Leveling the playing field

Baseball is a game of many small matchups. Teams battle for each pitch, at bat, and inning. Whoever wins the most comes out on top. But one battle players should not have to fight is for adequate field conditions. Here at Hinsdale Central, we have a problem that’s been brushed aside for too long. The baseball field has been neglected and is not up to standard with the rest of our facilities.

I’ve grown up with baseball since I was 5, and I have always had a better experience playing on better fields. Before and after each game and practice, our entire team takes the diamond for maintenance- raking basepaths, filling in the boxes and mounds, and placing tarps over the field to protect it from the harsh midwest weather. We take pride in our field maintenance, but we can’t fix everything.

The most glaring field issue is that the infield is about 8 inches above the outfield. This poses a safety hazard and causes errant bounces for grounders, adding uncertainty to the game.  On outfield cutoffs and shallow fly balls, there is a lot of traffic by umpires and players in this area. Tracking the play and listening for call outs, there is no time for them to check their footing, and the uneven terrain poses clear injury risk. This issue directly affects every game played at our field.

To hear another voice on this topic, I sat down with Athletic Director Dan Jones to ask him a few questions. He told me that athletics budgets are first determined by needs, then wants. He agreed that the baseball field needs surfacing renovations to be a safe place to play. I then brought up a want for the field.

Jones agreed that the flexibility of playing games at night would be advantageous, allowing games to start and end later. Installing lights would benefit the program because it reduces the impact weather has on the season.

Using the website sportsvenuecalculator.com, I calculated the total cost for purchasing and installing a new lighting range for the varsity field: $407,000. However, with the Chicago Cubs Diamond Project Grant that provides accepted Illinois schools with up to $150,000 for field renovations and lighting installation, this brings the price down to $257,000. This may seem expensive, but it pales in comparison to the new $22,000,000 pool. It can be argued that the pool is used much more, but I would disagree that the difference is that high. For every baseball game, are there 192 swimming races? If you measure dollars per player per game, that’s what the numbers say.

The baseball team has won conference back to back years in the most competitive conference in the state. Why should such a successful program have to play on a field with such glaring flaws? We need to shine light on this issue and build a solid home for our winning tradition. It’s time to level the playing field.