By JASON MIGAS
Penn High's Baseball Team expected to play a double-header at home against Lake Central on Saturday, April 20. Then the rains hit on the morning of Friday, April 19.
As field conditions worsened through the afternoon, Penn moved the home games to Lake Central, and the Penn Baseball Team went from a home doubleheader to a 90-minute (one-way) road trip.
On Saturday, March 23, the Penn Softball Team waited nearly three hours from the regularly scheduled start of a game against Fort Wayne Carroll for the JV field to be readied for play. The Varsity field was unplayable due to weather conditions.
Next season, Penn's Baseball and Softball Teams likely won't be dealing with those types of field headaches.
The Kingsmen Baseball and Softball fields have big changes coming this Summer. During the 2019 offseason, Baseball's Jordan Automotive Group Field and Softball's May Oberfell Lorber Field will have their natural grass fields replaced with Synthetic Turf.
The Synthetic Turf Baseball Field can also be used for football, soccer and lacrosse. Click to see a photo gallery of artist renderings posted below.
This change will be happening because the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation Administration felt that improvements needed to be made.
Aaron Leniski, Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation's Chief Operating Officer, is overseeing the projects. He believes it is important to upgrade the athletic facilities because, "it will decrease annual maintenance, improve safety/security, increase aesthetics, expand use, and increase field performance."
Leniski feels that Synthetic Turf is the best choice for Penn's athletic fields. He emphasized that, "Turf provides the most consistent playing surface for our student-athletes." He proceeded to point out that, "grass fields are notorious for divots, imperfections, and fluctuation of shock-attenuation performance".
Penn Athletic Director Jeff Hart is excited about the installation of Synthetic Turf for the Baseball and Softball Fields.
"This upcoming project is extremely exciting for all of us charged with providing our student-athletes and students at large a positive experience at Penn,” Hart said. “The two new turfed fields will have a great benefit to our school community beyond the advantages of allowing us to play baseball and softball in less than ideal weather conditions.
“They will also provide us greater flexibility in allowing our other athletic teams, clubs, P.E. classes, marching band, middle and elementary schools, etc. use of these facilities without numerous hours of field preparation required,” Hart continued. “I anticipate that both the Baseball and Softball complexes will get a great amount of use throughout the year, much like TCU Freed Field does now."
The No. 1-ranked Penn Baseball team is also very excited about getting a new field.
Kingsmen Baseball Head Coach Greg Dikos is a big fan of the new turf because of the reduced man hours.
"I'm excited because field maintenance will be reduced drastically," Dikos said. He also mentioned the convenience of playing through adverse weather.
One of the main advantages Dikos mentions is that the team will be able to get on the field earlier in the spring, and that, "Rainouts are a thing of the past."
Synthetic Turf fields will be an improvement from a player standpoint as well. As an infielder, Junior shortstop Kyle Kline can't wait for the turf.
Kline "loves playing on turf" because "there are no bad hops in the infield." He also added that there is "no bad flooding and games will be played more often."
The Penn Kingsmen Softball team is equally ready for the new turf for many of the same reasons. Sophomore Pitcher Addy Kois is a self-proclaimed "huge fan" of the turf.
"Turf is a lot easier to pitch on," Kois said.
Softball Head Coach Beth Zachary is also ready for this change. Since some of the teams they play against have turf fields, she believes, "the girls are ready to play on (turf)."
Zachary said that the turf will bring, "an advantage, because we will have more time to practice and prepare during the offseason." She continued to say that she believes it is, "a good move and the right move" for the future of Penn Athletics.
"We are all really excited about it," Zachary said of the move to Synthetic Turf.
The Summer of 2019 will be very important to the Baseball and Softball Teams of Penn High School, as the installation of Synthetic Turf will be a major step toward player safety and giving the Kingsmen a competitive edge.