What we learned at the grand opening of the new Gilbert baseball and softball complex
Pulling weeds wasn't part of the job description when Jake Shedorwich first suited up to play high school baseball at Gilbert.
But he was glad to it in order to get the baseball field ready for the opening of the new high school baseball and softball complex at Gilbert Wednesday.
“We put a lot of work into this field,” Shedarowich said. “We’re ready to play on it.”
Gilbert took on Raccoon River Conference rival Ballard in JV and varsity baseball and softball doubleheaders to open the new complex after ribbon-cutting and first-pitch ceremonies Wednesday.
“It’s been years in the making," Gilbert head baseball coach Jeremy Eldred said. “It’s awesome to be out there and finally be able to play ball games on it.”
The Tiger baseball team christened the new complex in appropriate fashion, defeating Ballard in a 10-inning marathon by a 6-5 score. The softball team fell a little short against the 11th-ranked (3A) Bombers, losing by a 5-3 decision.
Plans for the new complex started to take shape back in 2019. But after COVID-19, construction delays and trouble growing the grass on the fields the opening kept getting pushed back.
Adam Thoms, an assistant professor in the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State, stepped in to help with the grass-growing issue this past fall. With his help the field was finally ready to go Wednesday.
“Once the night is here you forget about all those things because you see the kids out there playing,” Gilbert head softball coach Staci Sniezek said. “The people in our community, our school board, our administration, our grounds crew — you see everybody that’s worked really hard for this moment. The frustrations seem a little farther away tonight.”
Gilbert athletic director Tim Pezzetti will be leaving Gilbert in July. He put a lot of work into making the complex a reality and he's thrilled to see it finally come to fruition before he departs the school.
“It feels awesome,” Pezzetti said. “We had a good spring with golf, soccer, track and everything. To have this achievement is great. It’s a testament to the community.”
Pezzetti loves the new look and location of the ball fields.
“The design is so cool and to have it on this campus has really been nice for us,” Pezzetti said. “The look of it goes with the football/soccer stadium and track. It’s where we should be.”
Like with the old fields at the middle school, the baseball and softball fields at the new complex are right next to each other.
“I love it that baseball was right next to us at the middle school and they still are,” Sniezek said. “You have baseball and softball parents who can stand in the middle and see both games at the same time.”
Bella Nelson is a senior third baseman for the Tiger softball team. She and Shedarowich did the ribbon cutting at the opening ceremony.
She couldn't wait to take the field against Ballard Wednesday.
“This is incredible,” Nelson said. “Seeing everyone in the community out here means more than anything. This will be an incredible memory that everyone can look back at and see where it all started.”
Nelson wants to play for her older sister Riley and all the other Tigers that just missed out on getting to play on the new softball field.
“This was supposed to be running around the time my older sister graduated,” Nelson said. “I want make sure I’m fulfilling all these dreams that they had.”
She is honored to be a part of the first senior class at Gilbert to call the new complex home.
“Words cannot describe it,” Nelson said. “This is a dream. We’re just very, very thankful.”
Eldred said it was tough to say goodbye to the middle school complex that had been the Tigers' home for so long. It was the baseball team's home when the Tigers placed second at state in Class 3A two years ago and it has a lot of history.
But he's also ready to move on.
“There are a lot of good memories on the old field,” Eldred said. “But it’s definitely time for something new.”