After about three years of booster efforts, a new synthetic playing surface has been installed at Shadle Park’s Al K. Jackson Field, making it Washington’s first high school baseball field east of the Cascades to have a FieldTurf infield.
Fundraising continues to pay for the $200,000 field, which will allow games to be played through most of the worst weather Spokane has to offer, Shadle Park baseball coach Ron Brooks said.
“With the rainouts and puddles and field replacement in the winter, the field was never getting a chance to heal itself,” Brooks said. “It’s amazing there are not more over here with our conditions.”
Brooks will host an open house at 5 p.m. today to showcase the new surface, which is designed to last about 10 years. Whitworth University opened its new field last year and Washington State University just resurfaced its infield. Now Shadle Park has an infield on par with collegiate fields, Brooks said.
Coeur d’Alene, Medical Lake and Colfax have lighted baseball fields. But Al K. Jackson is the only lighted one in the Spokane area, making it the destination field for tournaments and 47 American Legion teams.
“Last year, we played 107 games on that field. It takes a beating,” said Andy Franklin, president and treasurer of Spokane American Legion. “For player safety and the condition of the field, it’s going to be a huge benefit.”
Unlike the older versions of artificial playing surfaces that left dirt around the bases, FieldTurf covers everything except the pitcher’s mound. FieldTurf, which is partially made from recycled tires, also allows players to use tennis shoes or steel cleats.
“Pretty much once it stops raining, we can play,” Franklin said. “With the drainage system, there won’t be any puddles. I drove by the other day after the wind and rain storm and you could have pretty much walked out there and played. That will help the high school season.”
Brooks has been teaching and coaching baseball at Shadle Park for 33 years, 30 as varsity coach.
“I’ve never had a game rained out for a puddle in the outfield,” he said. “At least with the new infield, we will be playing more. We can play triple-headers. That was a focus.”
With the new surface, players will have to get used to how grounders bounce off the turf.
“It’s going to change the game around here. The ball will be on you in a hurry,” Brooks said. “It’s going to be fast.”
Brooks said that some of the areas that get the most use, such as around home plate and second base, will require crews to “come in and splice in some chunks” to keep the field intact.
Franklin said Shadle Park boosters and American Legion will reserve funds to pay for any needed patchwork.
“Now we have a collegiate-style field for the high school kids to play on,” Franklin said. “It’s been proven to be a much safer playing surface than typical dirt.”