Our Voice: Put softball players first in field plans

Farm Forum

Do Aberdeen’s softball fields need to be updated?

That’s the question many are hoping will be answered by a $25,000 needs assessment being commissioned by the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department and the Aberdeen Softball Association.

Many believe that the softball complex at Moccasin Creek is in dire need of a makeover. Rather than two, four-field complexes, they see one, eight-field softball complex, with bigger fields and more things for kids to do.

We think it’s worth looking at improving those areas, but a realistic view is in order.

Supporters say updated fields can help Aberdeen attract more state softball tournaments. That’s a smart argument, considering the phrase “attract state tournaments” is like catnip to our tourism leaders.

But can Aberdeen really become a softball hub?

First, many tournaments are locked in already in Sioux Falls, where so many of those playing in tourneys live. What incentive would they have to come to Aberdeen to play all of a sudden?

In addition, it’s not just bigger diamonds and more to do that will attract tournaments. There are lots of things that need to be competitive with other locations, such as accessibility and parking, scoreboards, media boxes and public address equipment and more.

That’s a lot of expense.

Aberdeen already hosts at 14-inch men’s state tournament every August. Last year, a women’s state tournament was held here for the first time in several years.

If there are more tournaments out there to be had, maybe a second assessment needs to be drawn up on the state of softball in South Dakota, to see if we even have a remote chance of attracting more softball tournaments.

We would instead like to see the goal of improving the softball scene be to the benefit of the hundreds and hundreds of locals who play softball.

In almost any other instance, we could look at a group of 1,800 or so and say, “That’s a lot of people who could benefit.” With about that many adult softball players registered in Aberdeen, give or take, we look at growing that number or increasing player satisfaction as a worthy endgame.

It seems that men and women are getting stronger and outgrowing the fields. Lots of batters are going long, despite changes in gear that should keep the game within the fences. Moccasin Creek neighbors, such as Bob and Brenda Lyke, featured in a Sunday Jeff Bahr story, regularly find softballs in their yards. Last summer, their Chevy Suburban was smacked, too.

When the softball assessment is complete, park and city officials will decide whether to pursue Phase 2 of the project: developing a master plan for a new softball complex.

Put the players and neighbors first, and try to attract tournaments second.