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New softball fence in Wauwatosa cuts sledding hill short

Feb. 27, 2013

A rule going into effect for varsity high school softball is shortening a sledding hill at Longfellow Middle School.

A rule for girls softball approved by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has, for several years, required an outfield fence 185 to 235 feet from home plate for teams hosting tournaments. It will affect all games in the 2014 season.

Wauwatosa East High School girls have played their games at Hart Park, which does not have a fence. Tosa East Athletic Director Linda Vitrano said she didn't receive permission to build a fence at Hart Park, so the school came up with a plan to move the games to Longfellow.

The field is at 80th Street and Meinecke Avenue, across the driveway from Longfellow, adjacent to Wauwatosa Cemetery.

The field itself is being upgraded, along with repairs to the backstop and installation of a fence 200 feet from home plate, at a cost of $11,214, said Tom Kulczewski, superintendent of buildings and grounds. The team will play homes games there beginning next year.

"Now that open beautiful green space, sledding hill, etc. looks much different. ... And for those of us who live across the street, it will be an eyesore compared to what we have now," Randy McCready, who lives nearby, said in an email.

"Given how little green space we have remaining in Tosa, particularly with the County Grounds changing, I am bummed about this," he wrote.

"I am 9 years old and go sledding at the hill by 80th Street and Meinecke Avenue. Why is a fence being put up on the baseball field?" a young resident wrote to the paper's Ask NOW column. "I do not think it is needed, and it spoils the sledding."

The fence requirement was enacted to improve the games, said Marcy Thurwachter, assistant director of the WIAA.

A fence allows home runs for power-hitting teams," she said, "as opposed to the advantage gained by some teams who rely on speed and hitting gappers. The ball goes between and if you cut your grass really short in the outfield, and you're a gapper-hitting, quick team, you have the potential to hit between those outfielders and just let that ball roll.

"A team that is a power-hitting team, in a regulation type of facility, where there would be an outfield fence, would be rewarded for being able to hit. If you don't have a fence, you just park your three outfielders at 200 feet or so, and catch those balls that are hit."

Coaches feel that "it changes the integrity of the game," she said.

The Wauwatosa West High School team will play on an upgraded field behind the football bleachers, Kulczewski said. The fence there is 215 feet from the plate.

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