ASHLAND – Rick Gough glanced out at the Ashland High School baseball field recently and said the dirt trenches currently curving their way through the outfield grass look a lot like cornrows.
If all goes as planned, the varsity baseball coach for the Arrows instead will be looking out at a field of dreams by the time his team’s spring season rolls around.
Bud Plank Field is in the midst of a very visible overhaul due to a massive groundswell of financial support for the Ashland baseball program. The movement largely has been steered by Kris Mowry and Larry Bunce, the leader of the AHS baseball parents fundraising group.
Both Mowry and Ashland City Schools superintendent Steve Paramore said the baseball facility will have had nearly $300,000 in improvements applied to it by the time the full project is complete. The goal is for all the upgrades to be done by early November. Along with the outfield drainage, they include a brand-new backstop, scoreboard, dugouts and press box.
Mowry has lived in Ashland County his entire life and Paramore said he has been the driving force behind the fundraising project for AHS baseball, whose field now will be known as Bud Plank Field at Archer Arrows Park.
“This is about the current Arrows, future Arrows and the incredibly generous donors who brought this dream to fruition,” said Mowry, whose son, Kamden Mowry, was part of the AHS baseball program before his graduation earlier this year.
“The enhancements to Bud Plank Field at Archer Arrows Park are going to be amazing. I was happy to do some legwork to bring this dream to reality.”
“Fortunately, for everybody involved, several families saw the need and saw the vision and they partnered with us to make this thing a reality,” he added. “We’re beyond thankful and so excited to unveil this next year to the community and to everybody involved.”
Major donors for specific enhancements to the facility include:
– Bob and Jan Archer, funding the new dugouts and scoreboard
– Aaron Harris, funding the new Bill Harris Dealerships Pressbox
– Scott Conery and Annette Hruby, funding the new Norma Foundation Backstop
– The Wurster Family, funding the new paved Wurster Family Walkway from Katherine Ave. to the press box
Both Paramore and Mowry said Bunce and the baseball program’s fundraising parents group were critical as well. The advertising signage around the outfield fence was a key component in the group raising roughly $40,000. Some of that money helped kick off the facility’s original upgrades around this time last year, which included improvements to home plate, the pitcher’s mound and the infield.
“The baseball parents in general have always been a phenomenal fundraising group,” Paramore said, “so it’s been lots of parents over the years.”
The hope was that the drainage tile in the outfield would be done last year, but Mowry said the fall weather had turned before that could get underway.
“(Poor drainage) historically has been a problem that we had dealt with, just having a field that wouldn’t drain,” said Mowry, who noted the significant amount of rainouts in recent years. “… It needed help.”
When the 2024 baseball season kicks off March 23 against Tiffin Columbian – a game during which all of the donors will be honored – it will be the above-ground improvements that fans most easily will notice.
Paramore said the new press box will double the size of the previous one and the new backstop will look much like the one at Ashland University’s field, with four 30-foot posts holding up a black net.
Add in new dugouts and a scoreboard and Rick Gough said it will feel like a completely different place. Heading toward his fifth season as Ashland’s varsity head coach, Gough has been a baseball coach at the school in some capacity since 1991.
He remembers when Bud Plank Field didn’t even have an outfield fence and there was a football practice field goalpost in deep center field. Some remnants of that are now the flagpole at the field, which up until about 15 years ago featured a snowfence around the outfield.
Gough also recalled the original press box and dugouts being built in the early 1990s.
“It’s simply outstanding,” he said. “You look everywhere (with new and upgraded facilities at Ashland High School), it’s almost parallel with Ashland University. You go up to AU and their facilities are at the very top of Division II. We’re getting there.
“The community and the donors have really made a big difference. … And I really can’t thank Kris Mowry and Steve Paramore enough for all their efforts.”
Gough and former longtime Ashland High School athletic director Ev DeVaul said they believed the Arrows began playing at the current site for Bud Plank Field around 1963.
The Arrows celebrated their 100th year of baseball in 2009 at the site, where they also picked up their 1,000th victory on April 1, 2013.
Before playing next to the high school, Ashland had long used Myers Field near the current-day Ashland YMCA as its home field. That facility opened in 1912 and the Arrows also used some fields at the fairgrounds and another at an elementary school that had a tree in center field.
With all that now long in the past, Gough and Mowry said this year’s upgrades will catapult Ashland to the top of the list of baseball facilities in the Ohio Cardinal Conference alongside Wooster and Lexington.
“I feel that our community and our athletes deserve a facility that’s on par with the schools we play, on par with the schools that are our size and on par with the schools within our conference,” Mowry said.
Paramore also pointed out the assistance to the labor and oversight of the project from Troy Shade (head of grounds committee within parents’ organization), Randy Heller (Ashland’s director of operations), Tom Pellegrino (Ashland’s head of grounds) and Chad Emmons (Simonson Construction Services).
“This isn’t anything we would have done unless we would have had these donors,” Paramore said. “It’s just one of those things; we’ve got to pick and choose what we can do.”