The infield at Summerville High School had been looking pretty rough around the edges for a while, for three years at least, said head coach Ricky Pinocchio.

The surface was rough and felt like sandpaper when players had to slide.

The grass was lumpy, no thanks to the drought.

The uneven surface claimed the tooth of a Summerville infielder two years ago after an errant ground ball.

There was the drainage problem. When it rained there would be a 20-foot puddle at first base, 10-15 feet at second and third.

“It meant we weren’t going to play for three or four days,” said Pinocchio.

Then there were the cement-filled Yuban cans used to hold the bases in place.

Second base and its coffee can base were known to be especially wobbly.

That’s all about to change.

After three years of fundraising and a grant from the Summerville Bears foundation, the infield is getting a makeover.

Over the weekend, Oleson Excavating and Grading scraped a three-inch layer of dirt and grass away, enough to fill up seven dump trucks.

Pinocchio says the job should take about two weeks to complete.

Sprinklers were installed on Saturday, then sod, and fresh dirt to smooth out the base paths.

He’s also installing new, sturdy base anchors.

The overhaul is costing about $10,000, said Pinocchio. And that’s in addition to the $2,000-$3,000 in excavating donated by Oleson.

Aside from the obvious benefits of having a spiffed up infield, Pinocchio has higher hopes for the project.

“Ideally this is going to develop a little bit of pride,” he said. And help recruit some potential players that might be on the fence.

By the time baseball season comes around, Pinocchio said it can be hard to recruit players. He’s competing with football, where athletes are coming off a full season and aren’t sure they want to commit to another full season.

Golf is also starting to compete for players, he said.

“Last year we had a small team and not a whole lot of excitement for Summerville baseball. It’s been kind of a struggle,” he said.

But he believes that’s starting to change.

“I want to take this program to the next level,” he said.

This week, Pinocchio was encouraged with the 10 or so players who showed up for practice. Especially since it’s fall and there was non-baseball work on the field. The players were helping with re-installing the base anchors and installing an orange plastic fence to protect the ground under construction.

The coaches have bought into the program, the freshman class this year is sizeable and Pinocchio sees potential there.

“It takes a little bit of time to grow it, to build it,” he said. “We’re going to do pretty well this year.”

As for those cement-filled Yuban cans, they’re not going anywhere.

Those will keep the team humble, he said.

Contact Melissa Blanton at (209) 588-4535 or mblanton@uniondemocrat.com . Follow her on Twitter @downtownmelissa.



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