The start of baseball practice is less than a month away, and area coaches are working to have their facilities ready.
With the exception of Greenbrier High School, which boasts an indoor hitting facility, covered batting cages are at the top of teams' wish lists.
Evans, Lakeside and Harlem would like to enclose their cages, which are located near their home dugouts.
The covered cages would give teams the ability to hit, throw and take ground balls no matter the conditions. As it stands now, the schools are limited to what they can do in the gymnasium.
"That's been a goal of ours," Evans coach Ricky Beale said. "There is no set timeline. The economic situation is slowing us down."
Beale's request last year for state funds to help cover the cost of the project went unheeded after local assistance grants were cut. Proceeds from Evans baseball team's golf tournament held in November were expected to go toward new cages.
Beale estimated the cost of covering the cages would run $60,000 to $80,000, depending on how much of the work could be done by volunteers. The cost would include moving dirt, pouring concrete and adding lighting.
Lakeside coach T.J. Davis said the Panthers had put in a request for a loan from the county and will hold a golf tournament at the end of January to try to raise funds. He said what Lakeside can do with its baseball facilities is limited by space constraints at the school. But covered cages would be a start.
"I think the better facilities we have ... the better product we can put on the field," Davis said. "It just makes it a nicer place to play."
Harlem High School built a new weight room in 2005. It includes a cage the Bulldogs can use during inclement weather. Harlem baseball coach Jimmie Lewis raised money for the facility by soliciting funds from anyone who would listen.
He would like to have the cages at the Bulldogs field covered, but said he is in no hurry to hit the fundraising trail again. He said he would leave the task to parents and Harlem's booster club.
Harlem Booster Club President Greg Aplin said a good portion of the funds he planned to use for the cages were lost when the county re-allocated the funds for Grovetown High School.
Aplin said the Bulldogs were impressed last season when they played at South Effingham, where the new facilities were funded by an education 1-cent sales tax.
"Their facilities are second to none in high school in our classification," Aplin said. "That's what we all need."
Greenbrier's indoor facility went up the same time as Harlem's weight room. Greenbrier coach Chris Wilkins said the Wolfpack's facilities focus is on cosmetics and updating the bathrooms at the baseball field. He said the Wolfpack have everything they need for training, but that schools are always admiring what others are doing -- such as the brick backstop that went up at Evans before last season and the covered cages at Westside.
"When I go to Evans and see that brick backstop, I want the same thing," Wilkins said. "We all want nice facilities."
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