Youth teams excited for sports complex games
By RANDY GONZALES
Not even a rainout for the season opener could dampen the enthusiasm for Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex.
Hays Recreation Commission youth baseball and softball teams were scheduled to play Wednesday night at the complex, but a thunderstorm dumped nearly an inch of rain on the fields.
Her 7- and 8-year-old coach-pitch softball team didn't get to play on the new fields Wednesday, but that was OK with Kara Moore, coach of the Hyper Hitters.
"If we have rainouts for the next three (games), that's OK, too," she said. "We need it."
When Moore told her players Tuesday they would be playing on one of the new fields, they were excited.
"When I reminded them, they did jump up and down, they got to play at the complex," she said.
HRC Superintendent Roger Bixenman might not be jumping for joy, but he is happy nonetheless to have the new complex, which was funded by a city sales tax. That's the feedback he's getting, too.
"I would say 95 percent of it has been very positive; there's just a few things we'll work through this summer," he said.
Bixenman added, like anything, there are adjustments to be made now that the complex is being used. For instance, the infield dirt has been blowing into the outfield due to gusty winds, so more sand will be used in the mix. Also, glitches in the scoreboards are being addressed. That's all to be expected.
"I think there's some trial and error, how everything's going to go the first year, kind of learn from there," Bixenman said. "Things we can do differently next year, for sure.
"Overall, we're really pleased with the amount of teams we've had sign up for tournaments."
There is an added bonus to playing games at the new complex. Fields that were used for games in the past now are available for practice more often. That allows teams more practice time; they used to practice once a week but this year will be able to practice twice a week.
"That's been really nice and convenient," Bixenman said. "We haven't had that luxury before."
Not all teams will play their games at the complex, but each team will play there at least once.
"They'll all get a taste of it, everybody will get to play at least one game there at the complex in those age groups" not normally using the complex, Bixenman said.
There was a limited amount of games at the complex last fall, but this spring and summer started the first full year of activities. The HRC just completed its spring soccer and flag football seasons, and now dives into baseball and softball.
Moore remembers one weekend in particular where the complex was a happening place.
"They had the inaugural baseball tournament out there; my son played," Moore said. "It was nice to see he was over playing at a baseball tournament, my daughter was playing at a rec soccer tournament, my husband was playing in an adult softball tournament on the other side, then Fort Hays State was having a soccer camp.
"Didn't have one issue," she added. "It was nice to see everybody all right there; it was nice to see it was being put to great use that weekend."
Ben Moeckel, sports complex director, has had large numbers of teams play in tournaments so far. For instance, there were more than 20 teams at a recent Hays Baseball Association youth tournament, he said, while an adult preseason softball tournament drew more than 30 teams.
Games are scheduled Mondays through Thursdays. Fridays will be a rest day for the fields, while preparations will be made for weekend tournaments.
Bixenman said final numbers on how many teams participated and how much revenue was generated won't be available until the end of the year.
"I think the busier we are, the better off we are," Moeckel said.