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A dedicated group of Hinsdale Central parents provided a major assist in getting the baseball team on the field for its first five games of the season.
The Red Devils Baseball Club, led by President Hank Haff, was able to locate alternate fields for the Devils, while putting in extra work on Hinsdale Central's own field to get it ready for the season.
The booster club was determined not to let this winter's rough weather interfere with the start of the baseball season. Despite club members using snow removal equipment to clear the field, Hinsdale Central still needed to cancel games against Montini and Lakes.
Haff scanned the internet in search of all-turf fields in the Chicago area. He found two that had openings and contacted athletic director Dan Jones to check their availability. Jones also worked with first-year coach Jason Ziemer to let the Devils' opponents know they were trying to find a place to play.
"We are blessed at Central to have this athletic director," Haff said. "Dan Jones is a hard working guy, who responded to the club's needs and the baseball team's needs. We asked to see if we can get on those fields and he didn't waste any time. Jason wanted the games to be played and did whatever was necessary to do that."
The Devils finally opened the season March 28 against Prospect. It was one of the first games played at the Wheeling Park District's new $38 million Heritage Park, which underwent renovation to include four lighted all-turf fields - two for baseball and two for softball. Workers were still installing fencing on other fields during the Devils' 2-0 loss.
Hinsdale Central starting senior pitcher Austin Butler threw off a portable mound that can be wheeled off the field. Arrows painted on the turf behind the mound help the grounds crew align it with second base and home plate.
"It was really different," Butler said. "It's something you need to adjust to at the beginning of the season."
Three of Hinsdale Central's first five games were on turf fields.
The Devils played a night game March 29 against Hersey at Wheaton College's field in Carol Stream, then returned for a JV-varsity doubleheader April 2 against Geneva.
For home games against Metea Valley on March 31 and against Maine South on April 1, portable heaters to fight the bitter cold were brought into the dugouts.
Prior to spring break, the booster club grounds crew, led by Lenny Senicka, Bart Butler, Mike Jurack and John Pelton, worked nearly every day and all day March 30 to get Hinsdale Central's home field ready.
"You had to clear the snow, dry the ground and turn the soil," Haff said. "We worked hard on that field Sunday. I don't think the last one to leave was until 7:30 at night."