The tornado that ravaged Lawrence County on January 12 was not a sports fan.
As it skipped across along its path, the storm dropped onto Moulton’s new travel ball complex. Prior to the storm, the complex was nearing completion. Now, it requires several months of repairs.
All four new ballfields were damaged. The foul nets wrapping each backstop were torn down by the wind. Of the eight sets of bleachers, two may be salvaged. The others were bent, twisted, or ripped apart beyond repair. Two sets were tossed onto their respective fields and crushed upon impact. Another was thrown out of the complex,
“It was up here at [the] field, and it ended up being across the road,” said McDaniel.
The bleachers were flung over 100 yards.
Several dugouts were damaged. The tin roofing hung down in several places; some strips were torn free and taken by the wind. A couple of the enormous light poles surrounding the fields were visibly tilted.
“We know they’re leaning, and we can see it. But even if it wasn’t visible to us, when we turn the lights on, there’s supposed to be no shadows on the field,” said McDaniel. “Because we have all the lights adjusted to take out every shadow, and there were none. But if we flip them on now you’ve got shadows everywhere.”
One field’s backstop, built of wide concrete cinder blocks, was broken apart.
“This has got to come off,” said McDaniel. “It’s got to be relaid.
“We’ve got to chip all the old mortar off and re-lay them. It ain’t going to be an easy job.”
The first tournament planned for the new fields was Hatton High School’s February softball tournament. The old ballfields will still host some of the games, but most will be played elsewhere.
“Denton Bowling, his tournament, he plays part of it up here,” said McDaniel. “He was going to play a lot of it because we would have had seven fields that he could play on. Now we’re back down to the three.”
The new fields will be lucky to hold games before August. It’s the latest setback to a project that began construction in 2016. The city is waiting for estimated repair costs.
Across the parking lot, the original fields at H.A. Alexander Park were spared severe destruction; however, nets were ripped, the concession stand and coaching offices damaged, and one foul pole was bent backward.
“The priority became trying to get those fields ready – because I knew [the new fields had] too much damage – so that we would have some fields for the kids to play on when the youth league season starts,” said McDaniel.
“We patched the high school [nets] so they can practice and play games. And we patched two of the other fields so [teams] could practice. But by the time they start playing games, we’ll have those nets in for the other three fields – just not the high school field.”
The tornado hit four days before baseball and softball seasons officially started for county schools. In the aftermath of the storm, McDaniel focused on preparing the park’s facilities for safe usage.
“The middle school baseball and softball programs practice over there,” said McDaniel. “So we essentially had three fields we had to get ready for that Monday. So it just became… just eliminate the danger.
“We had dangling lights in the batting cages, we had loose stuff that could’ve fell on them, so let’s just get it all out.”
At the Moulton Recreation Center, the twister tore off a corner of the roof. Rain poured down the south wall, ruining the scoreboard and severely damaging one side of the basketball court. With basketball season in progress, the parks and recreation staff hurried to find a suitable solution.
“ServPro has a big plastic tent set up on [the south] end,” said McDaniel. “They’re trying to suck out the water from under the floor.”
The ServPro machines have since been removed, and games were safely played on the court. Pepsi will replace the scoreboard.
In addition to the athletic facilities, dozens of trees were uprooted and many fell across the park’s walking trails.
On the bright side, insurance will cover most of the repairs. And, as McDaniel said, “We’re here. Nobody got hurt. That’s good, good news.”
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