Warhorses face alumni on John Hall Field

  • Elizabeth Blattner, left, granddaughter of John Hall, David Anastasia, athletic director for Barnwell 45, Mary Hall Roberson, daughter of John Hall, and baseball coach Don Mims stand as the plaque, held by Anastasia, is presented in rededication of John Hall Field before the alumni game Feb. 20.
  • The 2016 Barnwell Warhorse baseball players, left, greet the alumni baseball players before the Feb. 20 Second Annual Alumni Baseball game on the renovated field.

The Barnwell Warhorses ushered in their 2016 baseball season Feb. 20 at the newly renovated John Hall Field with a match-up between alumni Barnwell High baseball players and the current team.

The alumni game was a good opportunity for players and baseball fans alike to get a look at the refurbished field.

There were 22 veteran ball players on hand Saturday to challenge the current Warhorse team in the second annual alumni game, which was a fundraiser for school athletics. Seven of the alumni played on either the 1989 or 1990 state championship teams or both.

The baseball field was upgraded with new sod and reconstruction of the pitcher’s mound and home plate. Other improvements included new fencing with gates for the outfield and new seating for the bleachers.

The biggest improvement is new lighting, mounted on galvanized steel poles which replaced the old wooden poles, some of which had been damaged by woodpeckers.

“I love it. It’s a long time coming,” said Shelly Hammonds, Barnwell High Class of 1989 and a centerfielder on the 1989 championship team. Hammonds, now hailing from West Palm Beach, Fla., drove up the day before to play in the alumni game. “It was just a grass field. I remember the woodpeckers. You could hear them.”

Hammonds, originally from Barnwell, lived near John Hall Field and would play on it on weekends, he said.

Hammonds was part of a stellar group of athletes at Barnwell High then, remembering the school produced a basketball team that made it as far as the state championship playoffs. Also the school won back-to-back championships in football as well as in baseball then, he said.

“That group of kids that came through here – were a special group of kids – one of the most successful group of kids to come through Barnwell High School,” Hammonds said.

After Barnwell, Hammonds played for Penn State as a free safety and running back on a football scholarship, he said.

Matt Hooper, Barnwell High Class of 1991, still remembers who the Warhorses were pitted against in those championship games in which he played – Woodruff High in 1989 and Mid Carolina High School in Prosperity in 1990.

“We lost the 1988 championship to Chesney, 1-0,” he said.

“I love the new field,” said Rodrick Neal, Barnwell High Class of 1990 and another alumni baseball player. “They didn’t have the grass baselines when I was here.”

Neal, who lives in Columbia now, played on the 1989 and 1990 baseball championship teams as a third baseman and backup pitcher.

“I was more involved in the 1990 game. I pitched in Game 1 of the state championship,” he said.

“It’s like old home week – baseball is my second heaven. There’s a lot of memories here, good and bad,” Neal said.

Neal still plays a little ball, only now recreation league softball, he said.

Before the game, a plaque to commemorate the late John Hall, for whom the field is named, was revealed. On hand for the presentation were Mary Hall Roberson, Hall’s daughter, and Elizabeth Blattner, Hall’s granddaughter. Both said they appreciated how much John Hall was being honored still for his work over the years with youth sports. The plaque will be mounted on the press box building.

Hall was instrumental in establishing youth recreational sports in Barnwell in the 1950s and 1960s, especially baseball. He was the first recreational director for the city from 1973 to 1978.

“Saturday’s game was a good event to open up the 2016 baseball season in style in our restored facilities. We had great playing weather and I really appreciate the hard work and dedication of those that put in the time to make it a success and make the field and the program what it is now,” said Barnwell District 45 Superintendent Jay Grissom.