Photo by Bill Roseberry
View from on top of the hill beyond the center field fence at the new baseball field on the campus of Alton High School.
To say head coach Todd Haug and his Alton High baseball team are excited about their new baseball facility on the Godfrey campus is an understatement.
“It’s well on its way to being what we believe will be one of the nicest parks in the state,” Haug said. “It’s really well thought-out. It was executed directly off the plans. You have lists of things you wish you could do if you ever got the chance and it’s truly our field of dreams here in Alton.”
Not to mention it will be on campus at AHS. That’s always a concern with commuting kids, either via a bus or driving themselves. That has been the case as the Redbirds have played the majority of their games at Lloyd Hopkins Field inside Gordon Moore Park since 1981.
Under Redbird lore, Alton christened the field with a home run by Darren Jones, who still lives in Godfrey, on that spring day in ‘81. The field was officially named Lloyd Hopkins Field in 1997 after renovations were made to it to become the home of the Bluff City Bombers of the Central Illinois Collegiate League in 1998 and prepare to play host to the American Legion World Series in 2000.
It also housed the Marquette Catholic Explorers, American Legion Post 126 baseball and Metro Collegiate League baseball, among various other teams over the years.
Hopkins Field also played host to the American Legion Great Lakes Regional last year.
Over the years the field has diminished some from the amount of games played on it and with land on campus at AHS, it was just time for the change.
Haug said he has a great working relationship with the school district, so it became a perfect marriage for a new field.
“We can’t thank the district enough, especially Dave McClintock,” Haug said. “He’s been phenomenal to work with. He’s the head of buildings and grounds. We have a tremendous working relationship with them.
“We hope the quality of the product on the field is going to match the quality of the field. We think it’s going to be a real showpiece.”
The new field is nestled on top of the hill behind Alton High next to Piasa Motor Fuels Field — the new soccer field — and the new track. The outfield fence backs up to a steep embankment, which at the top will feature a cross country course for the Redbirds to practice. The hilltop also makes for a good viewpoint to look down on the ball field.
The dimensions of the new field are 325 feet down the left and right field lines, 355 feet to the gaps and 385 feet to dead center.
It also offers large dugouts with plenty of room for players and coaches, with spacious bullpen areas directly next to them for easy access. On the home side there are batting cages right behind the bullpens.
It’s quirky little features like that which have Haug giddy. There is a small concrete walkway between the cages and bullpens where coaches can stand and watch pitchers and hitters work at the same time.
There is a section of bleachers directly behind home plate for spectators and a small press box for media at the top.
Eventually there will be a large clubhouse built with lockers for the players. It will be directly behind the dugouts. Those won’t be completed this season. Lights will be installed at a later date also.
All the amenities are shaping up to make the new Alton field a top-notch facility — one Haug said he hopes becomes a destination field for prep teams.
“As this place gets its reputation I think it’s going to be asked to host some events and it’s going to draw some teams in,” Haug said. “I think a lot of people are going to want to play here.”
Initially there are no tournaments in the works at the facility, but wheels are turning and the hope is there will eventually be events at AHS.
“We do (have some tournament ideas), but we’re waiting until year two or three for that simply because the grass itself is in its infancy stages,” he said. “We’re going to limit the exposure it has from people running all over it. It was not sodded, it was seeded so what you see out there has really been milked along and pampered.”
The Redbirds were hoping to showcase the field on March 30 vs. Freeport, but the game was rained out. The next afternoon their game with Belleville East had to be shifted to Belleville because of wet conditions.
The opening of the field is now set for Tuesday when the Birds play host to Collinsville in Southwestern Conference action.
I’d say Haug and his players will have plenty to be proud of when they run on the field for that first game.
Follow #AdVsports on Twitter