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Eastern Comets new baseball field ready for season

Mar. 26—GREENTOWN — The Eastern Comets will christen a new all-turf baseball field Tuesday when it hosts Daleville.

The newest ball diamond in Howard County is located at Eastern's off-campus athletic facility along South 850 East, just south of town limits.

The new field features an artificial playing surface, new scoreboard displaying each inning, a batter's eye in centerfield, lights, bullpens for both teams and batting cages on the home side. There's also a climate-controlled press box.

Construction on the $2.5 million project started late last summer and finished earlier this year. All that's left is landscaping, which will be completed when the weather warms up.

The field has paid dividends for Eastern, even before a regular-season pitch has been thrown.

The baseball team was able to practice outside in February, thanks to unseasonably warm temperatures. So long as there is no rain and the temperature is above 40, the Comets practice outside.

"Now, that's not the exception," said Erik Hisner, Comets baseball coach and athletic director. "We've been able to get out and get a lot more done. The reps are clean because of the artificial surface."

Hisner said players enjoy the new field and look forward to practicing on it.

"The excitement is definitely real," he said. "They're very motivated to use it."

The boys of summer (or spring) won't be the only ones who will use the field. The softball team will also make use of the new facility.

The field can be retrofitted for softball by removing the pitching mound and installing a portable fence.

Rob Young of The Hagerman Group, the contracting company that built the baseball field, said the facility was designed for dual use. Hagerman is the same company that built Eastern's new field house. Both projects were on time throughout the entire process.

Eastern Superintendent Keith Richie said last year allowing both the baseball and softball teams to use the field keeps the school district in compliance with Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education programs and activities.

Eastern will host a baseball-softball doubleheader with Taylor in May. Both games will be played at the new field.

Hisner said softball will use the field in the event the softball field is too wet.

"Any other games the softball team wants to have, I've let their coach know," he said.

Eastern used a $2.5 million general obligation bond to finance the project. It did not raise taxes. Taking out the bond kept the tax rate stable.

The field is the latest addition to the off-campus athletic complex. Last year, a support building was constructed. It includes locker rooms, concessions and storage space.

More parking was also added, as well as new tennis courts.

School officials intend to build new softball and youth baseball fields at the site, sometime in the future.

Moving athletics off campus is a long-term project meant to free up space for a new school. Richie previously said Eastern will need a new school in about 20 years.

The old baseball field behind the high school is still in use. Hisner said the team will practice on it occasionally as they'll play at natural surface fields during the season.

Eastern will host the Howard County Invitational, the Hoosier Heartland Conference tournament and a sectional this season. The sectional will move from Highland Park.

Eastern's new field seats about 250 people in the bleachers behind home plate. Dirt left over from construction was used to create a berm in the outfield that serves as additional seating.

"Our complex is more than acceptable to host a regional or semi-state," Hisner said.

That's a possibility in the future. The Indiana High School Athletic Association would have to conduct a site visit first.

Spencer Durham can be reached at 765-454-8598, by email at spencer.durham@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @Durham_KT.