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A diamond in the rough no longer

CCA improves the baseball diamond in Tiffin
A birds-eye view of the completed renovation of Clear Creek Amana Community School District’s baseball diamond. (photo provided by Bev Seelman, MBA, Inc.)

TIFFIN– Next spring, when the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Clippers hit the diamond in Tiffin to start the 2018 baseball season, they may well sing John Fogerty’s 1985 hit Centerfield: “Well, a-beat the drum and hold the phone. The sun came out today. We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field. A-roundin’ third and headed for home, it’s a brown-eyed handsome man. Anyone can understand the way I feel…”
The cause for singing and celebration may be found in a renovation project undertaken, in October, to address deteriorating field conditions including poor drainage. CCA’s School Board of Directors authorized $28,500 for the project at its Sept. 20 meeting with Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) funds utilized to pay for the work, which included $2,500 worth of bluegrass sod donated by James Avenue Sod, as well as one-third of the cost in labor and equipment donated by CCA graduates Jim and Bev Seelman (and youngest daughter Megan), owners of MBA Incorporated, who did the dirt work.
“Our field was in need of much work,” Head Varsity Baseball Coach Brent Henry said. “This isn’t to say the grounds and maintenance guys don’t do a great job or aren’t dedicated to improving the facilities, it’s just that there were some very serious things wrong with the field that we were still applying Band-Aids to, when we needed reconstructive surgery.”
Leveling and re-grading the diamond was truly a high-tech endeavor with the dirt moving equipment guided by laser, for accuracy, to between 1/4 and 1/8 inch. Before the first blade bit into the ground, the Seelmans took a series of shots around the infield area using “Leica Total Station” GPS equipment. The coordinates generated created a digital map and plotted out the necessary changes for good drainage and an ideal playing surface. A series of tripods around the diamond sent information to a receptor on a compact Toro-Dingo TX-1000 compact utility loader, which allowed for precise movements by the machine as it spread, shaped and leveled the material.
The existing sod was removed from the infield and infield-foul territory and stockpiled on-site before 500 tons (320 cubic yards) of black dirt was installed and laser-graded for proper drainage. Approximately 400 tons of old infield material was hauled off and replaced with 200 tons of Shakopee ball field lime on the base paths. The pitcher’s mound was removed and rebuilt with new clay brick, and the home plate area was also rebuilt.
The infield improvements were badly needed, Coach Henry said.
“This should help in alleviating a lot of the bad (ball) hops our players have had to put up with for years. It was getting to the point of being dangerous,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many players took groundballs to the nose or mouth due to a bad hop that popped up unexpectedly.”
Having a flat, level field, he said, is really exciting. “I’m sure some of the third-basemen from the last few years– Nile Rourke, Grayson Rotter, Robby Swails, and others– are going to be jealous when they see our guys fielding grounders without the huge hops and lips they had to put up with.”
Much of the project was done at night, under the lights, as the Seelmans sought to take advantage of favorable weather, much like farmers harvesting at night, to avoid uncertain weather later in the month.
After the dirt and lime work was completed, the bases were reinstalled, irrigation repairs were made and the area outside the field by the third base dugout, notorious for becoming something of a swamp, was re-graded for proper drainage.
“In years past, water would pool in the foul ground area between third base and the fence and would need to be suctioned off to get the field anywhere near playable,” Henry said. “Now, the field has been designed to allow this water to flow off of the playing surface, beyond the fence and dugout. I can tell you the coaching staff is not going to miss having to roll up our pants and sloshing out into the pool with wet-dry vacs to suck up the water!”
A few smaller improvements still need to be completed before the start of the season in May, including additional floodlights above the bullpens and outdoor batting cages. New backstop fencing will be placed in the bullpens, as well.
District Building and Grounds Director Maury Gallagher, his crew, student athletes, CCA parent Dan Reade and several others helped with various aspects of the project, including laying the new sod. Henry gave a shout out to Varsity Assistant Coach Nick Boeset, for his time and efforts throughout the endeavor.
“The care and effort he puts into this field and this program is amazing,” he said. “I can’t say enough how lucky I am to have him as a coach on staff and how lucky our players are to get to learn from him everyday.”
CCA parent (and assistant football coach) Trevor Bollers helped spearhead the project after the conclusion of the 2017 season, Henry added.
“It’s so great when the school, community members, area businesses, and parents all help to improve the experiences of our student athletes, I’m extremely proud to be a Clipper,” Henry said, adding, “May can’t get here soon enough.”
The Creek Boys open the 2018 season Thursday, May 24, at West Delaware, with the first home game, a doubleheader, set for Tuesday, May 29, against Marion.