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Vikings happy in new home for baseball

VIDALIA — Johnny Lee Hoffpauir didn’t design the new Concordia Parish Recreation District 3 complex exclusively for his former baseball team.

But the parks and recreation director for Concordia Parish said he did have Vidalia High School in mind when he took on the project.

“Whenever I designed the field, I did it the way I would want it if I was still coaching,” the former Vikings baseball coach said. “Back in 1979 when the program was first starting, this wasn’t even a dream. It’s cool to see the royal blue practicing and playing on it.”

Well, maybe just practicing for the time being. Recent wet weather has kept the Vikings from taking Cliff Merritt Memorial Field for a home game up to this point, but so far, the field is drawing rave reviews from Vikings players.

“It’s a lot better than our old field,” senior third baseman Garrett Rehms said. “I’m looking forward to playing on it.”

Vikings head coach Kale Davis said it’s a good thing that his players will get to play on one of the best fields in the area. He also agreed with Rehms that it’s much better than the field they used behind Vidalia Lower Elementary.

“The kids have really taken a liking to it,” Davis said. “They love the way the grounders feel on the infield. It’s a much better park than the previous one. If only we could get the weather to cooperate.”

Pitcher and shortstop William Handjis said he’s taken a particular liking to the mound, especially compared to the old one.

“There’s no big holes in the mound, so you can focus more on throwing strikes and not having to sit there and work on the mound after every pitch,” Handjis said.

Like Rehms, Handjis said the infield also plays well.

“You don’t get too many bad hops,” he said. “With this being the first year, the grass is growing in nice.”

Hoffpauir said having top-notch facilities goes a long way in having a top-notch baseball program.

“You have to look good to play good,” Hoffpauir said. “Good facilities will make you play better, and we feel this is as fine a high school facility as you’ll find.”

Having such a nice facility also instills responsibility in the players, Rehms said.

“We’ve got a nice field, and we have to keep it that way,” Rehms said. “It’s a sense of pride more than anything.”

Vidalia will try to host Bolton High School today for its first home game, and Hoffpauir said he’ll be looking forward to seeing his former team finally take the field.

“I’ll just be glad when they get to have a game on it,” Hoffpauir said. “I know they’ll be glad to play.”

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