Home openers are special, but so is ushering in a new era.
The two will be intertwined at Indian Creek on April 4 when the Braves host Indianapolis Lutheran at 5 p.m. in their new $1.3 million home softball facility south of the high school.
Gary Mitchell, the Indian Creek coach since 2008, looks forward to showing off his program’s new digs, which are highlighted by the turf playing field.
“It’s a combination of relief and excitement,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t have a field last season, so it makes you appreciate what you have. The kids did a great job of withstanding playing all road games, and the parents did, too.
“The other part of this is, wow, what a field. It’s beautiful, and just a nice, spacious area where we can go out there and play the game, and the fans can enjoy it.”
The first stage of what potentially could grow into a four-plex (two softball fields, two baseball fields and a building containing a press box, concession stand and room for storage) began in the early fall.
Another possibility is that the new diamond in time has only one new neighbor, a diamond for the Indian Creek baseball team to be built behind the softball stadium. Whichever direction the school ultimately goes regarding the facilities could be determined by April or May.
Meanwhile, most everything about the softball facility is ready — dugouts, screens, foul poles, lights, outfield fence, netting and left-field scoreboard — with the press box being the lone exception. The plan is for that and the new baseball diamond to be finished by spring 2024.
“Very overdue, but I was glad we could put it together and get it completed, especially for our two seniors, but for all the players and parents,” Indian Creek athletic director Derek Perry said. “Our players have been itching to get out there.”
The first official day of preseason practices was March 6.
Indian Creek’s two seniors, Hannah Emenhiser and Bailey Dowty, wouldn’t have been blamed if they were the first players running the bases and snapping dugout selfies.
They, along with Mitchell, are extremely appreciative of the school system’s efforts in making the new softball facility a reality.
Mitchell laughs when recalling his players’ initial reactions.
“You wouldn’t believe it,” he said. “They’re out there taking pictures on it, and making Tik Toks. They’re ecstatic. It’s a neat experience.”
In the case of Emenhiser and Dowty, the lone season in new surroundings beats never getting to play there.
“Our last field was dirt and grass, and this one is turf, so I feel that the ball definitely bounces higher,” said Dowty, who is expected to start in left field. “I think I like it better because I can get my feet set to throw.”
The Braves played all of their games on the road last year, and that meant an exhausting amount of travel. The 10-school Western Indiana Conference is maybe the most geographically diverse league in the state, spanning eight counties and including its share of nap-inducing bus rides.
Travels to eight of the other nine WIC schools include round-trips of 80 miles or more, including five-star snoozers Northview (148), West Vigo (178) and Sullivan (192).
“I love it. I like that we don’t have to drag the field after a practice, and that we can play if it rains,” said Emenhiser, the Braves center fielder. “Every time we practice on it, we’re proud of our school, and we’re proud of our team.
“I’m very relieved we have it because of the constant traveling we did last year. Having to make those drives, it’s tiring.”
Thanks in large part to its new field, Indian Creek softball has found its second wind.