By Jesse Wood
After listening to presentations from representatives of Friends of Watauga Baseball & Softball, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners last Tuesday agreed to work with the Watauga County Board of Education in hopes of finding a way to partially fund a proposed indoor batting facility on the Watauga High School campus.
During the planning of phase of the current Watauga High School several years ago, an indoor batting facility was included before becoming a budgeting casualty. The proposal has come before the boards again since then but to no avail. That may change soon though.
“I appreciate their receptiveness. Both bodies unanimously endorsed the project and they committed to conversation and collaboration – and that’s endorsement,” Dr. Jay Jackson, a member of the building committee for Friends and a parent of two kids who have been involved with baseball and softball at the high school.
In the past several years, the group has raised $70,000 for the project through the annual Will Dicus Memorial Baseball Tournament held in June, commemorative bricks that will line the entrance to the proposed facility and advertisements on the ball field fences, Jackson said.
Jackson estimated the facility to cost $190,000 and the organization is seeking $120,000 or so from the school board and commissioners. The facility, which would allow ball teams to practice during the winter months, has a building footprint of 50 feet by 100 feet.
Jackson said the building was originally to be constructed between the baseball and softball field. That location is no longer possible, so a flat plot on the campus, north of the softball field and behind the left field fence, has been identified as an ideal spot for the building.
If built, the structure will be named the Will Dicus Indoor Batting Facility.
Folks in the High Country probably remember those “Pray for Dicus” bumper stickers that still don cars in the area.
Dicus was a “wonderful, wonderful young man,” Jackson said. He was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in 2004, when he was about 14 years old. Though that never stopped him from playing baseball. As a member of the high school junior varsity team, he pitched a no-hitter and as a member of varsity, he pitched a one-hitter.
“He even got a pinch hit single, knowing the only player on the other team who couldn’t throw him out as he limped to first was the left fielder. So, a slap hit to left field it was. He ended his high school batting career with a one thousand average and his pitching career without losing a game,” according to a bio on BooneBaseball.com, a website of the Will Dicus Memorial Baseball Tournament.
Dicus passed away in the summer of 2009.
“Nothing would please him more than to be able to help build an indoor baseball practice facility for his high school teammates at their new high school,” the bio reads.