Marcus Traxler: Drake Field improvements show again Mitchell is a baseball town

·3 min read

Jun. 14—MITCHELL — The baseball landscape is a little greener in Mitchell this summer.

The recent improvements at Drake Field have jolted a little more life into the Cadwell Sports Complex and its two full-size baseball fields including Cadwell Park.

The city of Mitchell, the Mitchell Baseball Association and Dakota Wesleyan University partnered to put down artificial turf in the infield and in foul territory at Drake Field, a venue that hosts scores of baseball games throughout the year for players primarily age 13 and older.

Field looks sharp and shows off the quality of Drake Field. While Cadwell Park remains the complex's crown jewel, Drake Field is not merely a second-fiddle ball diamond anymore. The efforts speak again to the quality of Mitchell as a baseball town through and through, one that cares about the quality of its teams and the places they have to play.

With the number of tournaments and events that Mitchell hosts around baseball in a given year, both fields remain in solid shape throughout the season, essentially available for use from April to September, with DWU opening the season on the field in the spring and closing it down with its fallball practices.

As advocates of the project pointed out, the turf will be usable as soon as the snow is off it, allowing spring practices and games to start sooner for the Tigers. The value of that during the spring in South Dakota is invaluable, especially with fickle weather conditions.

That's also important in the summer months. Over the past two weeks, Mitchell Post 18 Legion baseball has been able to keep its home schedule of games by playing at Drake Field, when otherwise wet conditions could have prevented play in past seasons, and helped make an easier call when trying to decide whether to play at Cadwell or Drake, with the tiebreaker going to the consistent field surface.

It will also be important for hosting the state amateur baseball tournament, as Drake Field has hosted games in the past when weather forces the 12-day event off schedule. With the turf field, it will be easier for the tournament to charge through wet conditions.

The improvement of Drake Field is emblematic of the artificial turf boom that is taking place at many baseball parks in the region. A number of other Class A communities have made upgrades to their fields, such as Brandon, Brookings, Harrisburg and Rapid City, who have joined Yankton and Sioux Falls as cities that have had an artificial turf stadium. A number of smaller towns have added artificial turf to parts of their infields, including in Parkston, Alexandria, Platte, Salem, Canova and Humboldt.

Many of them have tailored the turf to their specific situations, installing the surfaces around home plate, in the baselines and on the pitching mound, which allows those sites to retain a natural grass infield if they choose.

The Sanford Sports Complex in Sioux Falls is adding 18 turf fields for a litany of sports, including baseball, softball and soccer. At least five of those are expected to be available for baseball as part of what's being billed as the largest turf sports complex in the country. That is on a different level than what Mitchell has done, but the improvements at Drake Field are meaningful for the players, teams and community.

There will be more future improvements to Drake Field and the entire Cadwell Sports Complex, and the continued efforts of the city of Mitchell and the Mitchell Baseball Association to keep both baseball fields at the top of the line is appreciated. It reiterates that Mitchell is a community that takes sports and baseball seriously.