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Vandal coaches enjoying improved shed

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Field of Dreams committee's upgrades to indoor hitting facility will benefit baseball, softball teams

By Andrew Harner

VANDALIA – Ever since the building was constructed in the 2000s, many opposing teams have been envious of Vandalia High School’s indoor hitting shed.

Constructed with money raised by the Sports Boosters, the metal building between the high school baseball and softball fields has allowed many players an opportunity to face live pitching during the offseason or when the spring weather doesn’t allow players to be outside.

But despite its many benefits, the building still needed some improvements.

Enter the Field of Dreams committee.

Volunteering many hours of work, committee members helped make some of those improvements since last spring, pouring a concrete floor, putting down indoor turf and installing new hitting nets, which were donated.

“It’s beautiful,” said baseball coach Luke Hohlt. “We could not ask for much more, and I hope our guys realize how good they have it, as far as facilities.”

Added softball coach Brian Buscher, “It’s wonderful. It seems like the building is 100 square feet bigger.”

The original building had a dirt and limestone floor, which made for dry, dusty air when the temperatures rose in the spring and summer.

Those conditions worsened when the entire team was practicing in the building at the same time.

“(The improvements were) important to me, as part of the overall purpose to provide better environments for kids to participate,” said FOD committee member Steve Ledbetter. “The Field of Dreams is focused on making fields and facilities that create safe and fun environments for players and fans.”

The improvements to the hitting shed have followed several other projects that were spear-headed by the committee, most notably the renovations at the high school baseball and softball fields each of the past two years, and field maintenance.

But, as with all of the committee’s projects, the shed’s improvements were the result of hard work and donations from many entities.

The committee received grant money through the White, Scarpaci and Ruemmelin funds to purchase the concrete floor, and the turf was purchased through the baseball and softball general funds, with much of the money raised coming from trivia night.

Committee members provided the labor for the project, and Jason Laack of Laack Flooring Innovations will do some finishing work on the turf when the weather warms up.

Tim Metzger provided use of his tractor and loader to remove the old dirt and limestone floor, and Ledbetter said the committee is grateful to the Park District for allowing the renovations on its property.

“The Field of Dreams guys have done wonderful things for the baseball and softball programs,” Buscher said. “We had a lot of guys show up to help on the shed, and I appreciate everyone who has been helping.”

Said Hohlt, “Those guys have seen a need in the community, and have done everything they can to meet that need. Not just those guys, but all of the people and organizations that have helped us.”

In the future, the committee is hopeful that funds will become available to insulate the walls and install a heating system.

But even without those conveniences, the teams are still benefitting greatly from the changes.

Because the new nets are adjustable, one half of the shed can now be used to take batting practice, while the other half can be used to field ground balls, an added benefit given the poor weather conditions the area has recently seen.