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Aging baseball field seeks some much needed attention

Pahrump Valley High School’s aging baseball field was addressed at the last Nye County School Board meeting on Tuesday night with a presentation made by concerned parents and the school baseball team as over 20 parents and baseball team members gathered in the board chambers to let people know that the baseball field is unsafe to play on.

The three-hour meeting resulted in the school board asking the superintendent to re-evaluate how the district can improve what they are currently doing to the baseball field.

Talk to any baseball player on the Trojans baseball team and he would tell you that he is risking injury every time he plays on their home field in Pahrump.

The once cherished field that was so well groomed by Rod Poteete, the first Trojans baseball coach, and his players is now in disrepair, needing some much needed attention after years of neglect due to budget cuts. This is something that both the school district and the team will agree on.

Some players like outfielder Aaron Fuentes, have already hurt themselves playing on the field.

“I injured my knee in center field before the season started,” he said. “There is this pot hole that has been there since I was in seventh grade.”

He said the injury hurts enough to keep from exploding off of his knee.

“Picture your knee locked out,” he said. “And then picture someone stepping on it while it’s locked out, that’s the pain I feel.”

The boys described the outfield like it was Swiss cheese. Logan White, another Trojans outfielder, said the field attracts every gopher in town.

“There are just holes and gopher holes everywhere,” he said. “You go and track a ball and you don’t even know if your foot will slip right into something. It’s not safe.”

Annette Fuentes, Aaron’s mother, said the parents want to help the school district get the field conditioned and a much needed backstop renovated. The parents believe the current backstop is safety issue along with the field condition.

Fuentes explained that when people see the field the first thing they think about is gopher holes.

“The problem is much bigger than the gopher holes,” she said. “The field is a disaster, there are ridges and it just needs to be leveled out.”

Gege Murphy is another concerned parent. Murphy describes the field as “nearly unplayable and a disgrace to the school.”

Murphy said the grass is uneven, which was caused by the maintenance of the field.

She knows the school is trying to save money on the lawn care and cuts the water off in the summertime. This causes the grass to die in some spots, causing an unevenness in the grass.

Fuentes said they were turned away from volunteering their labor to fix the field and the backstop.

The school has had a long history of volunteers and the parents don’t understand what the problem is. The original baseball and softball field was all built by volunteers.

Fuentes met with the high school. She talked to the athletic director, Ed Kirkwood and assistant principal, Jason Odegard, and was referred to the district. From there she was told to take the problem to the board.

After the board meeting, McRae said the parents tried to keep the meeting positive.

He said the board is willing to renovate or replace the existing backstop with funding from a rooftop construction fund. This fund only allows renovations to be done and does not allow them to use the money for maintenance issues.

According to McRae, this money comes from a rooftop assessment which gives the school $1,600 per building permit. He said this fund now has a balance.

McRae said his response revolved around action taken by the school district to reduce the budget in 2010.

“In 2010, I was asked to assume the position of maintenance and operations,” McRae said. “We were in a financial crisis. At that time, they laid off office staff and reduced the operating maintenance budget for supplies and services.”

He said his instructions from the superintendent at the time were to reduce the watering costs because we were spending tens of thousands of dollars on watering fields district- wide. According to McRae, the district pays over 8.50 cents for every thousand gallons of water or $150 per day to water the baseball field and softball field.

“So we shut the water down to the bare minimum in the summertime to just keep it from dying, knowing that we could get it back up later.”

McRae knows the field could be better and he even rated it as one on a scale of 1-to-10.

The problem is the money never returned to his budget for the maintenance of the field.

“I am saddled to make the daily decision, do I buy fertilizer or do I buy a compressor for an HVAC unit,” he said.

On the issue of volunteers, he said he would welcome them. In fact, that is the only way the field will get reconditioned with the current budget.

“I don’t oppose volunteers working on the field,” McRae said strongly. “That is not the case. Unfortunately, I as an administrator can no longer allow parents to volunteer in the status and the nature in what we did when I volunteered in the 1990s.”

He said those days are gone. To take volunteers now they need to take some extra steps.

“It doesn’t mean we can’t do it,” he said. “I need a plan on what they propose, and how they propose to do it. So I can be assured it is being done correctly and safely before they get started. That has been my position since 2010. When they first came to me about the backstop, they had no plan.”

His main point is things like backstops need engineering and people who volunteer to work on the field need a safety class.

McRae feels that after the meeting the parents better understand his position.

Fuentes was also pleased with the meeting.

“I think the parents brought up a lot of things the board was not aware of,” she said. “I think they will address the issues. For instance, there are a lot of volunteer parents and they were stopped from volunteering because McRae worried about lawsuits.”

Fuentes hopes both sides will follow through and the kids will benefit from it.

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