The Tiger baseball and softball teams are motivated to have special seasons in 2013, but without playing a single inning they’re already subjects of envy across Texas.
These Glen Rose squads both have new synthetic turf installed on their respective fields, which is something very few high school teams in the state can boast.
“I was excited when I found out about the turf,” said Tiger baseball coach Kenny Toney. “There would be no more dragging and watering the field, which had usually set us behind in our tournaments. Now, all we’ll have to do is fix the mound between games.
“The players were very excited to hear about this, and they kept asking me when it would be ready. They couldn’t wait for Jan. 25 to be able to get out here after school.”
Lady Tiger softball coach Kiel Miller shared those sentiments.
“In September, (GRISD Superintendent Wayne) Rotan came to me and Coach Toney with the idea of turfing the fields and I said it sounded great to me because I wouldn’t have to drag it or water it anymore,” Miller said. “No worries about rocks or someone getting hit in the face on a bad hop. I was fired up, and so were the girls when I told them. My thoughts then went to how it was going to play, because I’d never played on (turf) or seen a (high school) game on it.”
Rotan said the turf project was paid for with the GRISD Capital Projects Fund. The cost for both fields ended up being $1.1 million.
“The turf will save an estimated five million gallons of water per year we would’ve used on the former field,” Rotan said. “It will also save an estimated $60,000 per year in maintenance costs.”
Miller appreciated getting to share his opinion on the design.
“Mr. Rotan went out and physically looked at other turf fields, so he had some ideas about how we might make it look,” Miller said. “Coach Toney and I got to have input on the design. This turf is similar to football turf, but it’s specially designed for baseball and softball. Within the tall blades (of turf), there are some shorter blades, but to look at it you wouldn’t know the difference.”
Toney said the project began in early October and finished in early January with the softball field completed a few days later. He’s pleased that the change to turf frees up more time for his players to work on baseball skills.
“Like when it rained on (Jan. 29) – I have 10 people in this (baseball) class right now,” Toney said. “It’s quite a chore to lay down and take off a tarp with 10 guys. Instead, we just went into the dugout, waited for the rain to pass and then we’re back out there.”
Both coaches talked about past issues where tarps had failed them – including for Tiger baseball in the midst of its 2012 playoff series with Burleson Centennial.
Miller is pleased game cancellations for weather will fade away, while Toney said the only thing he has to worry about now is lightning.
Both coaches spoke of a newfound home-field advantage, and Toney mentioned sliding in particular.
“I think sliding can be an advantage for us,” he said. “If you slide too late out here, you’ll have a tendency to slide past the bag. That will become an even bigger issue when the turf is wet.”
Miller addressed bunting and defense.
“I know we just gained a true home-field advantage because we’ll know how the ball plays,” Miller said. “From what I’ve seen early on working bunt drills with the girls, it seems like the ball dies a little quicker. I think girls in the outfield will have to be more vigilant on seeing the spin of the ball, because it can kick hard to the right or left. When you hit something hard, you get a true hop and the ball seems to move a little slower than on dirt.”
Toney said only water and sports drinks can be consumed on the field, as gum, sunflower seeds and other food are banned. As long as the rules are followed, Toney has no problem with other teams enjoying the Tiger turf in the years to come.
“Other schools have to go through (Director of Administration and Support Services Tommy) Gibson to see about using our field,” Toney said. “We just have to find someone to take the gate (admission), run the scoreboard and announce.”
Perhaps most importantly, both coaches see the turf field boosting their program in one way or another.
“I don’t think the turf is something that will propel us to the next level, but I think it might draw more interest at the younger levels,” Miller said. “Girls will want the opportunity to play on our field when they get older. I hope it brings more interest to the sport in our community.”
Toney has heard a lot of positive feedback from his peers recently.
“I think this field will bring excitement to our program because of its quality,” he said. “Opposing coaches in our tournament are telling me they can’t wait to get over here. In fact, coaches from all over the state have asked me about it. Brock is getting turf and Kennedale will for next season, but we’re out in front on this (in the area).”