A field of his own:
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 8, 2002
Former Troy State pitcher Ron Pierce creates his own ‘Field of Dreams’ in the front yard
By KEVIN PEARCEY
Ron Pierce has nice house.
Nice bit of land also. Over 40 acres with a pond in the backyard and woods from north to south, east to west. It’s tucked just far enough away from the city to make you believe you’re in the country, yet Pierce said you can still hear the public announcement system at Memorial Stadium when a football game is being played.
Various wildlife randomly wanders across the pastures. At night the stars in the sky stretch for miles and miles.
"There was that meteor shower a few months ago and we just came out here, sat out by the house and watched it," Pierce said. "Oh man, it was beautiful."
Pierce loves his land and he loves baseball. It’s his passion. A West Palm Beach-transplant, Pierce played his college ball at Troy State (1976-77). He joined the university’s baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.
"Yeah, I still hold a few records over there," Pierce said. His speech has a machine gun-like rhythm, shooting from one point to the next. If Pierce pitched the way he talks, maybe that’s why opposing teams never could quite get a bead on what he threw. He still holds the record for lowest ERA (1.88).
"I had two good years at Troy State and two good years at junior college in Florida," he said. "When Ralph Black and Coach (John) Mayotte called me and told me I had been elected to the Hall of Fame it was just amazing. I felt great about it. I love the game. I had four years of paid education because of baseball. My dad loved it and he started with me when I was young."
Pierce has his own son now, Brett. He played second base for the Charles Henderson varsity baseball team this past season.
"Baseball is a game that you have to love to play," said Pierce. "I think Brett has that. He tried playing football one season but decided he didn’t like it. And if he wanted to play, he’d go out and play. But baseball is something that he works at everyday on a consistent bases."
And even though the game is something that’s in Ron Pierce’s blood, people still wonder why he would build a baseball field in his front yard.
You might miss it at night time. It’s off to the right, an accurately clipped grass infield with red dirt to mark the base paths and a net behind home plate. The outfield, Pierce admits, still needs a little work but the sprinkling system in center field will have the grass good and green come summer.
It started out as a place for his son to practice hitting ground balls, Pierce said.
"Then it turned into half of an infield and when I started laying it out it turned into a whole infield," said Pierce. "A little more of this and a little more of that and I ended up making a full-sized baseball field."
Obviously, the first thing people think of is the movie Field of Dreams. For those who’ve somehow missed this movie, here’s the plot: Kevin Costner mows down half his cornfield and builds a baseball field so his daddy can eventually join him for the game of catch they never had. Ghosts of players from the early 1900s, including the legendary "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, start stepping out of what’s left of the corn to play baseball games.
Pierce said that could never happen at his field.
For one, there’s no corn.
"We talked about putting some corn out there but we’ve got so much deer and turkey out here," he said. "I had grown some corn last year in our garden and they ate it up. There’s no use putting it around the outfield because they’ll get it also."
But like Costner in the movie, Pierce said people still find humor in what he’s created.
"I tell them where I live and they say ‘Oh, Butter and Egg Road! You’re the one that built the baseball field out there didn’t you,’" Pierce said. "And they laugh. But what I’ve done is given the kids an opportunity to play baseball. Sure, I’ve spent some dollars on it, but I’m using it as a business also for my camps so it’s not that I’m a completely crazy nut."
More then anything Pierce just wanted to capture a piece of his childhood and present it to Brett and his friends.
"When I was growing up, across the street from my house we had an empty lot. All the kids would get together and we’d have a baseball game. It was nothing like this, but it was sandlot baseball," he said. "We’ve had high school kids come out here in groups on Sunday afternoons, split up evenly, and play baseball. It’s just something they like to do. After they’re finished, they’ll go for a swim in the pond or do a little fishing so it’s like their own little recreational area."
There’s also no chain-link fences to mark the field’s boundaries. Ron said there’s a reason for this.
Susan, his wife, won’t allow it.
"She’s given me permission to put a hedge around the outside of the outfield," he said. "Susan won’t let me do certain things but she wants to put some benches up and get an old-fashioned scoreboard to put off to the side where we can keep score and write on. She gets into it, but there’s limitations on what she’ll let me do."
And no stadium lighting either.
"Justin Miller, from Hendricks Homecenter, came over to us at a function at the middle school last year and said ‘Ron, those lights you ordered have come in," Pierce recalled. "Susan was sitting there and she looked at me. She said ‘I know you’re kidding Justin. He better not have ordered any lights from you.’"
Pierce seems to want to keep his wife as pleased as possible. Last year, in left field, Pierce said there was large tree and the only way he could get permission from Susan to pull it up was a promise.
"It was a pretty good-sized tree and it just sat there for the whole season," said Pierce. "To take it down, I had to buy seven other trees to put around the house and make her happy, just so I wouldn’t have to take a lot of flack for it."
Although, Pierce’s homegrown baseball field is unique to Troy, it’s not the only one around central Alabama.
"There’s a coach in Prattville, an American Legion coach who’s got a field of his own," he said. "He doesn’t have lights around it either. I’m not sure what his wife thinks."