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Diamond in the Rough

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Woller Field Gets Much-Needed Facelift


Due to weather, this event will be rescheduled for Friday, April 19. We want to provide the best opportunity to celebrate and bring as many people as we can to support the Warriors!

April 3 Update:

Join us at 4:45 PM on Wednesday, April 10 as the Warriors honor Woller, former coaches Troy McIntosh, Stephanie Smith, and Matt Heidorn in building the school’s softball program when they unveil the diamond’s renovations. The team will be taking on Buckeye Valley at 5:15 PM on the new field.

March Story:

Bernie Woller admits the Worthington Christian’s softball team’s first season was like the movie “The Field of Dreams,” only without Kevin Costner and a cornfield. When the Worthington Christian athletic department decided to offer softball instead of girls’ soccer, there were two problems with the plan. The Warriors didn’t have a diamond to play on and had very little funds to build one.

“I told the booster club, ‘I think we can build a simple softball field for about $2,000,’” said Woller, a Worthington Christian alumni parent who helped instigate the diamond’s creation.

“The boosters permitted me to use the property south of the Grace Brethren Worship Center (if Woller could keep the project under $2,000).”

Nearly two and a half decades later, the diamond, named Bernie Woller Field, continues to shine.

Alumni parent and former interim athletic director Steve Betulius spearheaded the project, which included updating the irrigation and drainage system and repairing the rotting dugouts for this season.

“I am so excited to step onto the field this season because Woller Field is a place we are proud to play on,” softball coach Dani Murnane said.

The school spent nearly $30,000 to revamp the diamond. According to Murnane, the field improvements were long overdue. Last year, spring rains often rendered the field unplayable.”

“Being a spring sport, we battle Mother Nature,” Murnane said. “Previously, our field had a drainage system that made it difficult to play whenever we had precipitation. It took days to drain and dry properly.

“With such a limited timeframe in our season, we often found ourselves having to cancel home games after a storm and travel to the opposing team’s site to be able to get the game in.”

The dugouts also received a facelift. Murnane said the dugouts had significant parts of rot where one could easily pull off chunks of wood.

One addition to the field is an irrigation system that, Murnane hopes, will keep the fields as green as they are in the season’s opening months.

“By the end of the season and during the summer months, our grass would turn brown,” she said. “There was no way for the field to get any sort of water besides rainfall so it was inevitable to experience browning. A system that will keep the grass healthy and green all year was much needed.”

With the renovations, the field looks much different from Woller’s original blueprints.

“(When we started this field) I didn’t think the softball program would grow to what it is now,” Woller said with a chuckle. “When we were done with it, it was a simple diamond, but it served its purpose.

“But now, especially with this new renovation that’s going in the last six months or so and the money that’s been spent on improving that field, it really, really looks nice now.”

When he and the softball committee began laying the groundwork for the diamond, Woller said he was often surprised about how God met their needs.

One of the first blessings was finding a backstop literally in their backyard. Columbus City Schools had previously owned Worthington Christian’s elementary school building at 50 Westview Avenue. Columbus had left behind a galvanized steel backstop, which volunteers then moved to its current location. One of the volunteers lent the crew a crane he used at his roofing business, and they removed the six-inch diameter posts encased in 18 inches of cement.

“It was nearly twice as strong as the material used in backstops today,” Woller remembers. “They told us, ‘if you want it, you need to tear it out and move it.’”

Another obstacle was removing the debris and turning a grassy field into a softball diamond. Had that been done professionally, the cost would have swallowed most of the $2,000 budget. Again, one of the volunteers announced his excavating company would lend them a bulldozer at a reasonable rate, and he spent hours leveling the field and installing a drainage system.

The group also located the sand needed for the infield at a local quarry, but the going rate would have consumed three-fourths of their budget. However, the quarry’s owner agreed to sell them the sand for $750 instead of the $1,500 asking price.

When it came time to install a fence for the diamond, the group contacted three contractors. The first two bids they received were way over their budget. The third contractor told the group he was a member of Grace Brethren Church (now known as Grace Polaris Church) and would do the project for the cost of renting scaffolding, which was $50.

Woller’s list of obstacles and how they were met continues. The grand total for the field was $1,910.  Even the season opener had an unlikely finish, with the Warriors rallying from a two-run deficit in the seventh inning to defeat River Valley 11-10.

Developing into a Contender

While Woller is surprised by the team’s growth, former head of school Troy McIntosh, who coached the team 1995-97 and the 2006 season, isn’t.

“(Softball) is such a great sport, and there will always be girls who love the game and are interested in playing,” McIntosh said. “If you’ve never been to a game, it’s definitely worth checking out.”

McIntosh grew up playing baseball but had never seen a girls fastpitch softball game before he became the head coach. During his first season, he recalled that the Warriors were rained out in every scrimmage and then opened the year against top-ranked DeSales, which run-ruled them in five innings.

“We lost our first seven games that year but ended up winning 14 of our last 16, including a heartbreaker in the district semis. We didn’t have any seniors at all in my first year. But we won the Mid-Buckeye Conference the next two seasons, which didn’t happen again until over 20 years later.”

Under McIntosh’s reign, the Warriors won league titles in 1996 and 1997. Worthington Christian also won league titles in 2017 and 2019.

But more than championships, McIntosh, whose daughters Katie (WC ’16), and Emma (WC ’18) played softball, and Woller, whose daughter Mandy (WC ’96) was on one of the first softball teams, gained benefits from being a part of the program.

“Softball teaches teamwork, doing something for the sake of your teammates, the need for practice and discipline to master a craft, and sticking with something even when it’s hard,” McIntosh said.

“Mandy was the catcher, and she liked being a leader,” Woller added. “As the catcher, she was involved with every play, which allowed her to improve her leadership skills. She may not have been the most talented ballplayer, but she worked hard, giving her a good work ethic that she still has today.”

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