Many people attended the Monday, March 10 Barnesville Village Council meeting to express there concerns over council’s decision to not allow the main baseball field at Barnesville Memorial Park to be used for the upcoming baseball and softball season due to the condition of the field. Council President Dale Bunting said council had approved the drainage project last year and contributed $4,000 toward it. He said the Operating Engineers did a “fantastic job”, however the prolonged winter weather killed the grass. He said council made the decision to cancel games until the field could be re-seeded. “We did it now, so that the school could reschedule games. We will re-seed it as soon as the weather breaks and then again in the fall,” Bunting said. “It will be torn up if it is played on now. We are looking out for the kids.”
Former mayor Tom Michelli questioned when council made this decision and if it was in an open, public meeting. Bunting answered, “no” and then made a motion to cancel the games, which council voted for later in the meeting.
Park Director Rich Wells wanted to know why he was not consulted on the decision, and if council had a plan in place.
“We are where we are now, and we need to get back to playing ball at the park. It is the center of the action,” Wells said. “As park director, I wanted to be consulted,” he said. “I would think you would want the opinion of the person who has taken care of that field for the last 13 years.”
Councilman Tim McKelvey said he was in favor of a proposition that included a budget. He said Wells should be consulted on all work going forward.
“Those involved have good intentions,” McKelvey said, adding that Wells could contact Village Administrator Roger Deal or Bunting if he had any questions.
Councilman John Jefferis agreed that open communication should be a common practice.
John Gordon, president of the Home Run Club that spearheaded the field project, said part of the problem was equipment failure. He said finishing the leveling of the field would require “minimal dirt moving”. He said he felt they should wait until the field was drier and then re-seed it.
Head baseball coach D.J. Butler said the grade will have to be finished by hand. “We are close to being done. I feel we are one good day of weather away from being finished,” he said. Butler said he has scheduled as many away games at the beginning of the baseball and softball season as possible.
Jefferis said Mother Nature would dictate the time table. Councilman Les Tickhill agreed saying, “ The weather is the villain in this.”
Butler praised Wells for his upkeep of the field, but said Barnesville is one of the last teams in the area that still played on bank sand. He said the material caused the problem with the field and the condition of the field has been deteriorating since he began coaching. “The condition worsens as the play goes on and leads to injuries,” he said, pointing to three separate incidences in which high school players were injured while playing on the field. “It is getting to the point where, in my opinion, it is unsafe,” Butler said. “We need to fix the infield surface.”
Brenda Brown, parent of a senior baseball player, said it was upsetting that her son would not get to play ball on the park field his senior year, but she felt the village should spend money to “fix it, and fix it right”. She continued, “Thousands of kids play on that field each season.”
Former park director Dave Fitzpatrick said that once the field is fixed, there should be rules in place as to when people can play on the field and those rules should be enforced. He said the Beast of the East tournament players love Barnesville and its field, and he gets positive feedback all the time. Jefferis suggested the park board draft the rules. Bunting said it was a public park and access should not be restricted.
Councilman Scott Gallagher said the village had the money to fund the needs of the project, but communication was lacking. “We need to work as  a team to make it better and get it in shape,” he said.
Bunting said council has supported the project and said he has contacted to people to hydro-seed the field. McKelvey said he felt an expert opinion was needed and said he was not a fan of hydro-seeding.
A resident said the park went through the same thing 13 years ago. “We can’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again.”
The closing of the field may impact another group. Tracy Guy, representing the Legion Riders who are bringing the Veteran’s Traveling Tribute Wall to the park on May 7th, said they had already been approved by the company and the village to use the outfield for the wall.
McKelvey said they should have a back-up location. Guy said the park is the only site approved by the company providing the wall, and flyers for the event had already been printed. She said $17,000 was raised to bring the wall to Barnesville.
Wells said the village “needed to do everything in their power to support this.” “They want this bad, and they deserve it.”
Jefferis agreed, saying the village should make it work.