One of the great things about baseball as opposed to any other sport is the uniqueness of baseball diamonds. Bowling alleys, tennis courts, soccer fields are all alike. Football’s idea of unique is squeezing a space ship betwen Roman columns in Chicago. In baseball, it’s the occasional raised floor, like the Gophers’ Williams Arena. But every baseball park is different, at least now that they’ve torn down all those multi-purpose stadiums built in the 1970s.
Except in high school. There, most parks are virtually the same, except some are bigger and others are smaller than normal. A rare exception is at East, where center field is deeper than any park in the Majors. But the best exception is Orangeville. I got a huge kick out of my first game there, both for the well-played game — Dakota scored 3 runs with only one out left to edge Orangeville 6-5 and cling to first place in the NUIC — and for Orangeville’s outfield.
Left field features a short porch and a big hill the last 20 feet before the fence. Center field lies in a valley. Right field is normal. It looks more like a cross country course than a baseball outfield. But it doesn’t hurt the game. It adds to it with atmosphere and strategy.
“I’ve played there for five years,” Dakota coach Britton Kauffman said, “and I’ve never seen a kid have to go up that hill. We play far enough in front to take the singles away. If it goes over our head, chances are good it’s going to go over the fence, so we don’t worry about it. And if you’ve got to go up that hill, you are not going to make the play anyway, so it’s not worth it.”
Kauffman said it was the “most unusual” field in the area. But that’s only because Dakota got a new baseball field several years ago.
“Seven or eight years ago, we had the most unusual one,” Kauffman said. “We had a double hill in left. So we’re used to a little hill action ourselves.”