No one needed to even step on the softball field for excitement to begin growing at Stanhope Elmore. Before practices and games began, the Mustangs were seeing plenty of positive changes to build some momentum before the new season.
After two years of fundraising, Stanhope Elmore got to work on its field as players, parents and coaches from the program all pitched in. The school brought in River Region Sports to level out the infield using six tons of dirt and put new sod for the outfield.
“When I was first getting started here, I told the girls that I would invest in them if they invested in me,” Stanhope Elmore coach Virginia Barber said. “And I am here to stay. This community is investing in these girls and they finally have something to show for that so hopefully it can teach them to give back.”
The new upgrades do not stop on the field as the Mustangs have gotten a complete makeover to the field house. A local company owned by a travel ball coach helped redo the floors, rip up the carpet and paint the team’s logo on the new floor.
The fieldhouse was finished Jan. 3 and the players were thrilled to see the changes when they got back from the winter break. Barber said the upgrades have helped the players take on more responsibility.
“They are taking pride in what they have,” Barber said. “They are cleaning fieldhouse every day. They want it to look good. That stuff carries over to the field when they take pride in how they do things and how they carry themselves.”
While the changes to the fieldhouse brought plenty of smiles and positive attitudes, Barber was not done with the surprises. Last Wednesday, she notified the Mustangs they will be provided with funding for an indoor facility. Barber said the funding will come from the school’s booster club but the project is still in the works and awaiting approval by the Elmore County Board of Education.
“They are so excited about it,” Barber said. “The seniors are kind of mad that it has taken so long but hopefully they can get to use it plenty.”
The indoor facility is expected to be about 3,200 square feet and will include two batting cages, pitching lanes and a soft toss area. Barber said she hopes it will be done by the end of February so the Mustangs can use it for a majority of their season.
One of the biggest issues with the start of spring practice is battling the weather. When it rains or if it is too cold, the Mustangs have often had to share gym space with up to four other sports but Barber hopes that time has come to an end.
“This is a dream come true for me as a coach,” Barber said. “I have wanted to do this since I got here. I wanted to give the girls what they deserve. I can’t even begin to explain how great it will be.”
When Barber got to Stanhope Elmore in 2015, she inherited a field that had not been updated in more than a decade. Barber immediately made goals of what she wanted her field and facilities to look like and the latest upgrades have shown the strides the program has taken since she got there.
“Parents, players and the school have invested in the program,” Barber said. “The girls, the parents, everybody is excited. It brings more people to our program. More girls want to try out. They are taking pride in being a Stanhope Elmore student-athlete. It’s a positive thing all the way around.”