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Robinson, H-F bring in the new baseball facility with a bang

Homewood-Flossmoor opened its new baseball facility last week. (David P. Funk/H-F Chronicle)

Shai Robinson made the first game on Homewood-Flossmoor High School’s upgraded baseball field a memorable one.

With a runner on first and the Vikings down a run in the bottom of the seventh inning, the senior shortstop launched a shot over the fence in left field for a walk-off home run. It was the Illinois State commit’s fifth round-tripper of the season, and it gave H-F a 7-6 win over Lockport.

“Before the at-bat, I just told myself, ‘If you get a fastball, just crush it.’ Second pitch of the at bat, I got that pitch and I crushed it,” Robinson said. “It felt amazing, especially playing our first game out there, especially playing a (Lockport) team that we had just previously lost to (two days prior) on a walk off (6-5). They got the feeling that we got the previous day.”

The new field is impressive, and the program is proud of it.

The bullpens were also upgraded. (David P. Funk/H-F Chronicle)

Upgrades include installation of artificial turf everywhere except the outfield, restoration of the bullpens, new fencing, a new brick backstop and net and a new scoreboard. Everything except the scoreboard is in place.

“The facility is huge for us. It allows us to get out here and have practice time, allows us to play through rain. In Chicago and the Midwest, it allows us to fight through the elements. Whenever you have the ability to fight through the elements, it just allows you to have success,” coach John McCarthy said. “The biggest thing is just practice, having everyone be able to get out and practice and be able to get better.”

One benefit, Robinson said, is infielders like him can expect a consistent reaction from balls off of the turf. There are no uneven surfaces, and the way the grass is mowed doesn’t affect a ground ball the way a natural field may.

“It plays amazing,” he said. “There’s no bad hops. Some turf fields play fast, but this one plays slow so it allows me to get my feet set and work my feet behind the ball.”

The upgrades include artificial turf everywhere except the outfield, a new brick backstop and net, new fencing and a new scoreboard that will be installed at a later date.. (David P. Funk/H-F Chronicle)

The opening of the new field was pushed back a few times due to construction delays. As a result, the Vikings played only road or neutral site games through their first 17 games in March and most of April.

“That was a little wear and tear on our bodies on those long bus rides. Now we get out of school, come to the field and warm up before the games,” Robinson said. “The bus rides create bonds with the team but still, your body gets stiff and things like that.”

H-F has been up and down on the season. The record sat at 13-8, as of May 2. Maine South came to Homewood on May 2 and stole an 8-7 victory with a seventh-inning go-ahead run.

The new field gives the Vikings a chance to play seven of the last 10 games at home, though.

“Overall, we’re just not very consistent. We’ve got to find a way to be consistent or it’s going to be a short playoff run,” McCarthy said.

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