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Trojans, Gators find interim home for baseball season
Once Green River Community College was a baseball team without a home.
Although the program once boasted a fine, on-campus field and training facility, expansion at the college over the years overtook the field, rendering the Gators homeless and forcing the team to play its home games at Heritage Park in Puyallup, or at Russell Road Field in Kent.
Last season, the Gators caught a break however, when Auburn High School officials agreed to let the team use its park.
“We were very fortunate to be able to do that,” said Green River coach Brian Embery.
But coming into this season, it appeared that the Gators might be homeless once more.
In November, Auburn voters approved a bond to fund the construction of a new high school. Work got under way this week, necessitating the demolition of Auburn’s baseball diamond and displacing the baseball programs for the next two seasons.
The high school’s new lighted, field turf diamond won’t be ready until 2014.
“We’re pleased the bond passed,” Embery said. “Unfortunately, it puts us (and Auburn) in the position of being homeless.”
Luckily for both programs, the Auburn Parks, Arts and Recreation Department stepped to the plate. The City offered to allow the Trojans and Gators to play their home games on the north field at Brannan Park.
“The high school approached us a couple months ago because they knew with the new high school coming they weren’t going to have a field,” said Brian Petty, Auburn Parks, Arts and Recreation spokesman. “We just have a wonderful relationship with the district and wanted to help.”
Although Embery said Brannan Park was basically sound, some improvements needed to be made.
“To do justice to college baseball we needed to do a bit to make it look nice and have people feel good about the field their kids are playing on,” Embery said. “It’s a nice city park. We’re fortunate they have agreed to let us play here. And in return, I told them I would fix the field and make it appropriate for college baseball.”
The Green River and Auburn programs chipped in to spruce up the field last week.
“It’s a really beautiful setting to play baseball,” Embery said. “The field itself just needed a little tender, loving care. And that’s what 29 baseball players (from Green River) are providing.”
“They’re putting in new cinders between the dugout and home plate. They’re rebuilding the pitching mound,” Petty said. “They’ve also done some sod cutting to spruce it up and take some of the lips out of the edges. We’re possibly going to put some new topsoil on the infield once it dries out a little. And they’ve put up new bases and pegs.”
In addition, the Auburn baseball team moved the outfield fence padding and backdrop from the old field to the new one.
“The park maintenance staff has been there providing some machinery and support for the schools, but most of the work is being done by the Green River Community College and Auburn baseball teams,” Petty said.
Embery said the extensive work – with his squad providing about 16 hours of labor last week – has been a bonding opportunity.
“We’ve had some really good work parties out here,” Embery said. “The kids work together. They get to know each other and work together. They invest in the program and the facility, and there is value in that.”
Embery hopes that the solid relationship with the school district would continue beyond the next two years.
“My hope would be in a couple years when the high school has its new field we can continue that relationship and move over to play at Auburn High School.”
The Auburn Trojans open South Puget Sound League North 4A play at Brannan Park on March 20 against Jefferson.
Green River plays its first home game on March 30 against Linfield College’s junior varsity squad.