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Ahoskie officials need to ‘step to the plate’

Since the first week of May, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons/evenings are set aside for baseball.

No…not the Major League brand of America’s Pastime; not even Minor League or the collegiate level of the game. Rather, my 60 minutes of fandom is spent watching a group of cute, rambunctious, wide-eyed, having-loads-of-fun 5-to-7 year-olds playing T-Ball in the Ahoskie League. My grandson, Brody, is among the aforementioned young’uns.

Over the course of the one-month season – which ends later this week – I’ve watched my grandson, his teammates, and the players on the other teams develop their rough-around-the-edges skills. Brody started off unrefined with a bat in his hand (I expected no less from a 5-year-old), but is developing a good “eye” for the ball. Defensively, he has improved tremendously….that is when he’s actually paying attention to the game rather that chatting with the opposing runner at first base.

I like the facilities – the somewhat new fields at the Ahoskie Creek Park. They are clean and orderly. But what I don’t care for is the lack of maintenance on the infields of the three separate diamonds. They’re extremely hard – basically a thin layer of dirt (more like dust than dirt) – covering what could be best described as concrete.

Those extreme conditions have led to a few minor injuries – scrapes and bruises caused by falling onto this hard playing surface.

Though the exact composition of baseball diamond ‘dirt’ varies with location and climate, it’s usually a mix between 60-70% sand, 20-30% clay, and 10-20% silt.

When the sport first started, baseball diamonds consisted primarily of clay. However, on bright and hot days, the sun would dry the clay out and make the field as hard as a rock. On the other side of the coin, if it rained the field transformed in a slippery mess.

I can attest to the latter scenario. Back during my softball-playing days, our weekend “travel” team – Reid’s Exxon of Rich Square, which later became Dudley’s – participated in one particular tournament in Weldon. The infield was nothing more than red Roanoke River clay.

Early in our first game, a rainshower popped up, causing a brief delay. Upon returning to the field, we had a little fun in sliding into bases. The major downside to that was our uniforms were white, with gold and blue trim.

Our coach – the now late Donnie Joyner – was a stickler when it came to your uniform. He wanted them to look good….I guess so he could appease the team’s sponsor and keep that money rolling in.

Well, you don’t have to imagine what our uniforms looked like after that one particular game. Since we won, and had about five hours to kill before our next game, Donnie ordered us to a laundromat in downtown Weldon. Thankfully, all of us wore sliding shorts, so we stripped down and tossed our clay-covered uniforms in the washing machine.

Next door was a car wash. While we waited for our uniforms to wash and dry, we took turns hosing each other down (on low pressure, of course) to rid our skin of the now hardened clay.

Sorry to get off track, so back to the issue at hand today.

I implore the Town of Ahoskie to contact an expert (preferably a baseball coach) to go out and take a look at the condition of the infields at all three fields. If I had to guess, none of these dirt infields have been drug (with a nail drag) or even raked for that matter.

We’re all well aware that Ahoskie officials totally axed their Recreation Department a couple of years ago. Kudos to those volunteers who have taken over the baseball program.

However, it’s not the volunteers responsibility to perform proper upkeep on the baseball fields. The town needs to “step to the plate” and get the job done – or hire someone that understands field maintenance. Whatever is done, the results of that labor will not be realized until next season.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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