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Seattle high school girls' softball teams pushing for turf fields

SEATTLE - Ballard, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Bishop Blanchet’s fastpitch softball teams are fighting for a level playing field with the boys. They all share home fields at Lower Woodland Park.

That’s based on an agreement between Seattle Public Schools and Seattle Parks & Recreation.

On a sunny day, it's an incredible complex.

But when you mix Pacific Northwest rain with dirt fields, these teams miss out on using their home fields for 20–30% of the season.

"We have so many practices that are rained out, so many games we can’t play because we’re here on the dirt field," said Ballard High School senior Addy Wynkoop, "whereas the boys' baseball team? They never have rainouts because they have turf fields."

Seattle’s Metro League has 14 softball teams. Six play their home games on a dirt infield.

"A couple hours of rain at night and there’s puddles at home plate and in all the sliding pits," explained softball coach Kevin Ticen. "On a turf field, it’s gone 10 minutes after the rain stops."

Out of 16 Metro League baseball teams, only one plays on a dirt infield. The other 15 have turfed fields.

"Our last week of games, our first game got rained out midway through the game because the conditions were so bad we couldn’t finish. Our second game got rescheduled to a turf field, so it took time out of our school day, as well," said Lincoln High junior Riko Hibino.

"Usually, they’re having to miss fourth, fifth and sixth period, at that point where if it was a home game here, they would just miss half of sixth period and get out here," said Roosevelt High softball coach HT Lee.

Roosevelt varsity only played one home game this season.

Riko Hibino wants change. The soccer and baseball fields at Lower Woodland park are turfed. So, she started a petition to convert all four softball infields to synthetic turf.

"I’ve been coaching a lot of little league 9- and 10-year-olds how to pitch, and it would be really great to see them be able to have more opportunities to practice and have games without having to worry about the weather," said Hibino.

Lower Woodland Park is owned by Seattle Parks & Recreation. They have a longstanding field use agreement with Seattle Public Schools. That agreement also mandates that Ballard, Roosevelt, Lincoln and Blanchet have to vacate their fields by 5:45 p.m. each day, often for Little League teams.

"They expect our players to get here within five minutes of getting out of school, changing, get to the field, start practice within five minutes. It’s like, work with us here, give us a chance to compete!" said Lee.

"They deserve to be able to have the fields to be able to improve and get better and get their lives changed, just like we did playing sports," said Ticen.

Seattle Parks & Recreation say me they recognize the problem, and appreciate Hibino’s advocacy. A spokesperson said it would most likely be their funds that would be used to convert to synthetic turf.

Those funds come from real estate excise tax, Seattle Metropolitan Park District, state or county grants, private donations, or a combination.

"The levies have all passed. I think we've passed four consecutive levies for the school district that are funding sports facilities. You would hope this becomes a priority," said Ticen. "And again, I don’t think anyone sat down and said ‘Hey, don’t worry about softball, they don’t deserve it.’ I just think there are a lot of pieces to this puzzle and this is one that fell through the cracks."

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