Much needed upgrade
The Kemper County High School Lady Wildcat softball team should have an exciting 2022 season ahead, especially since they will be playing their home games in a totally renovated facility. The field is located behind the field house on the high school campus where there was an existing baseball field.
Coach Freddy Thomas said that when they were looking for a location for a field everything worked out to use that location, as there was an existing press box and concession stand which have been repainted with renovations continuing, and Thomas said that is an ongoing process.
The old fence behind home plate has been removed and replaced with a new fence and a net above that. The old dugouts consisted of nothing but a top and poles which have been removed, and new concrete pads poured. George White and his construction class from the John C. Stennis CTE have built new wood-frame dugouts, which gave them some good practical experience and was a cost saving measure, as well.
Thomas, who also serves as the welding instructor at the CTE, had his students cut the old metal poles at the dugouts, and then weld them into a frame which will hold a new scoreboard, again offering the students practical experience and saving funds. Thomas said that they are waiting for an electrician to show them the best location for the scoreboard.
A new five-foot chain-link fence has been installed around the field. The field will feature a grass infield and base paths, with dirt pads at the bases and home plate and the pitcher’s circle. Thomas added that there were a few electrical issues with the existing lights, but with the help of EMEPA those have hopefully been taken care of.
Thomas pointed out that softball is a sport where a lot of people will bring their own chairs, but they have utilized some aluminum bleachers from the old gymnasium at the high school. There is also a set with metal frames and wood seats that will be refurbished. Another project that they have not been able to get to yet is a pole barn, with dressing rooms in one end, and a covered batting cage on the opposite end, and an area to pitch and do drills when it is raining. Hopefully, that can be completed for the beginning of next season.
Although some of the work was done in-house much of it was not, and Thomas stated that the school board has been very gracious and generous during the renovation process.
He added that thus far he has 25 girls on the roster, and most seem excited about the new facility, however some may not understand the real impact as they have never had a home field before. Last year the team played only on the road.
Thomas said that he has not had much time to gauge the community's reaction, but hopes the new field will become a source of pride, and he believes that having softball played on campus will generate some excitement. He hopes to be able to reach out and develop a sponsorship program with local businesses and the community, also.