Playground is for public use; sorry to see school baseball leave

Despite the busy road just over the hill, the baseball diamond at the Jerome R. King Playground presents a quaint picture of baseball of years gone by with its classic grandstand. And indeed the field may be a lonely place this spring and summer as the high school baseball team takes its game back to the school campus after 30-plus years downtown at the community grounds. A town adult league used to play on the diamond, renamed Charles “Whitey” Barkdoll Field, but that group has disbanded. And it’s not known at this point if an American Legion team will utilize it in the summer.

The loss of the Greencastle-Antrim High School baseball program from Jerome R. King Playground leaves mixed emotions with the park association. Treasurer Tom Pensinger thinks the move to the high school campus for varsity games, where all other team sports are played, is a smart idea. He also knows that the Blue Devils and other baseball teams have enjoyed using the park, with its grandstand and wide open spaces.

Because the ballfield between the middle and elementary schools has had an historic problem with flooding, the school approached Charles “Whitey” Barkdoll, a member the playground association in 1979, about letting the team play its home games there. The association was delighted for the opportunity to serve, and only said any donations would be welcome.

From that day forward, the school district, and other teams such as the American Legion and town teams, made voluntary financial contributions for using the field, which became known as Barkdoll Field. Some years each organization might miss a donation, but Pensinger was OK with that, since the board has always wanted the 15-acre park to host as many activities as possible.

"It's a public park," he said. "We appreciate any help with expenses."

The association put money back into the park, mowing the grass, purchasing soil and a golf cart, and paying for the supplies volunteers charged at a local business as they prepped the field. For a period of time the association had a maintenance person. Of late, parents of ballplayers got the diamond game-ready. G-ASD paid $100 per game to use the field the past several years. That loss of income will affect the playground association, since its only funding is donations.

The officers and directors are meeting tonight, March 21, to discuss the ramifications.