The famous line, “if you build it, he will come,” from the 1989 film ”Field of Dreams” appears to correlate with Clint Gazette's most recent efforts and dream for the Niangua R-V school district. The Niangua baseball and softball field has been bordering inadequate for years on the account of holding large amounts of water due to poor drainage and the incorrect positioning of bases. Gazette integrated into the district over eight years ago and has acquired many titles in the process: athletic director, high school and junior high principal, head girls basketball and softball coach, and most recently ball field expertise. Gazette attempted to renovate the field, however, it was not enough.
“We worked for an entire week and dug up all the bases and put everything back where it was supposed to,” explained Gazette. “But that did not stop Mother Nature. So for the last six to seven years, if it rained a significant amount, we were off the field for a week.”
Last year, the district’s past superintendent, TJ Bransfield, acquired the Major League Baseball Grant for $36,000. In addition to Gazette, current superintendent Josh Humes, Niangua’s Judy Aswad, and Robert Bruner got the ball rolling with major dirt work and renovations. The field has received numerous updates including proper field dimensions, landscaping, and a functioning drainage system. The district is hoping to have the field complete by spring 2022, just in time for baseball season. In addition to the field, the district was also able to purchase new equipment
“We got a lot of equipment,” added Gazette. “We received bats and helmets. A new pitching machine, sliding mat, drags, nail drag, and coco mat. We've got everything that a high-end, high school softball field would have.”
Not only did the conditions of the ballpark hinder the Niangua baseball and softball programs, but the schools’ limited student population also make it difficult to draft a full team. In fact, Niangua finally had enough players to build a baseball team in 2021, however, the softball team was canceled due to low player turnout. Gazette and Humes are hopeful a new field will spark interest and pride in the Niangua community and at best bring back some of their revered sports programs. Gazette encourages students as young as 3rd grade to participate in sports leagues and before and after school practices. His hopes are to build up generations of players interested in sports so they can carry on the school's athletic programs and legacy.
Furthermore, the school hit a home run, with two anonymous Niangua residents offering to donate time and resources to build a cardinal's nest for the ball field. The new addition is just one of many planned for Niangua, as the school gym recently received a new school sign outside its doors.
“I hope they see the progress that the school is making,” said Gazette. “It's awesome. We have been really lucky to have TJ as our old superintendent and now Mr. Hume, as our new superintendent. All they really want is to give our kids what they really deserve.”
If interested in supporting Niangua schools and their efforts, contact Clint Gazette at email@example.com or Josh Humes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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