Cadwell Park Sports Complex is already well-known for its strong ability to host state baseball events. But is there an opportunity to make it better?
Artificial turf has been installed at baseball fields in the state in recent years, and Cadwell’s back-up, Drake Field, could be next in line. During a Mitchell Parks and Recreation Board meeting last week, representatives with Dakota Wesleyan University and Mitchell Baseball Association pitched benefits of installing artificial turf in the infield at Drake Field.
This week, Mitchell continues as the host of the 12-day state amateur baseball tournament. Due to late rain on Friday, a postponed game was finished Saturday at Drake Field.
Tournament Director Jim “Jocko” Johnston said having artificial turf at Drake would be a “selling point” to continue hosting the amateur tournament in the future.
“Because if it rains I could tell the association our second field has turf and we can go play on it in an hour,” Johnston said.
Jon Hart, Dakota Wesleyan University athletic director, and Dean Sadler, president of the Mitchell Baseball Association, gave their pitch Thursday for implementing artificial turf grass at Drake Field.
From requiring less maintenance after games, to allowing more tournaments and games to be played at the field following weather events, Sadler said the benefits far outweigh the costs, which is estimated to be about $200,000.
“I’ve had talks with Dan Dobesh over time on how this could save him some headaches given how much the field is used and the upkeep it requires,” Sadler said during his presentation to the Park and Recreation Board.
According to Sadler, the infield, bullpen and backstop would make up the entire areas of the diamond where the existing grass would become artificial turf, should the proposal be approved by the Parks and Recreation Board and City Council.
According to Dobesh, the artificial turf could last anywhere to 10 to 15 years, which would then require brief resurfacing project.
Sadler emphasized the strong relationship between the Mitchell Baseball Association and DWU’s baseball organization, which led the two clubs agreeing to designate an allotted amount of funds for installing the artificial field.
According to Sadler, the Mitchell Baseball Association and DWU are pledging to pitch in $65,000 each.
“Between Jon’s (Hart) sources and the Mitchell Baseball Association, we feel we could make this happen with the help of the city,” Sadler said.
Hart provided examples of how much impact the turf field could have on the community, adding it would open the door for Mitchell to host even more tournaments. With the amateur baseball tournament taking place, Hart said maintenance crews would have more time to focus on providing upkeep to Cadwell Park due to teams using Drake Field for warm-up space.
“I don’t think it’s a secret of how much of an improvement it would be out there on Drake Field, and it’s been a discussion for a fair amount some time,” Hart said. “The impact it would have on us (DWU) and the community as a whole would be big.”
Hart pointed to several surrounding communities that have made the switch from grass to artificial turf, as he said Yankton and Sioux Falls have seen an increase in tournaments since making the switch. Hart sees the ability to host more games and tournaments as a source of income for the city of Mitchell.
Given the Mitchell Baseball Association teams share Drake Field with DWU baseball, the field is stressed year after year. Because of that, Johnston said switching to a turf field would allow the field to handle the wide usage it undergoes every year.
“The problem we have at Drake Field is that it’s a primary practice field for DWU and Mitchell baseball,” Johnston said. “And when DWU has fall baseball they play over at Drake, they want to be on that diamond until the snow flies, while Mitchell baseball and DWU want to get back out there on the spring after the first day the snow melts. And I don’t blame them. But the field doesn’t get much time to rest.”
Johnston said an artificial turf Drake Field could work hand in hand with Mitchell hosting the amateur baseball tournament, alleviating the turn around time of games being played after a spout of rain.
Gene Kitchens, a left fielder for the Dimock-Emery amateur baseball team, backs the artificial turf project, noting there would be many benefits of switching to turf.
As a player and father of his son, Drew, who played for the Mitchell teener baseball teams, Kitchens said the amount of games the Mitchell teener baseball teams and DWU play on Drake Field would allow for the field to be in better condition for upcoming games.
“When baseball starts in early spring, the snow and rain wouldn’t have as much of an impact on whether games could be played,” Kitchens said. “With how great Mitchell’s baseball facilities are, this turf field would add a really nice flare.”
Deric Denning, pitcher for the Mount Vernon Mustangs amateur baseball team, knows exactly how many benefits an artificial turf field has. After all, he played on an artificial turf field throughout his college baseball career at Mount Marty College in Yankton.
“They are really nice, and they require very little maintenance, which makes everyone's life easier,” Denning said. “You can make games go so much quicker, and the turn around time to be able to play on a turf field after rainfall is about 45 minutes from my experience at Yankton.”
Cadwell Park, the main diamond at the complex, would not be impacted with artificial turf under the proposal.