should not interfere with the construction of this field. Unfortunately with the timeline required for approvals (May), the Softball field construction can not be completed in time for the Varsity team to play their 2019 season there, but we can get it in place for the entirety of the 2020 season. That will affect a lot of high school softball players. Some will finish their high school careers on a great field while others will play their entire high school careers knowing nothing else.
As you probably know, 2 of the 3 of us no longer have kids in the school system, we are just trying to
do the right thing.