“If you build it, they will come”: this play on the famous line in Field of Dreams has been CMS head coach Billy Barker’s motto over the last year as he constructed a baseball field for his team and organized a summer training camp on the new diamond. The Cougars Camp was held on July 23-25, and gave around 40 kids from all over Blount County the opportunity to learn from more than a dozen athletes, coaches, and other sports professionals.
Before Barker came to Carpenters Middle School in 2008 to revive the baseball program, the field was nothing but a pasture with a fence at the back. But, as Coach Barker is quick to tell you, his kids deserved better.
The construction of the field had begun more than two years ago, before Barker’s time, but was left incomplete until he and a brigade of parents, players and other volunteers stepped in.
Though the field is finally finished, it still requires a great deal of maintenance. Barker estimates that volunteers have contributed between 500 and 600 hours of labor to the field’s upkeep, but Barker does the lion’s share, logging roughly 1500 hours to date. Companies including Volunteer Turf and Caldwell Fencing have pitched in as well
“Those kids need to be rewarded and appreciated for what they do in the classroom,” insists Coach Barker, “and this is one of the best ways to do it.” In 2008, CMS students were well above the state average in TCAP scores, with 97 percent of students at or above proficient in math and 94 percent in language.
The CMS Cougars baseball team was able to play on the field last year, but this will be their first full season. They were able to get some valuable practice time on their new home field this summer during the 2009 Cougars Camp, which was open to all interested 5th-8th graders. Students from Alcoa, Maryville, Fairview, and Eagleton Middle Schools as well as King’s Academy joined CMS students for three days of training in the fundamentals of baseball. The camp included instruction stations for pitching, catching, hitting, outfield and infield.
Joining Barker to train the players were Eagleton Middle coach Jeff Sherman, Webb High School player Robbie Britt, and members of the Maryville College Baseball team including Clint Helton, Ethan Staley, Jamey Davis, Carson Dempsey, and MC assistant coach Jimmy Reese. Landon Clark, Derrick Robinson and Blake Elliot of William Blount and Tyler Davis also helped with the training. WBHS head coach and former major league player and coach Charlie Puleo visited the camp to speak to the players, as did Umpire Danny Glass.
The Cougars’ first full season on the new field will begin in February, and the Cougars will participate in both pre-season and end-of-season tournaments.