Coach pitches plan for safer softball field

HUDSON–Before building dugouts for the high school’s varsity softball field, the Hudson City School District (HCSD) should relocate the field, said Don Conte, coach for the high school’s girls varsity softball team in phone interviews late last month.

In its current location, the field has space for neither safe practicing nor comfortable game-watching, he said. In addition, it is “too close” to a drainage ditch. Increasing the field’s safety and functionality requires moving it, he said. And that can happen only before the installation of a new dugout makes the field’s position permanent. The field should get dugouts only after it’s established in a better location.

The district recently gave football and soccer a new field and now plans to give baseball new facilities. “They have to do it for softball too,” said Mr. Conte. “They can’t leave the girls behind.”

Since the softball field has no dugouts, a logical step is to build some for it. But first, Mr. Conte insists, they must shift the softball field about 20 feet closer to Joslen Boulevard. “I know what a good softball facility looks like,” he said.

Safety is one of Mr. Conte’s top concerns. A good softball facility, he said, needs “a protected area,” for on-deck batters to take warm-up swings, players to practice batting, and pitchers to practice throwing, without the danger of hitting spectators and other players with bats and balls. Mr. Conte’s proposed new location would have room for a fence-protected batter’s circle.

Another concern is giving spectators a comfortable, unobstructed view of the game. With the current field, they watch games by “standing at the edge of the road where they park their cars.” To see the field, they have to look over a drainage ditch. And the new dugout, in its location as officially proposed, would block their vision. However, with the field repositioned as Mr. Conte proposes, he said “there would be room for bleachers behind the backstop.”

In addition, Mr. Conte maintained, the new dugouts as proposed will cost more than necessary. For softball, the dugouts need to be only two thirds the proposed size. In addition, plans call for buying the dugouts pre-fabricated. Instead, Mr. Conte proposed, “why not have them built by local contractors” and custom-tweaked for local needs? The money saved by reducing the cost of each dugout will more than pay for moving the field, he said.

Chatham is an example of a school in Columbia County with “good dugouts,” Mr. Conte said.

HCSD plans envision upgrading the varsity baseball facility this summer, for the 2020 baseball season, and the varsity softball facility next summer for the spring 2021 softball season. Although the baseball and softball seasons are in the spring, the best time for construction on their facilities is the previous summer. During the school year, staff workers have other assignments. Besides, much outdoor construction requires non-winter weather.

Mr. Conte said he is willing to wait until 2021 for games on new softball facilities, if that means making use of the extra time to design the facilities better. “Let’s get it right,” he said.

He believes the school board is “seriously considering my proposal,” adding, “they’re interested in the safety of kids.”

Messages left for a school district official seeking comment on the softball field plan were not returned before press deadline.

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