Photo: West End High head softball coach Ricky Watkins cut the ceremonial ribbon to the school’s new infield on February 24 in Walnut Grove. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
The refurbished West End High School softball field received a proper christening on February 24 in Walnut Grove.
With players, supporters and community leaders looking on, WEHS head softball coach Ricky Watkins cut the ceremonial ribbon to the field’s new infield prior to the Lady Patriots’ season opener against Sand Rock.
Watkins noted that the project, which began last October, would not have been possible with-out the support of parents and local volunteers, as well as anonymous benefactors.
“We had so many people, mostly the parents, step up and help get this ready,” said Watkins, who is in his 16th year as head coach of the school’s softball team. “We also had several donors who kicked in [money], without which we would have never gotten this done. The COVID year [of 2020] kind of helped us in that we didn’t spend a whole lot of money that season, and we got a couple of fundraisers in.”
The $75,000-dollar project features new turf and an underground drainage system.
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“Unless we chose to, we haven’t missed a day of practice because of the field being wet,” said Watkins. “It will drain out even if we play in the rain.”
In addition to the infield, new turf was laid down outside and inside each dugout.
Watkins said the idea of an upgrade was first brought up about 10 years ago.
“We just didn’t have the money until last year,” he said. “We did most of the labor ourselves. We excavated [the infield] and put drainage system in and put the gravel in. The only thing we didn’t do was put the new turf down. It was a combined effort from a lot of people.”
Attending the event were members of the Etowah County Board of Education, the Etowah County Commission and the school administration.
“I’m just really proud to see so many people pulling together and get something done like this,” said WEHS Principal Ron Daugherty. “Everyone involved, from the coaches and the parents and the volunteers, did a great job. There was many a time when we’d leave out from something else at night and see the lights on with people still working. They wanted to make it ready for opening day, and they did it.”