Leader Blues

Friday, April 04, 2008

SPORTS >>Storms ravage Sherwood Sports Complex

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

Well before you reach the fields themselves, it’s apparent that the storm didn’t spare the baseball complex.

The light fixtures, leaning precariously at 30-degree angles, are the tipoff, along with the clusters of debris clinging to the backstops.

But it isn’t until you crest the hill along the walkway into the Sherwood Sports Complex that you take the full measure of the devastation.

The storms that blew through central Arkansas on Thursday night ravaged the multi-field sports complex that surrounds Sylvan Hills High School and which includes the home field for the Sylvan Hills High baseball and softball teams.

Hardest hit was Kevin McReynolds Field, home of the 6A-East Bears. The press box sits upside down near home plate and the crumpled metal bleachers along the first and third base lines now lay on their sides near the on deck circles.

The blue outfield fence and the blue wall in centerfield are gone, their absence made more conspicuous by the 30-foot portion of fence in right center that somehow remained standing.

The roof on the concession stand that sits in the middle of the four main fields at the complex is gone, its pink insulation clinging to the backstop on Fields 2 and 3.

“We’ll probably have to level that building,” said Sylvan Hills Optimist Club board member Mike Sanders, pointing at the pentagon-shaped concession stand. “Pieces of the rafters landed in the woods [beyond Field 3] and you can see the insulation in the trees.”

Sanders said the Optimist Club was to meet last night to discuss how to proceed. Much dependson how the Sherwood Parks and Recreation Department decides to file its claim — whether through an insurance adjuster or through FEMA, Sanders said.

In the meantime, the Optimist Club is trying to arrange for alternative ball fields for the youth baseball leagues, which were slated to start in three weeks. Sanders said Maumelle had already agreed to block off some fields for use.

“We’ll start getting our volunteer base, make some phone calls, and get some sort of account set up for donations,” Sanders said. “Kind of like Dumas did when it got blown away [in a tornado in February of 2007].”

All the fields in the lower portion of the complex received some level of damage, Sanders said, though he said Kevin McReynolds Field and Field 2 were hit the hardest.

The softball and soccer portion of the complex, which occupies an area on a hill southwest of Kevin McReynolds Field, mostly escaped damage, Sanders said, though a backstop on Field 8 was down.

“But it’s minor stuff compared to what went on here,” he said.

Sylvan Hills athletic director and head baseball coach Denny Tipton was unavailable for comment as of Friday afternoon.