By Clare S. Richie
The newly revitalized Grady Dugout Club just launched an $80,000 fundraising effort to build an on-site batting facility for the Grady High School baseball and softball teams, which currently lack a home or adjacent ball field or practice facility.
“We need the support of our community – anyone who loves the game, anyone who values the role of team sports in the lives of our students. Any contribution will get us closer to our goal,” said Cathy Lepik, Grady Dugout Club parent.
The indoor batting cage and bullpen facility would sit inside the 10th Street fence-line on the athletic stadium property. Its location would not conflict with the proposed Grady High School campus expansion.
Once constructed, players could practice while waiting for the bus to the off-site field or when the shared off-site field’s not playable or taken by another team. Players could also use it to warm up before games – rather than starting games cold, which has been a huge disadvantage.
Grady High School is the only traditional high school within Atlanta Public Schools (APS) lacking an on-site or adjacent baseball or softball field or practice facility. Until the 1990’s, Grady players practiced across the street at Piedmont Park but that’s not an option, despite years of parent advocacy.
So, the persistent parents decided to pitch an on-site solution.
“We started working directly with APS to do something that was more achievable – an indoor batting cage. If the kids can’t walk across the street and play ball at least they can hit on the Grady campus,” Grady Dugout Club parent Pete Mastin said.
Even the student players pleaded their case to the Atlanta Board of Education. After many meetings, APS agreed to the idea.
“The concept of the Grady PTA or other booster group constructing a batting cage facility in the northwest corner of Grady Stadium property has been accepted. The interested group would be responsible for all planning, design, permitting, construction, financing and operation,” Jere J. Smith III, APS Director of Capital Improvements, explained.
With this approval, the Grady Dugout Club is swinging into fundraising mode. The goal of $80,000 is estimated to cover materials for the physical structure, concrete foundation, turf, lighting and electrical, construction, netting for two batting cages and a bullpen lane, with a portable mound. Fundraising and planning/design efforts are happening concurrently so the project can be implemented as quickly as possible for the student athletes.
“This facility isn’t just for our current rosters. It’s a broad, long-term investment in the students of the Grady cluster. Not only will the next generations of Grady players benefit, Inman baseball and softball players, who have no on-site facilities either, will finally have a nearby practice space to utilize,” Lepik shared.
All donations are tax-deductible, payable to Grady Grey Knights Athletic Booster Club. Donate online at crowdrise.com/gradybaseball or mail check c/o Treasurer 1036 Cumberland Road NE Atlanta, GA 30306.
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