New dog

Sue Nixon, right, meets pit bull Lacy for the first time. Lacy would soon be the Nixon family’s new pet.

East Flagstaff residents didn’t expect a perfect facility when Coconino High School opened in September of 1967. The new high school was created to offset the then crowding at Flagstaff High and expected future growth of Flagstaff’s east side. The school, built at the eastern base of Cedar Hill, included an outdoor football field and covered stadium and baseball field.

All my games in my first year in Babe Ruth baseball, designed for boys 13 to 15 years old, were played on Flag High’s dirt baseball fields or in nearby Williams. Flag’s baseball field was risky, especially when attempting to field a hard groundball in the infield. The smallest rock can deflect the baseball toward unpredictable directions. All the players and coaches associated with the Babe Ruth league were excited about Coconino High’s new baseball field. We looked forward to a new, grass infield for the 1968 season.

I do not recall the agreement, if any, among the Flagstaff School District, Flagstaff Babe Ruth League and Flagstaff Parks and Recreation. What I do recall was nothing was done to prepare that field for baseball in 1968. Eight months passed while the mowers and other field maintenance equipment sat idle. Beautiful, thick grass dominated the infield and there were no base paths, no batter’s boxes and the pitcher’s mound barely rose above the grass. The base paths resembled trails, formed by families of gophers and prairie dogs, running the bases. The base paths were jagged and measured a foot wide around the infield.

My father, who coached my team called the Mets, came home from a league meeting in May and said, “Nothing was done to the field.” We still played on that field that entire summer and it wasn’t until the summer of ’69 when the field resembled a safe and true baseball field.

After working in parks and recreation for over 35 years and conducting field prep myself, I know the importance of athletic fields laid out in the manner their sport demands. While aesthetics is important in sports facilities, most items are required to maximize the safety of the participants.

Our local Little League Park, east of the Dorothy Nolan Senior Center and north of the police station, is over 50 years old. While our department has done its share to maintain this facility, it needs several upgrades for the safety of the ballplayers. Improved aesthetics wouldn’t hurt, either.

We submitted a grant application to the Arizona Diamondbacks last summer requesting financial assistance for field improvements. We received great news as our application was approved by the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation to receive upgrades to the Little League field as a part of the Kendrick Family Fields program. The renovations will begin after the 2020 Little League season to allow time for thorough evaluation and renovation of the field surface. One of those upgrades will include a new scoreboard.

Our department thanks the following individuals who wrote letters of support, which demonstrated the credibility and confidence community members had in our application: Councilmember Karen Wall, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, Florence High School Athletic Director Shawn Cluff, Pinal County District 1 Supervisor Pete Rios, Florence Little League secretary Holly Silvas, former Florence Police Chief Dan Hughes and the former director of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, Larry Johnson. The Florence Little League field will look significantly better and functionally safer for the 2021 season.

Dog stories

When the mobile van from Pinal County Animal Care and Control Department arrived at our 2018 Pooch Party, it carried a wide assortment of dogs for adoption. Puppies, mature dogs and older dogs were displayed with hopes of finding homes. I spotted a black lab puppy that was about 8 weeks old.

Our family pet, Shadow, was a black lab and a great dog. She was 9 years old when she died in 2015. We had not replaced her. I called my wife, Sue, and encouraged her to come to the park and see these dogs, especially the lab puppy. Sue arrived within the half-hour and her search for our new dog ended immediately.

Sitting in a cage and raising her paw toward my wife was Lacy, a 3-year old, white pit bull. Sue was drawn to Lacy immediately and announced that was the dog she wanted. I didn’t get a vote. I was hesitant to adopt a pit bull, but those concerns have evaporated. I’ve owned five dogs and Lacy is the most affectionate of the bunch.

Come to our Pooch Party on from 9 to 11 a.m. Feb. 22 at the Central Bark Park. You may find the ideal four-legged, furry friend that will bring years of enjoyment to your life.