A new ballpark on Big Oak Road is expected to give Ohatchee residents a drier, more dependable place to play their games. It replaces a flood-prone field the town used for decades.
“This field will never flood, I assure you,” Ohatchee Mayor Steve Baswell said of the new field which opened in late April.
Ohatchee Youth Baseball and Softball League president Michael Brunner said Baswell and the Town Council brought the idea to the youth organization. They decided to build a new field because the old one, which was on Tomahawk Trail, flooded every time it rained.
“It flooded quite often and interrupted games for a long time,” Baswell said. “Sometimes it would stop play for days or weeks.”
The old field was built in the 1980s and has a creek that runs near it, according to Brunner. Whenever water was released from the nearby Neely Henry dam, it would flood the park. Brunner said water would rise to the roof of the dugouts, submerging all but the tops of the gates.
“Sometimes get up to 6 feet, making the ballfield look like a lake,” Brunner said. “When I was a kid, my friends and I would bring boats down here and fish. That’s how high the water was.”
Baswell said the town purchased land from the Alabama Power company five years ago; the company had listed the property for sale for $60,000 in 2014. Baswell said that although there were a few bumps in the road, they finally got it done.
“There were times we had to wait for money to become available. We also have a neighbor who has a lake near the field, and we had to make sure they were happy,” he said. “But overall, the process went smoothly.”
Baswell said it took a lot of manpower to get the field built. Many volunteers helped, but the Town Council got most of its help from Calhoun County inmates, according to Baswell.
“We put the fences up and installed the lights ourselves. It was a town effort.” he said.
After almost three years of ongoing building, residents and Ohatchee’s youth baseball and softball teams can now enjoy the field.
“This means everything to the kids. We had a concession stand on wheels at the old field just in case we had to drive it out because of flooding.” Brunner said. “Now, they don’t have to worry about any more flooding. The bathrooms are even better. It’s just a blessing.”