The four-year-old softball diamonds at St. Francis do not drain properly. After a rainfall, players can expect to find several pools of water lying on the playing surface on all three.
“Something should be done,” local resident Bill Hamilton said as he looked at the centre diamond.
Community Services manager George Bell said the worst spot was behind home plate at the south diamond. But he added there’s little they can do about the pooling of water beyond ongoing maintenance.
“It’s like any outside sport—you are dictated to by Mother Nature,” Bell remarked. “There isn’t an infield in the world that drains well. That’s why they cover them in big expensive ballparks.
“You don’t slope them [so] infields don’t drain,” he stressed.
Dan McArthur, Superintendent of Facilities in Dryden, disagreed.
“If you went out there with surveyor’s equipment, you would probably find that it was sloped towards the outside of the diamond,” he said.
Fastball teams were able to play on diamonds in Dryden even after the deluge there Friday night.
“The Trans-Canada Highway was washed out west of Vermilion Bay, that takes a fair bit of rain, [yet teams] played on them Saturday morning. It all has to start with good design,” he claimed.
Dryden, like Fort Frances, built their own diamonds with the help from softball players.
“The diamonds are better than what we had a few years ago. They are not perfect but for the money they spent on them, they probably should have been looked after a little bit better,” said Paul Bock, former head of the local slo-pitch association, who thought they spent about $250,000 on the diamonds.
“There is always room for improvement,” he added.
There are 42 slo-pitch teams in the local adult mixed league. Each one pays $260 to the town, which goes towards maintenance and repairs.
Bell said the town is doing what it can.
“I think [ball players] should be able to play on good diamonds but with what we have within our means.
“Every time you drag the diamonds, [sand] blows away and you are constantly putting more and more infield fill into every diamond,” he remarked. “That costs money.
“To be honest, it’s a bigger problem when we don’t get any rain because it just gets rock hard,” Bell noted.
Bock said the infield should be watered daily.
“It’s supposed to be watered before every game and let it set in. If you get 80 degree weather out there, you’ve got to water them almost every day. It’s like cement when [the infield] doesn’t get any water.
“They have people there that [can water the fields], whether or not they do it every day. I don’t know what their schedule for watering is,” Bock added.
The town employs a full-time person to maintain the fields.
It also is considering converting the north diamond at St. Francis into a softball diamond (it’s actually a baseball diamond now) and using the additional sand for maintenance.
The infield at Vanjura consists of costly Shakopee sand, and drains much faster than the St. Francis diamonds. But Shakopee was considered too expensive to use on the new diamonds.
“[The slo-pitch association] didn’t particularly want that infield that was put down [at St. Francis]. It was a matter of dollars and cents,” Bock said.
“We saved a few dollars and at that point in time, we were anxious [to start playing],” he recalled.
Bell did say he would investigate the situation immediately, and added none of the recent $100,000 government grant will go to towards the drainage problems.
That money is slated for lights on the south diamond.