If you fix it, they will play.
Well, at least, that’s what Abington Heights athletic director Randy Hanyon hopes will be the case after members of the Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders grounds crew made renovations to the school’s baseball field on May 2. The facility received the most votes among eligible high school fields through the minor league team’s Adopt-a-Field program.
After many games this season had to be moved or rescheduled, Hanyon said the upgrades are much needed.
“I hope it helps a great deal with getting games played,” he said. “We’ve particularly been having issues along our first and third base lines. We hope this will help shed the water a lot quicker.
“It’s been a rough spring.”
Along with manicuring the field, members of the RailRiders grounds crew also offered helpful tips for maintaining the field.
“It will give us knowledge we can use to improve the facility in the future,” Hanyon said. “I was extremely excited when we won. I couldn’t be more appreciative of what the RailRiders organization is doing for our facility, and what our fans and community did to allow us to win. They had to make the effort to go online and vote.”
According to Hanyon, head baseball coach Bill Zalewski learned of the program and sent several photos of the field for consideration.
Zalewski is proud of the way the team, parents, and community rallied together to gather enough votes to win the contest.
“Everyone is excited to see what they can do to help us out a little bit,” he said. “The field hasn’t been redone in a while, it just needs a little bit of care given to it.”
According to RailRiders head groundskeeper Steve Horne, the crew gave the field an entire makeover.
“We reworked the (pitcher’s) mound, worked on home plate, edged everything out, did a little leveling on the infield skin… a little bit of everything,” he said.
Horne, a Clarks Summit resident, worked on similar projects during his time with the Memphis Redbirds and wanted to bring that community outreach to Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“Through the RBI (Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cites) and STRIPES programs, I worked on 25 to 30 fields every year to help kids play the game of baseball.”
During 2012, when PNC Field was being renovated, Horne felt the organization should make an effort to help the in the community. The Adopt-a-Field program expanded to four fields in 2013 (one high school baseball, one high school softball, and two youth fields).
“When we were on the road for a year, literally no one knew that we really existed anymore,” he said. “We came up with the idea of getting out in the community to show people that we haven’t left, we’re not going anywhere, and we’re here to stay. We have time now, let’s start something to give back to the community. We started with two fields (one each in Lackawanna and Luzerne County) and knew that it worked really well and there is a need in the community. We wanted to grow that (program) and give more and more quality.”
Horne, who has been working in grounds crew maintenance for 25 years, enjoys sharing his expertise with others to make a positive impact. He discussed fertility along with grass, mound and infield skin maintenance during the program.
“It’s not a business where I’m ever going to be rich,” he said, “but it’s a business where I can give back some of the knowledge that I’ve learned through the years and pass it on to the next generation to help people and show them that we can have sports outside. It’s not all about electronics and what you can do with your thumbs. It’s about getting kids outside and active.
“We talked about some of the techniques I use in a professional way for the New York Yankees. A lot of times people just need a little bit of guidance, I’m here to help give that.”
According to Horne, members of the front office from ticket sales to promotions pitched in to make the event a success. The changes are already having a positive effect on the field.
“I was told yesterday that normally they wouldn’t have been able to play today,” Horne said May 2, “so it will be fun to make things playable. We’ll literally change the way the infield skin plays today and going forward.
“It’s going to be a better field all the way around.”
Comets center fielder Sean O’Connor was thrilled with the changes made to the baseball diamond.
“They did really well,” he said. “The lines are great and the pitcher’s mound is beautiful. The infield is perfect. We’re really thankful that they did that for us.”