Greenwood High School Head Baseball Coach Chad Mercado and returning Coach Shannon Rhea undoubtedly know talent when they see it. This year the duo became abundantly aware of the number of skilled players on their hands.
“(We) noticed how much talent we had at tryouts,” stated Mercado. “Rhea was like me, we’re both excited about it!”
However the limited facility was a challenge. “When he mentioned the idea of bussing the younger guys to a different field so we could keep more of them and see how they’d develop, I thought it was a great idea,” added Mercado. “Every coach wants to give younger guys a chance to develop, but we also have to keep our varsity squad sharp. We have unbelievable facilities, but no matter how you look at it, 45 kids and one baseball field is a challenge.”
The dream would soon become a reality for those up- and-coming players. “Fortunately we had just helped out Kenny Sunde with their baseball tournament and based on our conversations, I felt like he’d be interested in the idea,” Mercado added.
Sunde, the Director of the Boys and Girls Club, had done extensive work on the field and offered to transform Field 6 from a softball field to a baseball field. The work would entail cutting sod from what will now become a softball field, and transferring it to Field 6.
He then contacted Athletic Director Dr. Dustin Smith, who fully supported the notion and helped get the ball rolling. “(He) always supports doing whatever we can to give as many kids as possible an opportunity, and the ball quickly began to move.”
Workers removed a fence to expand the outfield and designed the infield so it can service 12U competition with 50’/70′ mound distance and bases, as well as high school regulations of 60’/90′.
“This was some serious work that wouldn’t have been possible without our upperclassmen,” stated Mercado. “They may never field a ground ball on that field again, but they know how much it’s going to benefit our young guys, and I think that just says a lot about what kind of kids we have at Greenwood”
The field work was a community effort and made possible by volunteers such as Arkansas Select Coach Phillip Karnes.
“Once we finish expanding the infield and getting the fences to 300 feet, the Karnes’ are going to donate a batting cage frame so we can hang a net and have a full size batting cage. We should be able to build bullpen mounds right next to the cage, and there you have it.”
The field will play host to young baseball talent for years to come. As Mercado concluded, “we think we’ll have a really solid facility that can host freshmen-sophomore games and practices, and also give the community another quality field to play on all year. Program wise, I think it’s going to be really cool to have Coach Rhea and our young guys out there representing the high school and giving young players and families a chance to see the day in and day out of high school baseball. Most importantly though, we feel like it gives our program an even more grass roots approach and gives us an opportunity to invest in the future. Obviously the field will service us, but we want the community to benefit from it just as much.”