Cottey's new softball field becoming a reality

Saturday, March 31, 2012
Nevada Mayor Brian Leonard, Cottey Comet Kelly Spong, Cottey College President Dr. Judy Rogers, Dr. Dorothy Vanek, Gina Ensor, Nevada/Vernon County Chamber of Commerce director, and JD Kehrman, Nevada city manager, break ground Friday afternoon for Cottey College's new softball field. The field is expected to be ready for the 2013 softball season. Ralph Pokorny/Herald-Tribune

By Jason Peake


NEVADA -- Cottey College's "Field of Dreams" is becoming a reality.

"A field isn't just dirt and grass, it's a home," Cottey Comet Kelly Spong said during the groundbreaking ceremony Friday afternoon as Dorothy Vanek, who donated the money for the field, watches. Several hundred people gathered for the ceremony.

A ground-breaking ceremony was held on Friday for the school's new on-campus softball field.

After receiving a donation from Dorothy Dyer Vanek, Cottey will now have a field of its own.

A large group attended the ground-breaking ceremony, including Cottey President Dr. Judy Rogers, Nevada Mayor Brian Leonard, City Manager JD Kehrman, and Gina Ensor, Nevada/Vernon County Area Chamber of Commerce Director -- all of whom spoke briefly.

"We are so excited to break ground today," Rogers told the crowd at the start of the ceremony.

"This is a very exciting day for Cottey College, but it's also a very exciting day for the Nevada community," Leonard said. "This will enhance our entire community."

"Cottey is the gem of our city," said Kehrman, who added he'd love to see a future city manager from Cottey College. "I'm so pleased to see your expansion."

Ensor echoed those same sentiments.

"This is a historical moment for Cottey," Ensor said. "Thank you so much Dr. Vanek for making this a reality. And congratulations to the Cottey Comets. And welcome home."

The entire softball team, a large group of students and many local residents also attended the ground-breaking.

The Cottey choir sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and encouraged the crowd to join in.

A home of their own

Currently, the Comets use Bushwhacker Field, the facility the high school team uses in the fall. The new field should be ready at this time next year for the Comets.

"We're excited about it already," Cottey Coach Shelli Stanley said. "It will help our program a lot."

Construction of the new field is scheduled to begin soon, and the field will be located south of the Rubie Burton Academic Center.

Coach Stanley said the new field will be a great addition to the program.

For starters, Stanley noted that a lot of Cottey students don't own a mode of transportation.

She said some of her players don't have a car and must ride with a teammate to practice, forcing some to sit and wait for others to get out of class. And conflicts with class schedules have caused problems with heading to the other end of town for practice at times. Some athletes show up a bit late.

With their own field on campus, that shouldn't be an issue.

"They won't have to drive anywhere," Stanley said. "They can just walk over."

Next, Stanley said she hopes an on-campus field will bring more Cottey students to the games, as well.

Stanley admitted the attendance at the team's games at Bushwhacker Field hasn't been too great.

A new on-campus softball field should help in recruiting, too.

"It's been talked about with some current recruits," Stanley said. "They're looking forward to being the first team to use it."

The field will be named the Vanek Family Memorial Field in memory of Dorothy's daughters Deborah and Nancy and the entire Vanek family.

"We cannot be thankful enough to Dorothy Dyer Vanek for making this field possible," Stanley said. "Our team, as well as the campus community, is very excited for the new field."

"Having a field right on campus is a big plus for us," Cottey Athletic Director Dave Ketterman added. "It gives us our own field and we'll have access any time. It also gives us more credibility as a program. Some of the schools we play don't even have their own fields."

Now, Cottey will.

A player's perspective

Cottey softball player Kelly Spong addressed the crowd on behalf of the Comets.

Spong described what it was like when she realized the team would have a new home.

"It was a regular week night and we'd already practiced," Spong said. "Coach asked us to meet her at 9. At first, I thought we were in trouble. We wondered what we had done wrong during practice. Coach said something to the effect, 'We're getting a field. Be happy.' I felt like I was dreaming. We all started talking about how great it was and how grateful we were. That was probably one of the best memories I'll have at Cottey.

"A field is not just dirt and grass, it's a home," Spong continued. "To have a field on campus is a major step for the team. Not only will we not have to drive across town, but more students, staff and faculty can come see their Cottey Comets fight for a win. It's because of Dr. Vanek's kindness and generosity we're here today ready to break ground on the newest addition to Cottey's campus."

Spong added she and her teammates can't wait to play on the field next year.

"I want to come back next year, with my fellow players and best friends, and see this field, and say 'We were there when they started this field, and gosh, this is beautiful,'" Spong said.

Spong also presented a Comets team jersey to Vanek, who picked up a shovel and participated in the ground-breaking ceremony that ended the event.

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