For everyone who enjoyed Payson High baseball games this season, it was obvious Longhorn Field had been rejuvenated with some big-time improvements. In fact, most visiting coaches — who only last year worried their players would turn an ankle or be hit by a baseball’s bad hop — praised the improved facility. And backed it up, voting it the “Most Improved” in the East region and the 3A conference.
The field is now up for consideration as most improved in the entire state of Arizona.
To learn exactly what all the improvements were and how they were accomplished, we asked baseball coach Scott Novack, who played a huge role in the revamping of the 26-year-old field. What we learned is the project was a great example of townspeople coming together for the betterment of youth.
“Where do I start? All of this was done with an extremely small pot of money, donations and volunteers. Nobody got rich on this.
“It was harder than building a new field. We had to trench and pull out the old sprinkler lines in part of the outfield. We had to run new mains all the way around the field, running new valves and valve boxes and rewiring at the same time. We had to replace many sprinkler heads and adjust old ones in the outfield. We had to cut through the parking lot to replace the supply line to the baseball and softball fields. The entire outfield was graded and re-leveled. We had to scrape away the old material on the infield and prep, grade and trench for sprinklers and lines and level the surface to prepare for grass, which was not there before.
“We had to hook up a new controller for all of the sprinklers. We had to rebuild the mound and plate area, put in new base pegs, a new pitching rubber, new plate and trim out the baselines.
“Slade (Gibson) did get West Coast Turf to install the sod, which was great, because it would have been more difficult (for us) to do the precise cuts. Ty Goodman had to haul the new material for the infield, picking it up at Lake Pleasant. The outfield material had to be hauled and was donated by Chaparral Pines Golf Club.
“We removed the six-foot chain link fences in front of the dugouts, cut the poles, and replaced them with padded railing and safety netting.
“Jeff Stancil and the district maintenance crew then re-did the arc around the infield, moving it back to regulation.
“They had to relocate sprinkler heads to accomplish this, trenching under existing grass, so we wouldn’t have bare spots. Jeff takes care of the baseball field like it is his own yard — he makes a huge difference for us.
“All of this would have been impossible without the dedication and commitment of everybody from the plumbers, the electrician, Slade Gibson, who ran the whole project and was there every day, digging, driving, arranging and troubleshooting. Scott Geske pretty much did everything, including designing the sprinkler systems, installing, and even digging trenches. Ty Goodman used his own equipment and pretty much dug and graded everything for very little money.
“I was out there every day digging, grading, moving dirt, adjusting sprinkler heads, tearing out fencing, digging base pegs and building the mound. It was my whole summer, fall and winter job (only I didn’t make a penny).
“Reece Randall supplied heavy equipment and expertise, and Payson Concrete supplied some material. Eddie Duran drove a backhoe and helped us re-level and add material to the field.
“A lot of the players helped — Cale Novack, Gunner and Bryce Goodman, Austin Gibson, Kyle and Chance Randall, Josh Oakley, CJ Nottingham, Keaton Duran and Nick McMullen.”
What resulted from all the efforts is a baseball field the players, coaches and entire town can be extremely proud of.