By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
RICHLANDS, Va. —
Softball at Richlands High School may be moving their home plate closer to home, with an assist from the local National Guard.
A proposal to renovate an unused baseball field on the high school grounds and convert it into the high school softball field went before the Tazewell County School Board on Monday night.
“We feel like there’s a great opportunity for us to build a field there,” said Richlands High softball coach Ronnie Davis.
The board was “very much intrigued by the presentation,” said school board vice chairman Steve Davis on Monday night, “but we had a few questions.”
The proposal will be brought back to the board, with more details, on Aug. 12.
For years, the Lady Blues have been using fields owned by the town’s Little League teams, a couple of miles away from the high school — and across a creek and a set of railroad tracks.
Davis said on Monday afternoon, “We have been very fortunate and appreciative that the town of Richlands has made that field available. We just feel the time has come to turn the page and have something that the program can call its own.”
Richlands High School principal Kimberly Ringstaff said on Monday, “We want to make it something we can be proud of, and something our team would be proud to use.”
She said Davis and David Lamie, a representative of parents of some softball players, came to her with a proposal to renovate the on-campus field — and would do so through donations, without the use of county school funds.
“With the budget constraints that we all have, Richlands High School just doesn’t have the money to fund this,” Ringstaff said.
The school approached the former county school superintendent, Dr. Brenda Lawson, with the plan. She advised them to seek formal approval from the school board, but to “go ahead and get the ball rolling and hopefully get the approval,” Davis said.
Ringstaff said, “We’re following protocol to do this in the correct way.”
Davis said the group has “written about five or six grants” for funding help. Ringstaff said that some of the parents have contacts with foundations and organizations that may be able to contribute.
The National Guard unit located near Southwest Virginia Community College (SVCC) is a component of the plan as well.
“If everything gets approved,” Davis said, “we have asked them to donate their time to do the excavation (and) the building of dugouts and a press box.
“The National Guard does all kinds of activities like this, and we have a local National Guard unit that goes other places. We thought it might be a good idea to keep them home and do some work here at Richlands — and they do when they get the opportunity to.”
“We’re very fortunate to have them.”
Ringstaff said, “They (the National Guard) have done some work for other areas in our school system.” To get their assistance, she said, “We have to go through two or three different hoops with the National Guard.” That process has begun, she said.
The estimated cost of the project was not immediately available on Monday afternoon.
Richlands High School athletics director Ricky Vencill said the old baseball field, located near Ernie Hicks Stadium, has not been used for interscholastic sports for several years. The Richlands baseball team plays its home games on a spacious diamond at SVCC in nearby Wardell.
Asked about a timetable for the renovation, Ringstaff said, “The ultimate goal is to have it ready for the spring — but we’re not sure that can be done by then.”
The new field would be a boost for the softball program in more ways than one, Davis said.
Currently, he said, “There’s really actually one field that we have to use in Richlands, and we have to share with the Little League. There’s no problem there — they’re really cooperative. We just want something, the varsity wants something, to call their own.”
If the proposal goes through, he said, “The girls will be able to dress at the school and walk to practice, just like the soccer teams and the other athletic teams.”
The school board met at the Tazewell County Career and Technical Center in Tazewell.
— Contact Tom Bone at