The baseball program at W.T. Woodson isn’t different from other high school baseball clubs across the country, except for the field they play on.
The field is a mess, as many in the Woodson community would describe it, and for months, the community has been trying to get the county to allocate resources to revamp the fields and the dugout. The field was even used in a video about the worst baseball fields ever seen.
Finally, their wish was granted on Nov. 1, ending an ongoing issue that has drug on for the past several months.
“This is not just about me or my kids; this is about the 40 boys who play for Woodson, who cannot get their field fixed or updated, who spend an hour before games on unflooding their dugouts, which is so beyond unacceptable,” said parent Killian Kelly. Kelly has two sons, one who graduated from Woodson, and the other currently attends and plays for the baseball team.
Indeed, it is about the kids, this process has been going on for several months now, and several times, Woodson was turned away, despite the work of Kelly, the community, Woodson Principal Carlyn Floyd, and Athletic Director Blair Smith.
A year ago, Floyd and former Woodson Athletic Director Dan Checkosky reached out to the director of Athletics and the head of Facilities for FCPS to address these issues, receiving word that the funds to renovate the dugouts would cost $181,000.
Dugout flooding is due to facilities repaving the road behind the dugout to make the area handicapped accessible. They made the road too high and when it rains, the water has nowhere to go. Despite FCPS Facilities being the ones who damaged the field, they did not want to pay to fix it properly. The school was told that they would need to fundraise for new dugouts, fields, and a press box.
In September, a Twitter account was created to show just how the baseball field and the dugouts look, along with the press box. The comparison to Robinson Secondary may seem like a bit much, but the images are appalling, as Kelly said. The photos showing flooding in the 1960s-era dugouts and the press box only add to the ongoing frustration. It took the tweet from Woodson field to show that Regulation 3860.8 makes FCPS School Board responsible for these items.
When the school buildings at Woodson were renovated in 2009, the baseball field was left untouched. Kelly said the current lot was reopened for tryouts after keeping it closed but not fixing the problem and because they were unable to plant grass in a timely manner the field was brown for the whole 2022 season. Now, if they are able to regrade the field prior to the season and the grass is not planted before it gets too cold, there is a chance the athletes cannot use the field until it is warm enough in March or April. Baseball tryouts start at the end of February and the season begins in March. But if the grass is not planted during this season, there is a chance the team might be forced to play on another field next season.
“Last season, our boys didn’t get to have their green days on that field because the field was closed. So, every other school got to have their green days, and we couldn’t. And then it comes back [from FCPS Facilities] ‘Sorry, we don’t have the money to fix this flooding issue’ when they did [have the money],” Kelly said. “The field is so bad if you walk on that field. If you’re sitting at one spot, you can’t see the outfielder because one part is higher, then it slopes down.”
Recently, two contractors surveyed the facilities and submitted bids for the work. Both lamented that they should have begun working on the project in September. “I’m surprised that no one has broken their leg at third base,” said one of the contractors.
FCPS School Board Member Megan McLaughlin was instrumental in the Woodson community finally getting their voice heard. Speaking at the school board meeting in September, Kelly was told by an official from FCPS Facilities that the field would be getting a revamp, but the process has stalled since then with no answer in sight. Now, it appears that public pressure and consistent persistence have finally won over.
“We are very thankful she [McLaughlin’s] aware. She and her office followed up all the time, and she was appalled that this was even a case and that she was not aware of it,” Kelly said.
Unfortunately, the group of kids that cannot celebrate this news as much is the seniors for Woodson. The group did not have a freshman year, and their sophomore year was cut short. As Kelly said, this was their chance and it was taken away from them by something they couldn’t control.
The purchase order process for fixing the field has only just begun, and the hope is that the vendor will have a purchase order in hand by the end of next week, upon which the proposal will start planning a project/work schedule with the goal of completing it in time for the 2023-2024 season.