'It will be ready:' Watertown Post 17 rebuilding pitcher's mound after weekend vandalism digs up rubber
After discovering the vandalism, a report was filed with the Watertown Police Department.
WATERTOWN — The Watertown Baseball Association was left scratching their heads this weekend after their field found itself to be the target of a random act of vandalism just days ahead of their home-opener.
At some point over the weekend, two individuals climbed the gate to Watertown Stadium and dug the rubber out of the field’s pitcher’s mound, disturbing the clay on top.
According to Ryan Neale, director of baseball operations for the Watertown Baseball Association (WBA), the individuals left two sets of footprints in the infield grass, indicating they quickly left after vandalizing the mound.
“It’s frustrating, it’s sad and it’s disappointing that four days before a game, you throw this on top of [other preparations] while trying to get a team ready to play,” Neale said. “We’ve only had one or two really good practices outside.”
Watertown Post 17’s Legion baseball team was scheduled to host Aberdeen on Thursday, but that game has since been moved to Aberdeen for a variety of reasons — including scheduling challenges on Aberdeen’s part.
Though that does give the WBA a little extra time to fix their pitcher’s mound ahead of a Saturday game, Neale is trying to figure out if it’s enough.
The architecture of a pitcher’s mound is delicate. The rubber must sit approximately 10 inches above ground level and be perfectly in-line with second base and home plate. The slope of the front and back of the mound mustn’t be too steep nor too flat.
With a clay mound, moisture levels are crucial to any form of reconstruction.
“Clay is just a unique material to work with. It’s gotta be damp, but it can’t be soaking wet. [Recent rains] obviously made it so easy to take the rubber out,” Neale said. “We’re just trying to figure out how to fix it and how to do it. It’s not gonna be an easy task by any means.”
Neale said he had the luxury of rebuilding that mound from scratch just two years prior, and was hoping the mound would be good to go for years to come.
“If we don’t have a pitcher's mound ready, nothing else really matters, so it’s really taking priority,” Neale said. “We might have to bring in equipment, but luckily one of our board members owns a heating and cooling place, so we might get to bring in some toys.”
After discovering the vandalism, Neale said a report was filed with the Watertown Police Department. Calling it a “matter of fact case,” he’s not expecting much to come out of it as there’s no real monetary value to the destruction.
Watertown does have a second baseball field, though Neale said that field is used primarily for 13- and 14-year old games, and isn’t fit to host Legion games.
“It’s kind of ironic, if they would’ve destroyed that one they would’ve been doing us a favor,” Neale said of the city’s second field. “That mound is actually scheduled to get remade this spring, because it’s not in great shape either.”
Regardless, Neale is grateful for the outpouring of support from the community, with individuals offering to assist in the repairs. He made clear the act will not stop the city from hosting games.
“We have waited long enough this spring to get outside and play,” Neale said. “We are not going to let whoever did this stop us from playing at home this weekend. It will be ready. We don’t want these people to get what they wanted.”
Post 17 will host Fargo (N.D.) Post 400 at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.