OHSAA: Ashland best for softball
In the 24 years that the Ohio High School Athletic Association has staged softball tournaments, Ashland's Brookside Park has remained the host site.
The reasons? Seating capacity and good reviews.
Brookside Park has seats for about 1,500 spectators. Few softball fields in Ohio come close to matching that number.
"It's the only place we've ever had the state tournament, and for the near future, it's probably the only place we ever will," said Duane Warns, the OHSAA commissioner who presides over the softball tournament. "There's not a lot of thought going around to move it anytime soon."
Warns said there are good reasons why Ashland's city park will continue to be the home for Ohio's softball championships.
Seating issue: First and foremost, Ohio has few softball fields with enough seats to handle the crowds that championship games can draw.
For instance, Warns said that Saturday's Division IV finale between Loudonville and Gibsonburg drew approximately 1,400 fans, the most for any of this year's title games.
Warns said that Ohio State University "has a beautiful diamond for softball and some have said we ought to look into playing there. But it has only 400 seats, so there is no way that we could ever have state title games there."
Warns said Akron's Firestone Park, where district and regional games are played, is a possibility, but there's no talk of moving to that ballpark, even though it has a roof over most of the seats.
Second, he said the OHSAA receives positive reviews about the Ashland experience.
"We hear nothing but nice things about how well the teams feel they have been treated," Warns said. "They tell us how well run the tournament is and what a nice job the staffers there are doing. They are good hosts.
"At this point, our schools seem to be happy with the way things are being run."
Warns acknowledged that grumbling exists because the baseball tournaments are played in such first-class facilities as Cooper Stadium (home of the Triple-A Columbus Clippers) and Ohio State's Bill Davis Stadium.
"In baseball, Ohio has such great parks as Cafaro Field in Niles, Thurman Munson Stadium in Canton and Canal Park in Akron," Warns said. "There's a new minor-league facility in Dayton and one being built in Toledo for the [Triple-A] Mud Hens.
"We could go all over the state and find great facilities for baseball. Ohio has everything you need," Warns said. "But you're not going to find those facilities for softball."
Warns said last weekend's stormy weather made things difficult for the Ashland tournament organizers, but added that the heavy rains would have been a problem just about anywhere.
Broadcasts: Radio stations WBBW-AM 1240 and WNIO-AM 1390 deserve credit for going out of their way to broadcast last week's Boardman-Maumee state semifinal baseball game from Columbus.
WBBW also broadcast Ursuline's two state baseball games from Columbus and (because it was delayed until Sunday) Poland's state softball final in Ashland.
However, local radio stations ignored the Boardman softball team's quest for a state championship and Poland's semifinal game.
What a shame.
Valley stations regularly shun girls teams even when they are among the best in Ohio.
In March, the local stations chose to not cover Canfield's girls basketball team until it qualified for state, while the broadcasters fell all over themselves with duplicate coverage of the same boys game.
Money obviously talks.
Station officials say high school games other than football and boys basketball are very hard to sell to local advertisers. They also say listeners in one part of town don't care about athletes from other parts.
If our community is so sexist in the year 2001 that we will support male but not female athletes with advertising dollars, we should be ashamed.
Girls teams that contend at state deserve better.
XTom Williams is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write him at email@example.com.