In the past, the only time a fence came into play was when someone hit a ball nearly 250 feet to left field and cleared the 10 foot chain link enclosure that surrounds the field. It didn’t happen often.
This season, with the assistance of the Emerson Athletics Trust Fund, a portable fence was purchased and it has literally changed the game at Rotch. “We’ve had some good hitting teams at Emerson,” head softball coach Phil McElroy says. “A lot of times opposing outfielders would play 250 feet or more away from home plate. Balls that should have been easy homeruns were just long outs. Balls in the outfield gaps that should have been doubles would roll forever and become home runs. It’s a much different game with the fence.”
With Rotch being a multi-use facility, the portability of the fence was paramount. The fence was a result of collaboration between property management and the athletic department in determining the logistics of storage and set-up.The fence consists of rectangular 8’X 4’ sections of PVC piping with collapsible and “locking” legs. The sections are held in place by foam connector pieces and reinforced by cords. The legs are anchored by sand bags, equipment bags or other heavy objects. White vinyl mesh is stretched and attached to the pipes. The fence is placed 200’ from home plate.
The softball team sets the fence up before the games and takes it down and stores it afterward. It takes about 15 minutes to set up, and approximately 10 minutes to disassemble and store.The addition of the fence has also allowed the Athletic Department to use the portable press box that was purchased in 2007 with the assistance of the Athletic Trust Fund for softball. The box is set up behind the centerfield fence.
With two home doubleheaders remaining in the season, the team has played 14 games at Rotch. Emerson has hit 12 home runs, while the Lions’ opponents have hit nine, for a total of 21. In 14 home games in the 2010 season, Emerson hitters banged out five homers, while opposing hitters had seven. While the increase cannot solely be credited to the fence, a 75% increase in home run production at Rotch is remarkable.“The presentation of the game is so much better,” McElroy says. “It now looks like we have a softball facility rather than a softball field dropped onto a soccer field.”
A dedication ceremony for the fence was held Saturday (April 23).