Hendrick asks county to help softball team light field

By Allen Worrell

February 26, 2014

One Carroll County supervisor hopes his fellow board members will help Carroll County High School’s softball program turn on the lights.

During the Carroll County Board of Supervisors’ Feb. 10 meeting, Laurel Fork District Supervisor Joshua Hendrick asked the county to take a look at helping the CCHS softball program complete its goal of installing lights on the high school softball field. Hendrick said the softball team has worked hard to raise money to come up with a lighting system, and he’d like to see the county help the team fund the project.

“The CCHS softball team and the school administration didn’t ask me to bring this up, the coaching staff didn’t ask me to, I just wanted to because these kids and coaching staff have worked hard,” Hendrick said. “They are trying to raise basically $36,000 and they’ve got $27,000. They are trying to do a push to raise the last $9,000 and get them up this spring. So I would like for the board to consider helping them and more or less reward their hard work they’ve done raising money, and not going to the school administration and not going to the board to start with. They are real close to their goal, but I just ask you all to consider that and look at it next month.”

Contacted by The Carroll News about the softball team’s fundraising efforts, CCHS head softball coach Rick Nester said the $36,000 figure is a “soft estimate” for construction. As of Feb. 19, the softball program had raised just over $30,000. He said many people have been instrumental in supporting the fundraising effort, including CCHS Principal Chuck Thompson and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Strader Blankenship.

“The idea started last year and then we started working on it on a regular basis this past fall. During this entire process, Mr. Thompson and Mr. Blankenship have been very supportive,” Nester said. “It’s not been just the softball team. The administration, parents, community, and businesses in the community have helped us a tremendous amount.”

Fundraising efforts have been wide and varied. The softball program is in its third year of selling banners for the softball fence, with all of the proceeds going toward the lights. Members and friends of the team also parked cars during the annual Gun Show and Flea Market, while a fundraiser will start in March to sell coupon books through McDonald’s.

“We’ve been reaching out to local businesses on pretty much a daily basis now since December,” Nester said. “We’ve had anonymous donations, donations from businesses, and fundraising we’ve done as a team.”

The estimated $36,000 amount would allow the CCHS softball program to purchase four metal poles with lights and brackets. Nester said adding lights to the softball field will benefit the softball program in numerous ways. For starters, it allows for flexibility in start times. Games can be started later than 4 or 4:30 p.m., traditional CCHS star times, while JV/varsity doubleheaders can also be held.

“That will allow parents, grandparents and family members having to work and travel a distance to get to games if they can’t get there at 4 or 4:30. We can have bigger gates, with back-to-back games with JV playing in front of varsity,” Nester said. “It will create bigger gates for visiting teams. They will have time for their fans to get there.”

Additionally, lights will add to the fan experience, Nester believes, and will keep Carroll County from being at a competitive disadvantage.

“Playing under the lights is a completely different atmosphere. It adds excitement because of the number of fans at the games,” Nester said. “And I’ve always felt it’s an advantage for a team that has lights when they are playing against teams that don’t have lights. The home team is used to playing under the lights and the lighting does affect judging distance, especially with outfield play.”

The majority of schools in the River Ridge District have lights on their fields. By comparison, Carroll County’s varsity softball team only played two games under the lights the entire 2013 season. The Cavaliers played a JV/varsity doubleheader under the lights against Galax at the Carroll County Recreation Department, which helped get the team ready for a big district game at Abingdon.

“We went to Abingdon to play under the lights and that game was probably the most exciting game we had all year,” Nester said of the 2-1 Carroll victory.

But lighted softball fields will also benefit more than just the high school softball program. Having lights will allow the county’s recreation department to host tournaments, as well as the county’s travel teams, summer league and fall teams.

“Before, if we did a tournament, they would have to limit the amount of teams. With lights, you can play Friday night, Saturday night, all weekend,” Nester said. “It will bring revenue in to the county. These teams that come in and travel, they’ll stay here. It’s not just high school softball, it will benefit everybody in the community. We still need to come up with $6,000, so we’re still knocking on doors. We’re this close and we don’t want to stop now.”

Allen Worrell can be reached by calling (276) 728-7311 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN.