Texas synthetic turf fields could become playoff destinations

Hermleigh, Graford and Brock aren’t exactly garden spots in the state of Texas, nor are they some of the bigger metropolises of the state.

But putting artificial turf down on their baseball and softball fields has made them popular spots during the UIL baseball and softball playoffs in the spring.

Bowie and Henrietta have recently thrown their hats into the ring, as well, and hosted more than 40 playoff games in 2015.

But Wichita Falls could soon be a major player in the late spring after the decisions by the Wichita Falls ISD and Midwestern State University to turf their fields.

Artificial turf is currently being installed at Hoskins Field (baseball) and Skip Brown Field (Sunrise Optimist Field No. 2) at the Memorial Complex, while the field at MSU’s Mustangs Park was scheduled to be ready by the first week in February.

The new fields will make it easier to get games in when it rains, but the drought that preceded last year’s record rains had a lot to do with the decisions as well.

“After going through four years of drought and then record rainfall, it’s been tough on the fields and expensive to maintain them,” said Scot Hafley, WFISD athletic director. “And then when we got the rain, we were limited in the number of games we could get in. It will help out in the playoffs as well. Last year Rider had to play at two different sites – Bowie and Henrietta – to finish its series with Aledo.

“A growing number of schools that we compete with have or are adding turf fields. We want our players and coaches to have the same resources.”

Although they did end up capturing the District 5-5A title last year, Rider coach Josh Bobbitt didn’t like the way his team had to play at the end of the season because of rainouts.

“We ended up having to play back-to-back-to-back and that was hard on us,” he said. “With this, as long as it’s not actually raining or lightning, we’ll be able to get our games in. In the long run, this is a no-brainer. I’m really excited for the kids. This could be a big advantage.”

MSU softball coach Brady Tigert admits it will make his job easier not having to spend time each day working on the grass field. But safety is the main issue as far as he’s concerned.

“That field really needed to be watered every day to get the dirt right so you don’t get bad hops,” he said. “But we were only able to water it once a week (with well water). Now all the hops will be true.

“Having turf will help us save on equipment as well. Less wear and tear on softballs, on uniforms and on our players as well. The field is cushioned more now. It was kind of hard during the drought.”

Hafley, Bobbitt and Tigert all agree that the addition of turf fields will help Wichita Falls once the playoffs roll around.

“We’re hoping that our own teams are using it for the playoffs,” Hafley said. “But we anticipate sharing with other teams wanting to use our fields. The Memorial Complex has long been a showplace for the district and the city.”

“This is the halfway point for a lot of teams in West Texas and the Arlington/Fort Worth area,” Bobbitt said. “They’re always looking for a place to play. We have the stadium; it has the seating; and now it will have a state-of-the-art field to go along with it. Plus, it’s in a bigger community.”

Mustangs Park was a great place to play when it was a grass field. It will probably draw more attention now.

“We had six or seven dates scheduled for last year that we couldn’t get in because of the rain,” Tigert said. “But that won’t be a problem now with the turf field. And we’re also making some other changes that will make this a great place to play.”