BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Ever since a tornado ravaged Fultondale High School and its athletic fields Jan. 25, administrators had been making arrangements for a temporary home venue for the school’s teams.
Then, the Fultondale baseball coaching staff received an offer they couldn’t turn down – opening their season at Regions Field, home of the Birmingham Barons.
Nik Weldon, JoeJoe Hamaker and Dylan Gengler have spent countless hours on the Fultondale High School baseball field. But with only weeks before their season’s first pitch, an EF-3 tornado struck their school and home stadium, leaving them shambles. For seniors Hamaker and Gengler, this is their last season as Wildcats.
“We’ve been going there since 6th grade and for it to be the last year and not get to play there kind of hurts,” Hamaker said.
While Fultondale High School administrators looked for a temporary home for the baseball team, the group of sluggers got a special offer.
“We recognize what Fultondale is going through and that high school is going through, the high school baseball team,” said Jonathan Nelson, general manager of the Barons. “So we’re happy to open our doors at Regions field and be home of the Fultondale High School Baseball team on the 27th”
Yeah, these High school players will be playing their season opener on the same field they used to come to watch the Minor League baseball players. All three said that after all the tragedy, this will hopefully be a chance for Fultondale and the greater community to enjoy something together
“Just coming here as a kid and just seeing Minor Leaguers play on this,” Hamaker said. You’re always dreaming about coming out here and playing and to get a text saying that we get to open up at regions field was awesome.”
The team is also anticipating a crowd.
“There are a lot of people from the school and a lot of people from the community and they’re going to bring their friends and their family,” Gengler said.
As they prepare for their season home opener in downtown Birmingham, they’re not letting nerves get to them.
“We’re all going to be nervous that day and leading up to it but once we get in the game, it’s just another baseball game,” Weldon said. “Go out there, win and play our hardest.”
The Wildcats will be facing Ramsay High School on Feb. 27 at 12 p.m.
“It’s gonna be a good ballgame,” Hamaker said. “It’s really about who wants it more at the end of the day.”