‘Rock garden’ gets a facelift | SierraSun.com

‘Rock garden’ gets a facelift

Ask and you shall receive. At least, that’s what happened when Truckee High varsity baseball coach Mike Ellis sought grass for the Wolverines’ infield.

Ellis sent a letter to Western Turf, in Sparks, Nev., stating that Truckee was the only school in the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association lacking a grass infield and requested a donation to change that. Now, the baseball field at Truckee High School no longer is bald.

“Since the first day I started coaching in Truckee six years ago I said, ‘That has got to go,'” an appreciative Ellis said. “A dirt infield is ugly.”

Western Turf owner Harry Fahnestock responded to Ellis’ letter with a call informing him that the company was granting the baseball program a boon in the form of 8,100 square feet of sod ” just enough to cover an infield. The would-be price for a truckload of Western Blue Derby sod delivered: $3,835.02, said Western Turf employee Laurie Gehlert.

Nicknamed “the rock garden” by players, the infield and its pebble-strewn surface used to be as perilous ” because of the bad hops it created ” as it was unattractive.

So Truckee baseball players, as well as some of their parents and little brothers, didn’t mind spending last Sunday morning working in exchange for a grass infield. Sophomore middle infielder John DePew said his time spent fitting strips of sod together was a bargain.

“With those ground balls that bounce up and hit you in the face, it’s definitely worth it,” said DePew, referring to a ball that once left an imprint of its seams on his cheek. “It’s been talked about, but to finally have it done is nice. It’s gonna be worth it in the end.”

In the short term, the large group of recruited workers were rewarded with a barbecue after their morning of sod-laying.

“I didn’t think that it was ever going to happen,” Scott Decker, a senior utility player, said of getting a new turf. “It’ll definitely be better for the team.”

Senior pitcher and outfielder Ben Tonon didn’t mind getting his hands a little dirty on a Sunday morning, either.

“I love the fact that we have grass now,” Tonon said. “I think it’s a great idea because you get the nastiest hops in the rock garden. It’s unforgiving.”

Western Turf is not the only business that made the grass infield a reality.

Western Nevada Supply, located on West River Street in Truckee, provided a sprinkler system, Ellis said, with 11 sprinklers, PVC pipe and all the fittings, at no cost. Ellis placed three of the sprinklers around the mound, “like in the big leagues,” he said. “I looked into it. You won’t see that at any other high school field.”

That’s not all.

Carlson Trucking, of Truckee, provided a dirt-clay mixture ” “screened dirt,” as owner Eric Carlson called it ” for the field and a backhoe to move it around, for free. Truckee junior varsity baseball coach Matt Carlson, son of the trucking company’s owner, made that one work.

Truckee Rents also lent a Bobcat loader to dig around and move the top soil.

“(Ellis) came over and asked if he could rent one,” said Mike Horn, who co-owns Truckee Rents with Frank Stratton. “I had one available and it wasn’t an inconvenience, so I brought it out there.”

Ace Hardware in Truckee donated red and gray paint and 10, 12-foot-long boards to add to the backstop.

Combine all that with the bullpen Ellis built two years ago, the 30-foot foul poles he put in last year, and the green mesh and yellow border for the outfield fence that he plans to put in after winter, and the Truckee High baseball field will have received a major facelift.

Ellis is as proud as he is grateful.

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