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Upgraded high school baseball field, funded partly by Rockies, still unusable

"The field was completed, but it was completed probably a little bit faster than it needed to be."

DENVER — Kennedy High School has a new softball and baseball field that is not safe for use.

When Denver subbed in to host the All-Star Game for Atlanta last year, Major League Baseball and the Colorado Rockies funded improvements for the Kennedy High School fields. The funding was part of $5 million for multiple projects through the All-Star Legacy Initiative.

There was a ribbon cutting attended by Rockies owner Dick Monfort.

"I've been on varsity for three years," said senior pitcher, first baseman and right fielder Hunter Coble.

And how many games has he played at home?

"Zero," Coble said.

On Thursday, Denver Public Schools communications director Will Jones said the district was given bad information. Based on Facebook posts on the Kennedy Commanders Facebook page, there is photo proof that games have been played on the field since the dedication.

One of the posts from Sept. 15 included photos and the caption: "After 2 years, it finally feels good to be home playing a game."

"As a baseball fan and a former scholar/athlete, I was beyond impressed with the fields when I was there for the official unveiling ceremony with the Rockies and Major League Baseball last July," said Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero. "The grounds were pristine. I actually felt like getting my suit dirty and playing on the baseball field that day.

"I am disappointed that this once immaculate facility is less than stellar right now and will be visiting the fields soon so that I can see the condition of the grounds firsthand," Marrero said. "I truly appreciate everything that the Colorado Rockies Organization and Major League Baseball did to revitalize the athletic facilities at John F. Kennedy High School. We are working to ensure that we return these fields to the condition which our scholar/athletes deserve."

During Coble's first two years on the team, the field was in disrepair and unsafe to use. Now, that the field has been repaired, but still unsafe.

"You could tell right away, when you stepped on it, it was not right from what a normal field should [be]," Coble said. "It can be, kind of, dangerous if you're just running and not really paying attention."

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"With the switch from Atlanta to Denver, it kind of, hurried things along a little bit in the process and the field was completed, but it was completed probably a little bit faster than it needed to be," said Denver Public Schools spokesman Scott Pribble.

Pribble explained that there are drainage issues around home plate, areas where sod was laid on top of other sod and some sprinklers have been covered by sod.

He said Denver Public Schools and not Major League Baseball nor the Rockies would pay for the repairs.

As of Wednesday night, the Colorado Rockies had not responded to an email sent earlier in the afternoon.

"To be fair, they were not directly involved with the work that was done here," Pribble said. "Bids that we've received so far are in the area of $130,000 to $150,000 to do both fields."

He said they hope to get the softball field done in time for the fall season. And then they would look at the possibility of insurance or the original contractor footing the bill.

"I think it's important for everybody to know that the safety of our athletes is important and that's why we haven't been playing games here," Pribble said.

Coble will play his entire career for the Kennedy Commanders without playing one home game.

They currently play games on the road or at a neutral site like All-City Stadium near South High School.

"It's a cool field, but honestly, especially for home games, you want to be out on your own field. You don't want to be out traveling a lot usually during home games. It's a nice field, but you want to be at your home to play games," Coble said.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story stated that there has never been a game played on the new field since the dedication nine months ago. That has been corrected based on new information from Denver Public Schools and the Kennedy Commanders Facebook page.

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