One would be hard pressed to find a sport in which players, coaches and administrators take greater care and pride in the condition of the playing surface of their home field than baseball.
So it's not hard to imagine the dismay Collins Hill head coach Zach Black and his staff felt when they came to their home field at the Suwanee school Sunday morning to find it had been vandalized a large vehicle sometime following a game the previous day.
But as angry and frustrated as Black and his staff were, their mood has taken a big turn for the better the past two days thanks to a big assist by the Gwinnett Stripers.
The Atlanta Braves' Triple-A affiliate, which plays its home games only a few miles from Collins Hill's campus, have mobilized its ground crew staff and whatever resources are necessary to help repair the damage.
“We're excited to be a part of it,” Stripers general manager Adam English said. “And we're excited to help out because (Collins Hill is) in our backyard.”
It is precisely because the baseball community in Gwinnett County on the whole that the Stripers and Collins Hill program were able to come together to address the repairs to the field.
While unable to post photos of the field's security cameras on social media to solicit information about the vandals as Gwinnett County Public Schools cooperates with Gwinnett County police in their investigation, Black was able to share photos of the field damage on social media Tuesday.
In addition, he had phone conversations with several of his fellow Gwinnett coaches about the situation, including one with Lanier coach Jonathan Wyman.
Wyman pointed Black to one of his community coaches, Kiley Coursey, who also happens to be a member of the Stripers' Sports Turf Managment staff.
Coursey in turn went to the team's head Sports Turf Manager McClain Murphy, who spoke with English.
“I saw Zach's (tweet) on the Collins Hill baseball (Twitter account) with the pictures and stuff,” Coursey said. “I've known Zach for a long time. So when I saw the pictures, I sent them to Mac (Murphy) and asked, 'Can we help these guys out?'”
It didn't take long for everyone agreed to lend the Collins Hill program a hand, and it wasn't a difficult decision despite the manpower and costs involved.
“I don't think (the costs are) important,” English said. “At the end of the day, … Collins Hill's in our backyard. Gwinnett's our community. The surrounding counties, as well. But when it hits that close to home – I mean, some of our players might be able to stand in the parking lot (of Coolray Field) and hit a baseball close to (Collins Hill's) field. That's a little bit of an exaggeration, but honestly, we're very fortunate we have really partners who are helping minimize the costs to us.
“As far as getting the (OK) from me, Mac sent me the pictures of the field and (asked), 'Do you think we can help?' And I just responded, 'Yes.' It wasn't a long conversation, and it was a no brainer for us.”
Murphy and Coursey were out at Collins Hill's field Tuesday afternoon and evening to assess the damage and plan the repairs before returning on Wednesday.
And with the help of several volunteers from the Stripers' staff, Murphy says the work to make repairs and get the field back into playing shape should be completed very quickly.
“So when Kiley and (Black) put it out on social media, some of our industry contacts and some of our partners reached out and offered some supplies and help,” Murphy said. “So we'll be going over to complete it (Wednesday) afternoon. … A couple hours with enough hands and it can be done (Wednesday).
“It's something important to us. With community baseball, people don't (always realize) what the word community (means). … It's a good feeling, especially with all the stuff that's going on in the world today.”
Collins Hill's team isn't scheduled to play another home game until next week, but that doesn't mean Black and his Eagles are any less grateful to the helping hand from their neighbors.
“Just simple words, I don't know if that's enough,” Black said. “I'm just blown away just being contacted by representatives on their ground crew. … They offered to just take care of that for is. It's just absolutely incredible.”
It's a sentiment echoed loudly by Collins Hill athletics director Scarlett Straughan.
“It was extremely nice. Very cool,'” Straughan said. “I'm relieved for my coaches. I know everybody brags on their coaches, but I absolutely have the best, and they're so hard working.
“It was so devastating to them to see that hard work vandalized like that. So yes, I'm thrilled for my coaches and the kids that the Stripers have done this.”