By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
There were a few kids throwing the ball around at David Allen Memorial Ballpark on Wednesday.
As it turns out, they were among the first to play on the park’s new artificial turf infield.
A short hop to second. Throw to first. Back to the batter.
Specks of sand and crushed black rubber blew upward with each bounce the ball made on the turf.
“The flying stuff will go away,” said ballpark Director Bill Mayberry, who also is athletic director for Enid High School. “It takes a while for that field to really settle in.”
He’ll get that while. The next game in the ballpark will be in February when the Northern Oklahoma College Jets host Cloud County (Kans.) Community College.
Installation of the turf was completed Friday. It is a donation from Joan and Paul Allen, whose son inspired the construction and name of the ballpark.
David Allen pitched for Enid High School. In 1978, he was just a freshman at Trinity University when he was hit by a drunken driver. The crash forced him into a long recovery, learning how to walk and talk again but eventually, he was able to start working at his family’s business, Advance Food Co., known today as AdvancePierre Foods.
He died in 1995 as a result of complications from the accident that happened 17 years earlier.
His parents, Joan and Paul, stepped forward in 1999 to underwrite the construction of the downtown ballpark. Their son’s memory drives them to continue supporting the ballpark. He was good at baseball, Joan said, but more than anything else, he loved the game.
“I wanted his life to have an effect that it would have if he’d have lived longer,” Joan said on the day a group of community leaders gathered at the park for a dedication and tour. “And the ballpark was a way that his presence would still be here. His name and who he was will be here for a long, long time.”
David Allen Memorial Ballpark is current host to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II World Series, an event that draws teams and fans from around the country. Mayberry said there are two other tournaments that have picked Enid’s downtown ballpark as their destination since the turf came in.
As those teams come in, the introduction of turf might not be a new experience. It’s becoming more commonplace throughout the country for smaller ballparks to install some turf, if not cover their whole field. In Enid, though, the outfield will remain standard grass and dirt.
One upside to turf is that it requires less maintenance between games.
“On tournament days, we were pretty maxed out at four games a day because of the time required to fix the field in between,” Mayberry said.
Now, he believes he can squeeze six games into one day.
NOC baseball coach Raydon Leaton said his team is excited to play on the turf. He praised the ballpark and its supporters for continuing to improve it every year. His players, he said, know they’re fortunate to be able to play at David Allen Memorial Ballpark.
“Kids like playing on turf — especially your infielders. You don’t have to worry about a bad hop and it just makes the game play a little cleaner,” he said.
Mayberry has heard pitchers also appreciate the mound surface that the ballpark can provide. There are three separate mounds available. One is all turf, another is all clay and the third is turf with a clay insert.
There are plenty of advantages to adding artificial turf, which is becoming more common, said Paul Allen.
“And it’s one of the last things we needed to do to make the park finished,” he said.