By Jonathan Deal
When baseball and softball seasons open Monday, the ballfields at East Limestone will be eerily quiet. The school’s fields were ripped apart by the deadly storms last April and have yet to be repaired.
Understandably, there were more important things than sports to think about following the storm’s aftermath, but that doesn’t change the fact the Indians’ baseball and softball teams will not play a single home game in 2012.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” East Limestone head baseball coach Bill Tribble said about playing every game on the road. “It’s definitely going to be challenging. We don’t have any choice though. We’re going to play with the hand we’re dealt. We’ve talked to the guys about not using this as an excuse this year.”
The baseball and softball fields suffered extensive damage. The fierce winds from the April 27 storms blew away the visitor’s dugout along with the adjacent backstop. The storm was so strong it destroyed a new batting cage facility at the center of the complex. Other parts of the complex such as light poles, chain-link fences and storage building will have to be repaired before the team can play on the fields.
“The only thing I’m worried about is when they start putting up new lights and having to run new lines, I’m hoping they won’t tear our fields up,” Tribble said. “But they may just be part of progress. We’ve cleaned it up as much as possible. It’s terrible for our seniors but it helped us do some things facility-wise that needed to be done. It will still be better when it’s all said and done.”
Since January, East’s baseball and softball teams have battled a wet winter trying to get practice time in the small window of daylight after school each day. So far, East Limestone coaches say the unusual setting hasn’t affected the players.
“It’s trying find somewhere every day to do something,” East softball head coach Brett Nave said. “We’re fighting Mother Nature with the weather and daylight. The constant travel is going to wear on us. I’m anxious to see how it does with both programs when we’ve played 20 games.”
As the team travels more and more this season, so will a caravan of cars filled with family and friends. It’s the extra cost of gas and other factors that go unseen according to Tribble.
“This thing is affecting not only baseball, but our local community,” he said. “Our local pizza place and Dip and Dogs. It’s hurting their business. East Limestone’s umpire association probably provided $10,000 worth of games. Our umpires our going to be taking a big hit.”
As winter begins to fade, the East Limestone community prepares for its first spring without a baseball season in some time. The empty ballfields serve as another reminder of the devastation caused last April.