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Youth Baseball Field Likely to be Demolished as School Officials to Use BOE Property for Football Field

By Jeff Toquinto on March 19, 2017 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

When the decision was made to construct a new Johnson Elementary School, one of the long-term impacts was where would the youth baseball teams go that were utilizing the two fields that were situated on the property. With two new fields of similar dimensions being constructed and likely to be ready this spring at the Bridgeport Recreation Complex, that impact has been reduced.
 
One question many didn’t know about was where the Bridgeport Middle School football would team practice. For years, the same grassy area where baseball was played was the same field where the Braves have done their thing for multiple coaches – most recently and currently Robbie Buffington.
 
Earlier this week, Harrison County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Manchin said the solution is at hand. All he needs is to get formal approval of the elected Harrison County Board of Education to move forward.
 
“I would say, even though it’s premature to say it’s going to happen because we have to have approval, that the new practice field will be at the (Little League) field nestled behind the (Jamison Field) press box and behind the bleachers,” said Manchin. “I believe it’s the responsibility of the Board of Education to address the needs of Bridgeport Middle School and even Bridgeport High School and using that space does that.”
 
On Monday, Manchin met with officials at BHS and BMS. Bridgeport Middle Principle Carole Crawford, Assistant Principal David Mazza, Buffington, and BHS Track Coach Jon Griffith were with Manchin at the site. The group explained the area and how it would meet the needs of the BMS football team and allow the BHS track program to configure both the shot put and discus areas in one location as opposed to being spread out.
 
“We’re still evaluating and assessing this, but I think it’s safe to say it will likely be available for Bridgeport Middle for football practice and to the high school for track and field,” said Manchin.
 
Manchin plans on having the item included on Tuesday’s Harrison County Board of Education agenda. Crawford plans on being there and is happy with Manchin’s involvement and the likelihood an issue facing the school will be resolved.
 
“We’re thrilled there’s a solution for the school football team, as well as a place for the youth football teams, to practice. To have it in close proximity to the locker rooms and (Jamison) Field fits with all of the other pieces of the puzzle,” said Crawford. “Since the site was chosen for (the new) Johnson (Elementary), we’ve been trying to put our heads around a solution.  The field (we're looking at now) we saw as being underutilized and with the teams that had been using it having access with the new fields (at the Bridgeport Recreation Complex) it was a perfect fit.”
 
Manchin said what that means is that the site for the Little League field, which sit on school board property, will likely see demolition. There will need to be the removal of trees, earth work to gently level out the grassy area that is in relatively good condition and removal of some of the fencing. Manchin said there will also be efforts made to salvage some of the items at the field.
 
BHS Principal Mark DeFazio is glad to see the field likely to be razed and renewed. He said it’s time.
 
“It’s been an eyesore recently and while it sees some occasional use, it’s not used like it used to an kept up like it used to. Honestly, if I had a bulldozer I’d do it myself,” DeFazio said with a laugh.
 
Manchin said one reason he anticipates approval from the elected board is that the cost to prep the facility shouldn’t be too expensive. Griffith said the moving of the discus area that will require the creation of a concrete pad is something that can be done without dollars from the school board.
 
BHS Assistant Principal Matt DeMotto said the decision to attempt to do this was made less difficult due to the fact the field was seeing little use and new fields were available and already being utilized.
 
“It’s a lot of easier to feel good about it since youth baseball is adding two new fields at the Rec Complex and are using fields there. We don’t want to take away from anybody, but our roles as administrators here is to consider the needs of our student-athletes first and that’s what we’ve done,” said DeMotto.
 
DeMotto said using City Park wasn’t an option. Due to the high usage of the park, any time it would rain of there would be a threat of rain the field usage of that facility would be off limits. 
 
While the area of the Little League field that will be razed appears cramped, DeMotto said it’s bigger than what some may believe. He said the measurements show it to be as wide as a standard football field and half the length. That, he said, is more than enough.
 
“Practicing on half a field isn’t unusual. Our freshman football team practices and co-exists at the same time with our jayvee football program on the main football field,” said DeMotto. “Trying to throw a third team on there, however, was something we simply didn’t have the space or room for.”
                                 
Manchin said there is a timeline to have the area ready for practice. He pointed to June 12, which he said is the starting time for the three-week summer practice session for middle and high school sporting programs.


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