McLeod, Park Get Their Field Of Dreams

WHEELING – Striving to get his team’s facilities to the level of not only the chief rivals but also up to bar with other sports in his own school, Wheeling Park baseball coach Mike McLeod set out on a fundraising mission. No door went unknocked upon, and no stone was left unturned.

Monday, if all goes according to plan, the Patriots will unveil their new complex against Brooke.

”I had a vision and was sitting around kind of drawing it up on a napkin,” McLeod recalled Thursday. ”I would go to this park, that park and look at a place like Brooke that has a press box and ask, ‘why don’t we?’ John Marshall has a press box, ‘why don’t we?’

”I wanted a press box and an in-ground dugout.”

So, McLeod pitched the idea to anyone and everyone who would listen – and make no mistake, everyone did – and the dream is suddenly about to become a reality. Ohio County supplied $80,000 to the $230,000 project and McLeod and company raised the rest.

”Every door knocked I knocked on, from Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration, to Main Street Bank, attorneys Jeff Grove and Shane Mallett, they all gave donations in many different ways.

”Jody Prather at Gumby’s is a total class act.

”Even the people that don’t have business, dads came on Field Day to donate what they could to the team. Without hard-working people in the community there’s no way this happens.”

As one of the handful of largest schools in the state of West Virginia, Wheeling Park has admittedly been blessed when it comes to top-notch facilities, but for the baseball field and the surrounding area was in need of an upgrade. A trailer down the right-field line served as a make-shift concession stand, porta johns were used as restrooms and as far as the press box was concerned … well, what press box?

That’s all a thing of the past, or at least it will be. Gone are the dugouts that looked like they ”belong on a little league field,” as Park Athletic Director Dwaine Rodgers put it. They’ve been replaced by those in-ground dugouts McLeod talked about, up to and including new benches, bat racks and major league-style railing and padding.

As far as the press box, it will feature a state-of-the-art glass enclosure up top, and will double as concession stand, which will be located on the bottom level. Oh, and there will also be restrooms.

”It was a project that has been in the works for quite some time,” Rodgers said. ”We are always trying to improve on things that we do have, and we’re very fortunate.”

McLeod agrees.

”Our coach before me, Chad Stout, he worked really hard to get us started by working on the warning track and outfield,” McLeod said. ”A lot of Ts had to crossed and Is dotted. When you propose things to the county and it’s not professionally done, people shy away and don’t want their names associated with riffraff.

”I went in and had blueprints for what we wanted to do and I went and knocked on doors. People jumped on board.”

Of course, with any investment comes the expectation of a return. McLeod not only welcomes that, but understands.

”It might come up a little bit,” McLeod, himself a former multi-sport standout at Park, said of school pride. ”The expectations rise also, so you sure don’t want to be 0-20.

”I understand the expectations of whether we have a great dugout or not, but it’s been that way here for 20 years.”

Rodgers praised McLeod for all his hard work, saying ”I am very proud and happy for him because he pushed.” The coach doesn’t see it that way, however.

”Everything I do, I do it for (the kids),” he said, ”and the community that is going to be able to enjoy this place.

”It’s one of those thing where you leave something nice and maybe that becomes your legacy over time.”