When a home game isn’t at home

Lack of space means softball must practice/play at Fifth Avenue Elementary

By Colleen Lopez-Buckley and Kyleigh Stehle   

  Want to see a lacrosse game? Walk across Perkal Street to the athletic fields.

  Is a baseball game in the cards? Meander to the back of the school where the diamond is located.

  Want to see a softball game? Well, for that you have to walk 10 minutes and be surrounded by the elementary school you may have attended.

   “Many people don’t even know where our field is,” said Emya Gomez, senior who plays softball. “Anyone can walk out the school and look at the football, lacrosse, soccer, and track fields and they know where the games are. [The softball diamonds are] so far and hidden away nobody seems to care much.”

  The softball team has used the Fifth Avenue Elementary School field – which is about a half mile west of the school – for over 35 years. At the location, partially seen from the Sunrise Highway onramp, are two diamonds with varsity and JV fields next to each other.

  “If it were possible, having a field here on campus would make things a lot more convenient for both the players and the coaches who work at the high school,” said Olivia Galati, JV softball coach. “Having the ability for the players to utilize the building that they currently attend makes their transition from the typical school day to practice a little easier. It would also be nice to have direct access to the sports trainer if our home field were located on campus”

  Softball players must adhere to the rule that the locker rooms are closed until 2:15 pm, which can lead to the players being late to practice since most girls change at the school before walking to practice.  

  “I totally feel all the time that it’s super unfair to us that other sports teams who don’t have to walk that far to get to their practice/games,” said April Sexton, a junior who plays softball. “They don’t have to worry that they’re late all the time and can stay after easily and get dressed and to their field without too much trouble. It’s especially unfair to JV girls since we can’t drive since we’re too young so we’re forced to walk.”

 The girls have used the Fifth Avenue field since the early 1980s. Besides the two softball fields, the teams have a storage unit for equipment and access to bathrooms limited to the athletes during practice.

  “The girls have two fields for their two teams which gives them an opportunity to get full practice time all the time,” said Panariello. “Baseball has their facility here, although they have two teams sharing one field so that’s a little detriment.”

  Standard softball bases are 60 feet apart, according to Beacon Athletics, a firm that plans, builds and renovates ballfields. The distance from home plate to the outfield fences is much shorter in softball since it is more difficult to hit a softball the same distance as a tightly wound baseball. Standard baseball bases are 90 feet apart.

  “The softball team shouldn’t have to go away for practice because the school has plenty of space to make room for them,” said Brian Kata, junior on the baseball team. “They get secluded and maybe feel like outcasts which isn’t fair to them at all.”

  While there are about 2.8 acres of land behind the school between Third and Rhodes avenues, and an average softball field requires 1.5 acres of land, according to Beacon Athletics, about three acres is already allotted for the baseball field.

   “Right now, there’s no room [on campus], I mean we’re always exploring obviously for space,” said Robert Panariello, director of health, physical education & athletics. “I don’t really see [building anything here in the future] but it’s always a possibility.”

  In the meantime, the softball team will continue playing at the Fifth Avenue field in the 2019-2020 spring season.

  “Girls softball is kind of a superstitious sport, so I think the girls would rather stay with what they have than mess with what’s working,” said Meg Kelly, assistant coach of varsity softball. “It’s tradition. It’s just our field and it’s not used by any other teams.”