The baseball team’s home field at St. John’s Prep in Danvers underwent renovations over the summer, including a fresh layer of turf, a new and improved home run fence, and netting along the fences on the first and third baseline to protect fans from foul balls.
The Pete Frates ’03 field will serve as the Lion’s home field for the second straight season. St. John’s Prep athletic director Jameson Pelky could not accurately pinpoint the total cost of the improvements but he said the high school spent approximately $2 million on the ballpark.
Pelky said the school prioritized a transition from a portable fence to a built-in one.
“It’s all heavy-duty stuff,” Pelky said. “We’ve never had fencing like this before. Since we’ve had the field, all the portable fencing would get blown over by strong winds and we’d have to keep resetting it up.”
Junior pitcher and last season’s conference strikeout leader Jack Fox said using a portable fence was inconvenient and unprofessional.
“Before a doubleheader, we actually had to build a fence before the game, and it blew down anyway,” Fox said. “Now there’s a real fence, a real mound, and we’re more legit.”
St. John’s will also replace the pitching mound as part of its upgrades.
“The mound was in horrific condition every [game],” Fox said. “I really didn’t want to pitch there last year. I think it was really unserviceable. I would request to not pitch there.”
With the addition of the permanent fence, Pelky said the new field is similar to professional ballparks.
“Its an eight-foot high fence in left field, so if you hit a home run to left centerfield, it’s 340- to 350-feet deep, plus its eight-feet high,” Pelky said. “Kids hitting home runs in that ballpark are hitting legitimate home runs.”
Until this summer, St. John’s had not replaced the turf since its first installation ten years ago. The ideal lifespan of a layer of turf is five to seven years, according to Emerson baseball head coach Nick Vennochi.
The Lions won’t play on their new field until the spring season, but Vennochi said they are taking advantage of fall practices early in the school year.
“We’ll be putting in a lot of our stuff, bunts, first and thirds, signs, all that, and obviously it’s the time to see who’s done anything over the summer,” Vennochi said. “There are freshmen getting integrated into the roster, we scrimmage a lot, and it’s very competition-based. The fall definitely is important.”