NELKE: Reshaping an iconic softball field

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  • MARK NELKE/Press The outfield was recently hydroseeded at the reconfigured Memorial Field, where a tall screen (note the posts) will provide protection for a parking lot and new skate park planned for behind the outfield fence.

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    MARK NELKE/Press A pair of stakes mark where home plate (the near post) and the pitcher’s rubber will be when the reconfigured Memorial Field is ready for play next spring. The grandstand will be to the right of home plate, rather than directly behind it.

  • MARK NELKE/Press The outfield was recently hydroseeded at the reconfigured Memorial Field, where a tall screen (note the posts) will provide protection for a parking lot and new skate park planned for behind the outfield fence.

  • 1

    MARK NELKE/Press A pair of stakes mark where home plate (the near post) and the pitcher’s rubber will be when the reconfigured Memorial Field is ready for play next spring. The grandstand will be to the right of home plate, rather than directly behind it.

It’s a lot of dirt right now, surrounded — at least in the outfield — by some awfully tall poles.

But next spring — hopefully earlier in the spring than later — the new and improved, and slightly reconfigured softball field at iconic Memorial Field will be unveiled.

Why redo the field?

“A couple of reasons,” Coeur d’Alene Parks and Recreation Director Bill Greenwood said.

One reason is, at certain points in the summer, the sun shines directly into the eyes of the batter — which would be more dangerous during fastpitch games, but certainly not ideal either during slowpitch games.

BUT BY itself, that wouldn’t have been worth moving the field. Which brings us to reason No. 2.

“The field needed to be re-graded to help with the drainage,” Greenwood said. “The new grade will take water to the outfield to a trench drain along the outfield fence line. The old field drained back to home plate, making it next to impossible to dry out the infield to prep for games.

True, dat.

North Idaho College often had to move its softball games to Lake City High, or Moses Lake, or wherever, or postpone them altogether, if Memorial got too wet.

Home plate will move left as you stand behind the plate and face the outfield, and will be roughly line up with the southern edge of the grandstand (the side closer to City Park). Center field will move slightly toward where right field was.

The new first-base line will run along in front of the grandstand, which obviously will no longer sit directly behind home plate.

“The grandstand is going to stay and we are hopeful in the near future to have it refurbished with restrooms and a concession stand,” Greenwood said.

THE POLE that stood in foul territory just off the right field line has been removed, sparing the chance of the second baseman, first baseman and right fielder slamming into it chasing a foul ball just behind first base.

Greenwood said under the new setup, there should be a fair amount of space between third base and the street for both teams to warm up.

A new standalone dugout will be built on the third-base side. Greenwood said he is hopeful the dugout on the first-base side can be built into the grandstand.

Many years ago, he said, both dugouts were built into the grandstand.

The field dimensions at Memorial will be roughly the same as they were.

A tall screen will go up behind the outfield fence and down the right field line to protect the carousel, parked cars and the new skate park. In the outfield, the screen will be a few feet behind the 6-foot outfield fence, giving outfielders room to rob batters of homers.

The scoreboard will be slightly left of dead center, as opposed to in dead right, because the field moved — the scoreboard stayed in place.

The dirt infield will be constructed to softball dimensions. At Memorial, the infield “grew” over the years as those working on the field, in an attempt to create a “clean edge” of the infield, cut a little bit of turf here and there. After a while, the dirt portion of the infield grew so large that in coed softball games, outfielders were often positioned on the “infield” dirt.

“Over the years the infield did seem to enlarge beyond what is should have been,” Greenwood said.

The city seeded the outfield last week. After that, the opening of the reconfigured field is up to Mother Nature.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Greenwood said.

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Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at mnelke@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter@CdAPressSports.

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