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April 20, 2013

WELCOME HOME: Pirates glad to be back at Charlestown’s newly-renovated park

Providence's Simms earns baseball performer of the week honors

CHARLESTOWN —  The past four seasons, the Charlestown High School baseball team was without a ballpark it could truly call home.

From 2009-12, the Pirates played their home games at Charlestown Little League Park, while they waited for their field on the Charlestown High School campus to be renovated.

On March 29, the wait ended.

The Pirates hosted Rockville that day in the opening round of the Silver Creek Invitational and posted a 3-0 victory. It was the first time Charlestown had a home game on the school grounds since 2008.

Altogether, the Pirates have played nine home games at their newly-renovated pad this season and enjoyed showing off their new field each time.

“It’s been a long time coming. I’m very happy to be over here,” Charlestown baseball coach Ricky Romans said after last Saturday’s home doubleheader sweep of Borden. “Being at the Little League was good for us from an exposure standpoint. It was good to be around the young kids. They had an opportunity to see the high school team and think about being a part of it. I’m very appreciative for the time we got to spend at the Little League.

“But being back here at our place, there is a little bit more normalcy now. Obviously, we have all of our stuff here and it adds a little bit more pride to the program. We’ve got a beautiful facility — I’m very happy with it.”

The Pirates’ home park, which does not have an official name as of yet, has had several upgrades from its previous condition.

The park has brick dugouts, new aluminum bleachers behind home plate, a bigger press box, a more coherent public-address system, new lights and a new irrigation system. There is a warning track in the outfield, which the old park did not have, and four tunnels in the park’s batting cage. The old park only had one tunnel in its batting cage.

The Charlestown baseball team shares the batting tunnels with the school’s softball team, which opened its newly-renovated diamond at the school last season.

The park also has a new scoreboard, which keeps track of the score by innings, total runs, hits and errors for each team and balls and strikes.

“We’ve got a lot of amenities. We’ve got a lot of storage now. There are so many things we’ve never had, and it’s nice to have,” Romans said. “Literally, the entire facility out here is brand new. From the field to all the amenities around it, everything is brand new. There is nothing out here, whether it’s in the softball area or ours, that has anything from the old field.”

The park has bigger dimensions than in the past. The renovated field is 310 feet down each baseline, 335-340 feet in the alleys and 350 to dead center field. The old park was 300 feet down the lines and 335 to center.

Romans says the jury is still out on whether the field is a hitter’s park or pitcher’s park. Entering Thursday’s home game against Scottsburg, the Pirates had been averaging 7.9 runs per game in their home games while allowing 3.3 per contest.

“So far, it’s been tough to tell,” Romans said. “I thought with the smaller dimensions that the ball would get out of here pretty often. But it really hasn’t. Now, there are many reasons for that. The wind does some wonders here. But so far, it’s played as a pitcher’s park. That could very well change.

“Once we get into May and get into a little bit more dry weather, it will be interesting to see how the ball carries then.”

The high school was hoping that the new park would be ready last season. But the field was unplayable because lots of rocks were on the field and there was no irrigation system. Therefore, it was a challenge to grow grass.

The school hired Bill Miller, the baseball coach at Kentucky powerhouse Pleasure Ridge Park in Louisville and the owner of a field-renovation business called Midsouth Baseball, to overhaul the field for the 2013 season.

“They came in and re-did the entire field,” Romans said. “Basically, they stripped everything. They put Bermuda sod in the infield and overseeded it with rye [grass]. We’ve got Bermuda in the outfield with rye as well. [Miller] laser-graded everything.

“More or less, we had to start completely over on the playing surface because it was unsafe.”

Romans said his players love being back in their upgraded park.

“The players are very excited about it,” Romans said. “I tell you one of the biggest reasons why we’re all excited is because everyone that has come and talked to us, whether it would be our opponents or the opposing fans or general people, constantly have nothing but good things to say about our facility.

“For example, [Borden coach Brian] Agnew had a very nice comment to us. He said that they would like to play all of their games here from now on. That means a lot — that means we did things right. People are giving us the input and feedback we were hoping to hear.”

Romans is hopeful the new ballpark will assist Charlestown in hosting the Class 3A sectional in the future.

“That’s something we would love to do. That’s something that we’re planning to do,” Romans said. “We have not sat down and discussed when we want to do it. But that is something we want to be involved in. We want to be able to have people come in here and obviously see our facility. We think this would be a good host place for it.”

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