COLUMN: No home field advantage for Bearcat baseball

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Early-season road trips mirror issues in other sports

By John Herndon

You have heard of the home field advantage, but what about the home field non-advantage?

That is the case for several Anderson County High School sports teams right now. If you want to put the most positive spin on things, it's not good.

Truthfully, it is an embarrassment to the programs, the school and Anderson County.

If you have been following Bearcat baseball this spring, you know that as of April 16, Anderson has not had a home baseball game yet. That is over a month since the start of the 2013 season.

Repeat. Anderson has gone over a month into the season – 13 games through the weekend – without a home game.

It's not because Anderson coach L.W. Barnes is a sadistic sort who feels his team would be better served by being road warriors. Over the years, Barnes has played his share of the state's best programs on the road, but he's also brought many of them to Lawrenceburg, too. He'll play just about anybody, anywhere.

The Bearcats had some big names scheduled to visit: Dunbar early in the season, Louisville Trinity was to have sent its junior varsity and freshman teams to Anderson. The Dunbar game was moved to Lexington while the junior varsity and freshmen games were canceled.

And last night, a resurgent Shelby County, ranked 17th in the state, had been scheduled to visit, but late last week, that ultra-important district game was relocated to Shelby's home field. A rescheduling was really not an option as weather can play havoc with high school baseball and you have to get those district games in.

To add an insult to the plight of a team that has not even practiced on its home field this year, Anderson had been scheduled to host the Eighth Region Tournament this spring. There had been speculation all spring that Anderson would not be able to do so now and Monday, Barnes confirmed just that.

Anderson's field was still not ready this week following some desperately needed off-season renovation work. An unusual winter weather pattern, when most of the worst weather arrived just before the start of spring sports. I am no turf specialist, but my understanding is that the late winter storms came at the exact time the finishing touches of the renovation had been scheduled to be made.

So, while it has been frustrating for the baseball Bearcats this spring, the immediate cause of no home-field advantage apparently has to be seen as one of those unfortunate things you just can't control.

But is it? Or is it just the latest in a pattern of shortcomings in Anderson County athletic facilities.

Last week, when I used Twitter to announce the Bearcat baseball game with Shelby County had been moved, I added a note, “Anderson's field is still not ready.”

A few minutes later, I got a reply that said, “The track isn't either. Sounds like an epidemic.”

Chances are track enthusiasts would not feel too bad for Anderson baseball since it has been over 10 years since the program has hosted a home meet.

That's not just sad. It's ridiculous, especially when one considers the number of kids – well over 100 – participating in track from Anderson County High School and Anderson County Middle School.

Then there are the Anderson soccer teams who play on a pitch that is not even regulation size and is marked by dangerous drainage grates in each corner.

Last fall, the Anderson football team opened the season without a decent scoreboard as a malfunctioning unit was not replaced in time.

They are all issues we have visited before.

To be fair, we should say that Anderson County has one of the better gym situations around as the high school has three – the main gym, the auxiliary facility that was added in 2006 and a third gym in the old Emma B. Ward school building that was converted to a freshman center. While some might whine about the gym set up, Anderson probably has one of the better arrangements for indoor sports made possible by that renovation that included classroom additions as well.

The Anderson softball team is the primary beneficiary of an incredible indoor facility that is the envy of many other programs, but its actual playing field is pretty rough in the outfield.

 Even though Anderson tennis had to stay on the road after a windstorm peeled the playing surface away, it now plays on a serviceable, but not spectacular, school court. It's better than some, not as good as others.

Yet there are still many problems. A lack of adequate practice facilities often sends the soccer and football teams to, ahem, the baseball and softball fields, which, of course, damages those fields.

But it's about the best anyone can do, given the circumstances. Still, it is a shame that things come to that.

As I have written several times over the years, the lack of a quality track and soccer fields is embarrassing.

Finding a solution in tough economic times is much easier said than done but somehow, some way, the Anderson County Board of Education needs to make sure kids have a chance to excel in all areas.

While academics obviously come first, it is also apparent that the ability to run faster, jump higher, shoot a basketball or catch a football is the ticket to college for many.

I am not one who believes in making funding demands when the money is not there. But at the same time, I also believe if a school is offering a sport, it should do so in a first-class manner, including the playing field being used.

Kids deserve nothing less.


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