Due to upcoming construction to build a new multipurpose facility for the Oak Park and River Forest High School track and field programs, the school’s West Field, where the Huskies’ baseball and softball teams have long played their home games, will close at the end of this month.
“Starting construction in May better assures that we will have the track and turf field available to use for the beginning of outdoor track next year,” said OPRF athletic director Nicole Ebsen in an email to Wednesday Journal.
Ebsen added that the baseball and softball programs will greatly benefit next spring. With baseball moving to a new Lake Street field and softball moving to the Ridgeland Common turf field, that will allow those teams the opportunity to cancel fewer games due to unplayable field conditions.
“The beginning of the spring is a nightmare for softball and baseball with the weather,” Ebsen said.
Starting next month, the varsity baseball team will play home games at Triton College in River Grove, while varsity softball moves its home contests to Concordia University in River Forest.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” said OPRF softball coach J.P. Coughlin. “I’m excited about what we’re putting together at Ridgeland [Common], but there are a lot of good memories on that field, a lot of incredible ballplayers and games.”
While Coughlin is sad to lose the current diamond, he believes the new facility will greatly help the Huskies’ track programs.
“There are about 300 boys and girls running track, and they deserve a great facility,” he said.
Coughlin feels OPRF will adjust to playing at Concordia.
“The field has the same dimensions. As long as home plate is 43 feet away [from the pitching rubber], we’ll be fine,” he said. “We’re just going to focus on playing good softball.”
The Huskies’ last West Field game takes place April 29 against Amundsen High School at 9 a.m. Coughlin said retired softball coach Mel Kolbusz will attend, along with several alumni.
While OPRF baseball coach Kevin Campbell doesn’t have as lengthy a tenure as Coughlin with the school, he’s been around long enough to realize some special things have happened on the baseball diamond behind the school. He’s also excited about what lies ahead.
“I’m a big fan of history and it’s always hard to see something that holds so much go,” he said. “Although it will be tough to walk off that field knowing we won’t be back, it’s exciting we get to start writing a new chapter for OPRF baseball.”
Baseball’s last West Field game is also on April 29, against Morton at 10 a.m. Ebsen said there will be a celebration to commemorate the diamonds’ history after the games.