Copyright 2018 Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
All Rights Reserved
Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)
Andy Bolton's days as a Central Bobcats baseball player may be in the past, but that has not stopped him from heading up a long-term project to build an indoor hitting facility for his alma mater.
"I graduated in 1990, but I have stayed connected," he said. "I have one child in middle school, and my son is a freshman at Central. I was asked in 2015 if I would head up the project for an indoor hitting facility. I have spent the last three years making that happen."
To celebrate, the public was invited to an open house for the new Tommy Schumpert & Bud Bales Hitting Facility on Nov. 16.
"We started in the fall of 2015 and took the first five months in that planning stage to create an athletics foundation for Central High School to take on projects. (It is) a tax-exempt status for people to make contributions. All of the sports can utilize the foundation moving forward. That was our first step."
Fundraising for the project kicked off in the spring of 2016. "We were able to raise $200,000," said Bolton.
"The icing was to name it after Bud Bales and Tommy Schumpert," he said. "I played for Coach Bales and they are first class men and possibly two of the best former coaches Central has ever had. We are very excited about naming the building after them."
The building itself is 50 by 80 feet and features retractable batting cages, three pitchers' mounds, three softball pitching mats and machines. "If it's raining outside or in the colder months, everything they would need to train will be in that facility," said Bolton.
"Throughout the whole process Principal Reynolds and athletic director J.D. Lambert were very supportive," added Bolton. "Our goal was to build a building that the community would be proud of. We want everybody to see it."
Architect Aaron Miller is also a Central alum and recalls the initial meeting three years ago where the goal was set to create a top notch indoor baseball and softball training facility that would long benefit future generations of student athletes.
"Setting the goal was easy," said Miller. "The challenge was how to make it a reality. We didn't have to look far to find the answer to this challenge. When asked who built this facility, the answer is simple. The pride and tradition of Central High School, its alumni, and the Fountain City community built it. Without their support, this facility would not be open today. A special thanks goes out to all those who gave of their time, donations, and efforts towards this project, as well as Creative Structures and Design Innovation for donating their time and services to help this dream come true."
Former Central coach Bales said he had been keeping up with the progress and was glad to see the finished product. Bales won 12 district titles and seven region championships in his 26 seasons at Central. "It was a little surprising that they got it built as quickly as they did," said Bales. "The members of the foundation and Andy Bolton are the type of people who are going to get it done one way or another."
Bales said players have used the batting cages under the football stadium for decades. "They weren't enclosed, but we didn't waste or lose any balls, we knew where every one of them was," he said. "And every player would swing a bat, a broomstick or whatever. Because of TSSAA rules we couldn't use a ball and bat outside of the season, so we used a broomstick and Wiffle ball."
Bales was honored to have his name featured on the side of the building. "It's real nice, I don't know if it was deserved," said Bales. "I'm proud to be a part of anything with Tommy Schumpert's name on it. He was ahead of me, in the 1960s-70s and also won a state championship."
"It's a great facility," added Schumpert. "It's going to help a lot of young boys and girls. Andy Bolton has built a great facility and it's a great honor to be a part of it."
Read More of Today's AB Headlines
Subscribe to Our Daily E-Newsletter