Norfolk Tides renovate Albemarle School's baseball field | w/Video
By Malcolm Shields
Tuesday, October 8, 2019
In recent seasons, the Albemarle School baseball program did not have a playable field to call its own.
The varsity and junior varsity baseball programs played their home games at Elizabeth City’s Knobbs Creek Park.
Come the start of the 2020 high school baseball season, the Colts will not have to make the nearly five-mile drive to the park.
With the help of the Norfolk Tides, Albemarle School had a baseball field behind the school renovated Monday.
It was part of the Tides’ Youth Field Makeover Project.
According to the Norfolk Tides, since 2012, the organization — which is the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles — have renovated 13 fields in the region.
Most of the fields that were upgraded were in the Hampton Roads section of Virginia.
Last year, the Tides renovated a field in northeast North Carolina at the Eason's Crossroads Ballpark in Gates County.
Albemarle School submitted its name to the Tides to be considered for this year’s renovation.
According to Albemarle School athletic director Tim Dunn, the idea to submit the school to win the makeover was brought up to Albemarle School headmaster Holly Glenn.
From that point, Dunn noted that Glenn submitted the school to the Norfolk Tides’ website to be a candidate for the field renovation.
Albemarle School was one of eight finalists for the field renovation. Albemarle School was the only field based in North Carolina among the finalists.
The other fields were located in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth or Virginia Beach, Virginia.
On Sept. 24, the Norfolk Tides announced that Albemarle School had the most votes and would be the recipient of the field upgrade.
Dunn acknowledged that there was some disbelief that the school won the contest and was appreciative of the Tides giving their time to upgrade the school’s field.
“It’s a really good feeling, especially as hard as our teams have been working,” Dunn said.
During the 2019 baseball season, the Albemarle School varsity baseball team advanced to the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 1A state championship series.
It was the baseball program’s first appearance in an NCISAA state championship final since the 1990s.
Since then, the program went through a stretch where it did not field a team during a portion of last decade and into the 2010s.
The program was restarted in the middle part of the decade and has progressed to last season’s state championship series appearance.
Dunn noted that the school had been working on the on-site baseball field along with the adjacent softball field since the end of last year.
Dunn added that the team had practiced on the baseball field, but the field was in bad shape.
The members of the Tides, which included the team’s head groundskeeper Kenny Magner, members of the groundskeeping crew in Justin Hall and Cole Hamilton along with other front-office personnel were at the field around 9 a.m. ready to work.
A regional groundskeeping company also offered its assistance.
The crew spent most of its time renovating the infield. That included building a pitcher’s mound and home plate area from scratch.
“The first thing we did was establish home plate, then we pulled all of our measurements and squared the field off,” Magner said.
Magner, who was recognized this summer by the International League for his over 40 years of service to minor league baseball as a groundskeeper in Norfolk, Virginia, added that the pitcher’s mound on Albemarle School’s field is now professional grade.
“This field had a lot of work that had to be done to it,” he said.
The crew also cut out infield base paths in the grass infield down the first and third base lines where infield dirt was then applied.
New bases were added, the edges around the infield were spruced up and the grass in front of the pitcher’s mound was replaced with new sod.
Magner acknowledged the importance of getting the measurements correct on the playing surface in order to renovate the field.
By around 4:20 p.m., the Tides completed their work.
Magner noted that Albemarle School said it will do its part to maintain the field going forward.
He also provided the school measurements to follow.
Magner, who was involved in previous youth field upgrades by the Tides, still gets joy from looking at the before and after photos and videos of the youth fields that he has helped upgrade.
He added that renovating fields that kids will play on is fun to do.
Dunn was appreciative of the work members of the Tides put into the field.
“To see this type of progress in a day is really spectacular,” Dunn said.
All Albemarle School has to complete on its own is applying new sod in spots along the left field foul area and shallow outfield, spots in right field, complete two dugouts, install left and right field foul poles with two scoreboards that will be place in between the baseball and softball fields.
Field lights are a goal that Dunn said the school would like to install down the road.
Dunn expects that the baseball program will be able to play on its renovated field when the 2020 season begins in late February to early March.