Hampshire High’s 'The Yard' named high school baseball field of the year
By Denise Moran For Sun-Times Media October 31, 2013 12:34PM
At home plate on the Yard, players can view the Hampshire High School campus. The Yard won won this year’s American Baseball Coaches Association/Turface Athletics Field Maintenance Award. | Denise Moran for Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 5, 2013 6:06AM
HAMPSHIRE — “The Yard” has hit a home run with a group that rates high school and college baseball fields around the country.
The Yard, which is Hampshire High School’s field, won this year’s American Baseball Coaches Association/Turface Athletics Field Maintenance Award.
According to Community Unit School District 300, “the award is presented annually to one high school baseball program across the United States as well as to one college recipient. The 2013 Field Maintenance Awards were chosen by a panel of industry professionals and groundskeepers, from Major League Baseball to the National Football League.”
It came as no surprise to Oakland Athletics farm team outfielder Jacob Goebbert, who once played on The Yard when he was a Hampshire High student.
He remembered that head baseball coach John Sarna took a lot of pride in the proper maintenance of The Yard.
“Players took care of their positions,” Goebbert said. “They would rake the dirt to make sure it was a smooth playing field.”
In addition to receiving the award, Hampshire High will receive one ton of Turface soil conditioner and $400 for field maintenance equipment. Profile Products of Buffalo Grove is the producer of the Turface Athletics line of field conditioners and packing clays, which is says are designed to maximize sports field safety and performance.
“What a tremendous honor to be recognized nationally for the best baseball field,” said Hampshire High Principal Brett Bending.
He said Sarna “takes a lot of pride in the field. The school’s grounds crew maintain it year-round. When they planned this facility, we were blessed with a lot of land. You can see the whole campus from the backstop. We are currently building a new concession stand with two restrooms that will serve the baseball and soccer fields.”
Hampshire High has two baseball and two soccer fields. ”The Yard” is in play from March to October every year, which includes the Illinois High School Association season and the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Summer League season. In addition, the field hosts Hampshire baseball’s annual summer camp and many IHSA regional tournaments. It is a popular location for the annual Chicago Scouts Association’s Silver & Black Series.
Sarna will accept the award at the ABCA/Rawlings honors luncheon Jan. 4 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas.
In addition to working as head baseball coach, Sarna also teaches physical education and driver’s education at Hampshire High. He earned three master’s degrees — in educational leadership, sports medicine, and curriculum and instruction. He formerly taught at Jacobs High School in Algonquin before he came to Hampshire High in January 2013. He commutes to work from his home in Walworth, Wis.
Sarna said this was the first time he applied for the award.
“I did the application process,” Sarna said. “I needed references and a picture of the field. I wrote a summary on the field on how it was transformed over the years. I received the call three weeks ago that Hampshire High won the award.”
Sarna said that many people share in winning the award.
“This would not have happened if I was on my own,” Sarna said. “This award reflects the hard work and dedication of not only the grounds crew but also of the players, the coaches and the community. We all know what we need to do before, during and after a game. It’s almost like a concert. As head coach, I’m fortunate to have been a part of it. Every head baseball coach wants this award. We are always trying to improve the playing facility.”
The Hampshire High coaches who work with Sarna are Frank Simonelli, varsity pitching coach; Joe Natale, assistant varsity coach; Dan Napper, sophomore head coach; and Robert Fillmore, freshman head coach.
The Hampshire High grounds crew that keep The Yard and other fields in top shape are Chris Pulley, Brad Vosburgh and Jay Rasmussen. These three have all been working at Hampshire High along Big Timber Road since 2008 when the high school moved from State Street to its current site.
The Yard, which annually endures winter conditions, faced tough competition with other athletics fields in Southern and Western states that typically experience milder weather year-round. In 2012, Boulder Creek High School in Anthem, Ariz., and its baseball coach, Joe McDonald, won the award.
“It is harder to get a field green after the winter and keep it healthy,” said Pulley. He added that the beauty of the woods around the baseball field helped Hampshire High to win the award.
Chuck Bumbales, assistant superintendent of District 300 Operations, was the principal at Hampshire High last year. He said that it is very exciting that Hampshire High won the award.
“This shows what happens when you get everyone going in the right direction,” Bumbales said. “The entire Hampshire High campus is nice, but The Yard especially has come together over the past two to three years. Trees and a flag pole were donated by parents. The maintenance staff working with Sarna made great improvements.”
Hampshire residents are longtime baseball fans.
The first park in the village, Township Park, originally was part of the Channing farm, with wooded areas and a pond. The pond was drained and made into a baseball diamond. The park now is known as Ralph Seyller Memorial Park.
Hampshire held annual baseball banquets from 1919 to 1994. The banquet began on a bet regarding the outcome of the World Series. A dinner was always held on the Thursday following the final game of the World Series. Major league speakers at the banquet included Bill Veeck, Dizzy Trout, Lou Boudreau, Ernie Banks, Glenn Beckert, Vince Lloyd and Minnie Minoso.