Bulldog Family steps up to the plate
By Tressa Bragwell for the FCT
Since the late 1980s, Belgreen High School has seen more than 15 different head/assistant/volunteer coaches. Having that many coaches come and go, a result has been little to no field maintenance and management. With the exception of – in the mid-2000s – new lights and a new concession stand/press box/equipment, the field has been left to withstand years of wear and tear.
With his decision to come back to Belgreen as its newest head baseball coach, Derek Ergle was straightforward in his desire for a safer place for athletes to play baseball. Ergle was aware of the hesitation of opposing teams agreeing to play at Belgreen because of the fear of line drives/foul balls zipping into the dugout they would be assigned. Also, treading in ankle-deep water in the same dugout was not part of the baseball process. Ergle said he knew changes had to be made in order for Belgreen baseball to once again be a hit.
When the Booster Club heard his concerns, they immediately begin making plans for the future of Belgreen baseball. Being the tight-knit community Belgreen is, many of its members have been working over the last several months to remove all the old fencing and clear the land to add width to a much too narrow field. A new fence will grace the entire field in the very near future. Franklin County Board of Education member Shannon Oliver – who played on the very same field from 1986-1991 – has been one of these community members. Loving the sport almost as much as the school, Oliver – along with many others – has spent countless hours dedicated to the facelift project. He said he knows this is something that has been a long time coming.
To address Ergle’s concern and desire for safer dugouts, these same volunteer community members have been at work pouring concrete into the dugouts to bring them up to field level. This required the roofs to be removed, the walls to be built higher and new roofs installed. A fresh coat of paint will add to the “new look” Belgreen is shooting for, as well. Ergle said he feels this definitely creates a safer environment for not only Belgreen’s own players but the opposition as well.
Anyone who has ever attended a Belgreen baseball game has more than likely asked themselves, “Why is home plate so far away from the fence that serves as the backstop?” Oliver has been witness to youth league games in which players would steal two or three bases while the catcher was running to the fence to get the ball after a missed pitch. This began the process of installing a concrete wall backstop at the appropriate location on the field. This will help keep the game at a tempo fans want to witness.
Superintendent Gary Williams, who coached for the Bulldogs from 1982-1990, saw the same need for field upgrades. “I want to thank the individuals who volunteered their time and equipment to improve the baseball facilities. We really appreciate them for making this better for the players and their fans,” he expressed.
Ergle said he feels fortunate to have the opportunity to be back in the game of baseball at Belgreen High School. “Words cannot express how supportive the Belgreen school and community has been in conducting the renovations to our baseball field,” he said, adding that much time and effort has been exhausted by many people to make sure these players have a safe and quality field in which they can be proud. Ergle is “looking forward to guiding these young men as they strive to improve on and off the field,” he said.
Principal Myra Frederick said, “I am so proud to be a part of such a hardworking and dedicated community that has been involved in every step of this process for our baseball program. I am looking forward to working with Coach Ergle and his staff and expect great things in our future.”
To get a little pre-season excitement stirred, the Bulldogs will host an inter-squad game Feb. 20. Everyone is invited to come and join the community as the “first pitch” will be thrown at the new and improved Belgreen baseball field.