BY BRETT FRIEDENSOHN
The County College of Morris baseball field is getting a facelift.
Renovations began as the first phase in a three-year capital plan to renovate the field. Fence construction began in late August and, as of Thursday, Sept. 29, finished save for a three-foot portion of the fence, according to Karen VanDerhoof, Vice President of Business and Finance. The job cost $66,628 that the college received from capital renovation funds from Morris County, according to VanDerhoof.
The college added new fencing around the entire field except for the backstop, according to VanDerhoof, who said that Business and Finance decided on applying the renovations after reviewing a request from athletic director Jack Sullivan.
“The fence was really, quite old,” VanDerhoof said. “We reviewed [Sullivan’s] request; we went down to the field; we saw that it was rusted and in bad shape, deteriorating, leaning, so it was justified that we needed to be replacing it.”
Sullivan cited safety concerns as reasoning for the new fencing, and said that the dugouts have acquired fencing when they did not have it before.
“First of all, you want it to be safe,” Sullivan said. “And it’s a little bit safer than the other situation was because now there’s fencing in front of the dugouts, so the line drives, any straight line drives won’t automatically go into the dugout and possibly hit a student athlete sitting on the bench, so it’s a safer environment and a safer playing field right now. And that’s first and foremost. Safety is first.”
Chris Pezzuti, exercise science major who plans to play his second season with CCM baseball in the spring, said that the new fencing looks better than the old one.
“I think it looks really good because our bullpens were on the field, but now they’re off the field behind the fence,” Pezzuti said. “And a lot of the field was open, but now with the fully enclosed ballpark, I think it looks much better than it used to.”
Pezzuti said that the new fencing should help with gameplay.
“It was really rusty,” Pezzuti said. “If you ran into it or something, you could cut yourself, and especially in front of the dugouts, there wasn’t a fence in front of the dugout before this year. So now, obviously, foul balls could hit somebody in the dugout, but now with the fence, everybody’s fully enclosed; so I like it a lot better.”
Baseball head coach Brian Eberly said that the new fencing should make the field safer.
“It’ll be nice to have the right side of the field inclosed, from a safety standpoint,” Eberly said. “Among the necessary upgrades out there was the fact that that right field corner kind of when into a swamp, so from a safety standpoint, it’ll protect that end of the field. It also results in some enclosed bullpens, which’ll increase safety in those areas as well. And the dugouts are protected now.”
Eberly said that the new home run fence might result in less home runs hit.
“The new fence is actually slightly taller, so it could even result in slightly fewer home runs,” Eberly said. “Although, it’s not a drastic change. The distance to the fence remained unchanged.”
The college will continue with its three-year capital plan to make renovations on parts of the field including the turf, scoreboard and bleachers, and will most likely continue construction for the capital plan in the summer of 2017, according to VanDerhoof, who said that these renovations will cost an estimated $650,000.
“Down the road, the baseball field is slotted for additional renovations because the turf is in bad shape, so we will be skinning the field of the existing turf in the infield, putting down new topsoil and new seed, different infield,” VanDerhoof said. “The infield is a little gravely and hard … The scoreboard is a little small for center field … So we’ll be replacing the scoreboard as well. It’s old. Remote controller for changing the score, et cetera, so down the road we’ll do that. We also need to look at the bleachers on that field as well because they’re not easily accessible.”
The team is set to unveil their new fencing during their home opener of the 2017 season against Rowan College at Burlington County Saturday, April 8.