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Byrd baseball diamond in rough spot
May 4, 2017, 11:43 am

“If you build it, they will come!”

That was what the mysterious voice said to Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) in the great baseball movie Field of Dreams. Byrd High School head baseball coach Greg Williams is hoping that mysterious voice will speak to him, and soon.

You may be wondering why Byrd’s baseball coach would want to hear a mysterious voice speak to him about building a baseball field. For the record, Williams does not own a corn field in Iowa, but his family does have cotton fields in northwest Louisiana.

The Byrd baseball program, which I am a proud part of, is facing a precarious situation at its current home field affectionately known as “The Hive.” In 2021, the Yellow Jackets will likely need to find a new place to play baseball. It’s believed that when the lease agreement with LSU Shreveport expires in 2021, the university is not expected to renew, thereby making Byrd baseball homeless.

Byrd has called “The Hive” home since 2002. Byrd’s field, which sits on the southeast corner of LSUS’s campus, is directly behind the right field fence of the Pilots baseball field, just off East Kings Highway.

Accounts differ on exactly how the Jackets came to call “The Hive” home. Originally it seems, Byrd was going to use the field only as a practice field and play its home games at Pilots Park. It was soon realized that having the Jackets and Pilots share a field was not going to work for either program. During this time frame, 2006-2007, is when LSUS gave Byrd approval to build a baseball field. Part in parcel of the negotiations between the university and the school board involved the purchase of lights on LSUS’s field.

Many different generous people contributed their time, work and finances to help make “The Hive” a quality facility for the Byrd baseball program. However, over the past 10 years Byrd has repeatedly asked permission from LSUS to improve and upgrade the facility, and even the gravel access road to the ballpark. Every time, the requests have been denied. Even an offer to pave the access road, which is used by LSUS, and a small parking lot free of charge was denied.

From the LSUS perspective (purely baseball wise), I can understand the continued denial of the facility upgrades for the local high school program. If you’re Pilots head baseball coach Brent Lavallee and you bring a recruit to Shreveport trying to lure him to your program, the last thing you want is for that recruit to look out past the right field wall and see a better baseball complex than the one you’re pitching.

“Ease his pain!”

Here’s an example of typical spring practice day for Byrd baseball players: Seventh hour is baseball PE for upperclassmen. At the end of sixth period, they leave Byrd High School on Line Avenue and travel approximately 15 minutes to the field. I don’t know how Byrd principal Jerry Badgley, who was an All-State baseball player for the Yellow Jackets in 1976, doesn’t have grapefruit sized ulcers worrying about the safety of players as they make the trek from school to the field every day. I know how much it concerns Williams. “I dread every time I hear my phone ring after sixth period,” said Williams.

Once they make the turn off East Kings Highway onto the gravel road, the players find a place to park, which is either in a field cratered by hardened tire tracks or mud pits after rainy days. The players undress out of their school clothes, then get dressed in their baseball uniforms either beside their cars or on the tailgates of their trucks. Once dressed, they carry all their equipment to the field itself. All because there is no locker room facility at “The Hive.”

At approximately 5 p.m., the freshmen Yellow Jackets board a bus at school and are brought to the field. The freshmen team, for which I am the head coach, usually practices from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Often, we are leaving the field closer to 9 p.m.

Click here to read the rest of Cavell's column. 


 

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