HAMMOCK: Championship venues needed for high school baseball

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Fans who went to a state high school baseball championship series last weekend were certainly hot. Were they comfortable otherwise? Probably not.

That’s the issue I heard from readers again this season, as I have in the past. When the baseball playoffs reach their latter stages, particularly a much-hyped championship series, the state’s high school stadiums simply aren’t equipped for the kinds of crowds that attend them.

They may suffice in the earlier rounds, but overflow crowds in the finals make finding a good view of the field pretty difficult for fans. It’s why you find fans peeking through holes in outfield fences or peering around stands of trees in the baseball finals. The odds of finding an actual opening in the bleachers — pretty slim. Even the coveted spots along the fence, where the camp chairs are lined up, are hard to come by. Those chairs may be lined up three or four rows deep, so imagine the view those folks in the back row get. And that doesn’t even take into account parking, which at some places is a battle.

With that in mind, it’s time for the Georgia High School Association to step up its treatment of the state baseball playoffs. As much as teams love playing on their home diamonds, let’s play the state championship games on a neutral site that suits the fans and the players better. No longer will one team complain about playing at the other’s small park and every fan can have an uninhibited view of the games.

The switch also could be a great reward for the players. Georgia’s prep football players set a goal of making it to the Georgia Dome for the state finals.

Basketball players strive to reach the Arena at Gwinnett Center, or the Macon Centreplex. Wrestlers now have their finals at the Gwinnett arena, too. Even fastpitch softball plays its state finals on a nice, softball-specific venue in Columbus.

Obviously, Turner Field isn’t likely to host a high school championship series. But what about the Gwinnett Braves’ home here in Gwinnett, Coolray Field? Or the home of the Rome Braves? Or any number of college baseball stadiums in the state, even if Georgia and Georgia Tech don’t want to be involved?

While we’re at it, let’s play the high school soccer championships at the Atlanta Silverbacks’ stadium or at Kennesaw State’s new place.

I’ll save that argument for another column.

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, visit www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.