| By Rupert Howell
If you haven’t driven down Tiger Drive and noticed a couple of ball fields on the north side of the road, it’s probably worth the effort.
Across from South Panola High School, on what recently was hilly pasture land, are two ball fields complete with fences, backstops, dugouts, sod and concrete.
The girls’ fastpitch team and the baseball team practice simultaneously, both working on basics during the second week of January getting ready for their upcoming seasons.
"We will be playing on them this spring although they may not be complete," said Superintendent Dr. Keith Shaffer adding, "We may or may not have a concession stand this year."
Shaffer mentioned that the ball field project has been undertaken using in-house maintenance workers with District Maintenance Director Keith Moore overseeing the project. There was no bond issue or extra tax levy for this project.
Dirt work and block work on the dugouts was contracted and some materials have been donated. Panola County has sent loads of dirt when needed which is spread by district maintenance workers on a small tractor with a box blade while Moore sights elevations through a transit.
Moore said the field may not have bleachers this year, but a spectator sitting in a lawn chair behind the back stop on the concrete pad at home plate will be eye level with the strike zone.
The district maintenance director noted that the noticeable crown at centerfield will allow fields to be used after a rain.
Shaffer mentioned that the coaches and kids (team members) have helped, such as hauling dirt and brick.
"We have really been able to do a tremendous amount for not a lot of money," Shaffer added noting the maintenance staff is "catching the weather when we can."
"Our biggest concern now is getting the concrete poured before the rain comes in," he said adding, "The next major step is lights."
According to Shaffer, local power company TVEPA is in the process of pricing lighting for the fields that the school will lease over a period of years enabling the provider to recoup expenses and the school to not have such a drastic initial investment.
South Panola has used the American Legion Field at Park and Watt Street for as long as most can remember. The new fields will put games at the high school’s front door.