By Rick Palsgrove, Groveport Editor
Baseball fans fondly remember the famous baseball stadiums of the past, which had their quirks and were full of memories.
But such memorable baseball fields are not confined to the Major Leagues. Sometimes they are hiding in plain sight in our own communities.
One such baseball field is the now abandoned 1970s era Groveport Madison Cruisers’ high school baseball field, the remnants of which sit tucked away behind a fence at the rear of the new Groveport Madison High School on South Hamilton Road.
All that remains of this once proud ball field, that was home to many successful Cruiser baseball teams in the 1970s, is the rusty backstop and the grass growing on the outlines of its once dirt infield.
The field was the home of the Cruiser baseball teams that were champions of the Mid-Eight League in 1973 and 1974. According to Groveport City Councilman Shawn Cleary, a former Cruiser baseball player in the 1970s, the field was also home to the Cruiser baseball team that won the 1977 Sectionals.
Cleary has fond memories of this old ball field’s quirks.
“You’d better bring 200 baseballs because you’d lose a lot of foul balls over the nearby fence into the woods,” said Cleary.
The ball diamond’s outfield also presented a challenge as left field slopes slightly downward toward Blacklick Creek and right field slopes slightly upward.
“If a ball was hit over your head in left field it would just roll and roll forever toward the creek. If the leftfielder positioned back far enough you could only see him standing from the waist up because he was down behind the slope,” said Cleary. “It was the opposite in right field.”
Cleary also noted the field’s backstop was far behind home plate. He said this was a big advantage for base runners if a pitched ball got past a catcher because the runners could easily steal a base before the catcher could chase the ball down.
The field also once had a small set of ancient wooden plank bleachers on the first base side for fans to sit and view the games. When the field was in use when the former high school still stood along South Hamilton Road, it was a long walk for players and fans through an open field all the way back to the field behind the school.
Cleary said the ball field originally had an all dirt infield and was one the few remaining all dirt infields in Central Ohio in its day. He said later a grass infield was put in place on the field. Eventually the old field was put out to pasture when a new baseball field was built behind the football stadium later in the 20th century.
When looking at the old ball field today one can still see grass and weeds marking the outline of the now overgrown dirt infield. Tree branches now encroach the backstop and third base side of the field where the scoreboard once stood.
The rusty backstop still stands today, but it is a bit bent and weathered. There was once a sign attached to the backstop commemorating the Mid-Eight League champions of 1973 and 1974, but that sign is now long gone.
“A lot of great baseball players came through here on that field,” said Cleary.