Area baseball fields left unattended after teams leave
Standing on the pitcher’s mound at what used to be the home baseball field of the Geddes Ballrockers is like trying to walk on a trapeze.
Once a well-kept mound, a pitcher would most certainly fall off the mound while trying to balance today. There are weeds growing up under the rubber, which sits still intact 60 feet away from home plate.
Home plate, one of two bases that remain, is also solidly intact on the field that has not been used since 2010 — the last year the Ballrockers had a team. Although home plate remains, a pitcher’s aim would be skewed because grass covers three-fourths of the plate, which is still vibrant white.
The only other base that is not being overtaken with grass is first, which still towers over the grassy knoll that surrounds it. There is no second base or third base on the field that still has its stands, dugout and scoreboard — which sit unkempt and barren.
The Geddes ballfield is one of several fields in the area that once hosted amateur baseball teams but are not being used today. Letcher, Woonsocket and Tyndall are among other fields which were formerly used by amateur baseball teams, but now are used seldom if at all.
The Letcher baseball field, which used to host the Letcher amateur baseball team, is being used by midget and pee-wee baseball teams. Letcher also does not have teener or Legion baseball teams today.
The Woonsocket baseball field no longer exists. It is now a football field. The last baseball team to compete on the field was the Woonsocket Legion baseball team in 2003. Like the Oakland Coliseum, the Woonsocket baseball field was conjoined with the town’s football field, with the outfield being a part of the football field.
Today, the outfield is fully a part of the football field and what used to be stands is now used for a parking lot. Woonsocket natives play their amateur and teener baseball in Wessington Springs. Midget and pee-wee baseball for boys ages 6 through 12 is still played in Woonsocket at Feistner field.
Geddes’ infield used to be a skinned infield, much like the fields most often seen at many Major League Baseball fields around the country, including Minnesota Twins’ Target Field. But now, the entire Geddes field is completely filled with grass.
Platte amateur player Frank Cutler, who has been playing amateur baseball for 34 years, remembers the games against Geddes being intense. He said the field was kept up well when the amateur baseball team played there.
“Platte and Geddes are right next door to each other,” Cutler said. “We all knew each other and we wanted the bragging rights against each other for that year. We had some pretty good games through the years.”
Today, Platte and Geddes are consolidated for their high school baseball team, which also combines with Dakota Christian. The team plays in Platte, along with the Legion and teener teams.
Geddes City Finance Officer Donna Paulson said the field, which is located on Sixth Street, gets mowed occasionally. A Geddes city ordinance states that a violation occurs if a landowner permits weeds to grow to maturity on any private property. But since the field is not private and is city run, the field does not fall under the ordinance, she said.
“It was used for Fur Trader weekend and there was a bean bag tournament held,” Paulson said. “The city tries to go out there and keep up the field occasionally, but this year we had volunteers who mowed the baseball field.”
Paulson was unsure of the cost to maintain the field. She added that she would like to see the town regain an amateur baseball team, but it doesn’t have the numbers to support one.
Tyndall field Another field that has been left to sit and become overgrown once played host to the Tyndall Arrows.
The team ended its run of amateur baseball in the late 1980s, but Tyndall Legion teams and teener baseball teams used the field until three years ago.
Today, the town sponsors a teener team that practices and plays in Tabor — 12 miles away from Tyndall. This year, the varsity teener team reached the Class A varsity state tournament, claiming the title 12-2 over Groton.
Ken Ranek, who coaches the Tabor Legion team, was one of the last coaches to use the dilapidated field in Tyndall.
“It still has its shape and form of a baseball field,” he said. “There are no lights, and the dugouts are still there but it’s not as nice as it was when it was being kept up. Years after the town team, the local VFW played there for another 10 or 12 years, but the city didn’t pour too much money into the park.
“Then everything sort of shifted over to Tabor.”
While he coached teener teams in the area, Ranek scheduled two or three games a season at the Tyndall baseball field, but stopped because it became difficult because of the lack of lights.
“It is a nice park. Right now it would be a perfect size park for the wood bats, so I think it would work really well with amateurs,” Ranek said. “Bon Homme baseball has been good the last few years. It has been a little disappointing that we have not been able to play any games there.
“It would be great to have two fields to play on with one in Tabor and one in Tyndall because there are so many teams playing on the field in Tabor.”
Ranek also played for the Tabor Bluebirds — who still compete and made it to the second round of this year’s Class B state amateur tournament — and the Tyndall Arrows prior to the discontinuation of the team.
No team, no problem Youth baseball teams keep Wagner’s field afloat — much like many others in small towns.
Wagner supports teener teams and a Legion squad.
Jeff Sand, Wagner High School head baseball coach, has played amateur baseball for Avon and Delmont in the past, and Delmont has merged with Tripp and now plays in the Sunshine League.
Tripp and Delmont were separate teams in the past, and Corsica and Stickney are also two towns that play together in the Sunshine League.
Sand said his team plays on the field at Heinnes Park — which is cared for by the city.
“The city does the best they can with the resources they have,” Sand said, adding his team helps with the everyday upkeep of the field. “It is also up to the parents and the coaches to do the best they can. We don’t have much for funds, so we do fundraisers and the money goes towards the field.”
Sand, who grew up in Mitchell and played baseball for Post 18, said kids aren’t as interested in playing baseball when an area doesn’t have an amateur team.
“It is tough,” said Sand. “I think baseball is fizzling out because of lack of youth interest. A lot of it has to do with summer kids working on the farms or playing basketball and football. ... Amateur teams spark kids’ interest because if you live in a small town and you are growing up, that’s what you do on a Thursday. You go and watch your local team.”
If this is true, if there are no teams for younger players to enter as they get into high school and graduate, baseball could die out in those communities. And if baseball is dying out, then the fields that are put to good use could also perish.