Needed: Ballpark In ’09

07/24/2008 – Daily News Record

Written By Dustin Dopirak Daily News Record Sports Desk HARRISONBURG – Bob Wease is a relatively high-strung character, not the type you’d imagine being comfortable with procrastination or uncertainty. So you wouldn’t expect the Harrisonburg Turks’ owner to be OK with the fact that his team still doesn’t have a home for next summer, when Memorial Stadium will be torn down while James Madison builds its new $9.5 million baseball/softball complex on the site. But Wease said Wednesday that he’s in no hurry to get anything finalized. "I’m not really sure where we’re going to play," Wease said by phone from his used-car dealership. "We’re just going to wait until this season’s over and get that figured out." Wease said his two top choices are James Madison’s Long Field and Harrisonburg High School’s field, but he said he has not yet contacted administrators from either school to discuss playing at their facilities. The Turks, however, have a long history with HHS and a budding relationship with JMU. For years, the Valley League club shared Memorial Stadium with the field’s chief occupant – the HHS Blue Streaks. It got the aging ballpark to itself when a new high school opened on Garbers Church Road in 2005. The Turks also already have an agreement in place to use Madison’s new field when it becomes functional in 2010. Determining which field to use next year will be an interesting decision for Wease, because neither is ideal. Wease said he’s intrigued by the idea of using Long Field because the infield is made of Astroturf. "I just think we’ll have a lot fewer rainouts," Wease said. The stadium also has a seating capacity of 1,200, which doesn’t match Memorial’s 2,300 but is still presumably more than HHS, which has a smaller grandstand. (A capacity figure was not available for the high school field.) One big thing that HHS has that Long Field doesn’t, however, is lighting. That’s a problem, because almost all of the Valley League’s games are scheduled at 7:30 p.m., which obviously takes them into darkness. Wease said he hoped he would be able to start games at 4:30 or 5 p.m. in such a case, though he acknowledged that such start times would hurt the gate, with many fans getting out of work right at game time. Along with HHS’s smaller seating capacity, however, Wease also said he sees a potential problem with the set-up of the school’s athletic complex. From the high school parking lot, fans have a bit of an uphill hike to the baseball field. "It’s just we got a lot of old people who come to the games," Wease said. "I don’t know if we’d draw any people at all, because it’s such a long walk. I wouldn’t mind playing there. They’ve got a really nice field, there’s nothing wrong with that at all. It’s just the walk." Wease said a third option could be the ballpark at Bridgewater’s John Wayland Elementary School, home of the Turner Ashby High School baseball team. "I like that ballpark, too," Wease said. But that would also present obstacles with seating capacity, plus the fact that the Turks would be sharing the field with both TA – whose season has often pushed into June in recent years as its advanced to the state playoffs – and the Rockingham County Baseball League’s Bridgewater Reds. The New Market Rebels are the only VBL team that shares a field with an RCBL squad, the Shockers, but they have no high school team to deal with. No official from Harrisonburg or JMU could confirm that the Turks would be welcome in their ballpark. JMU athletic director Jeff Bourne was out of town, and HHS A.D. Joe Carico said he would need more information before he could comment. "I’d have to sit there and think about it," Carico said. "I wasn’t the A.D. when they played at the old field, so I couldn’t really discuss that. Nothing jumps out at me either way, but I haven’t really thought about it." Wease, however, said he is confident that once discussions begin, the situation will be solved quickly. He said he expects to know by around mid-September where the Turks will play. "I don’t think we’ll have any problem at all," he said.