WEST PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth West baseball coach Chris Rapp admitted he feels out of place not currently working at the high school, where he serves as an assistant principal or preparing for the 2020 season — as he has for each of his prior 23 seasons as the Senators’ head baseball coach.
“As an administrator, this is my first day being at home,” Rapp said on Monday. “I feel like I should be at school doing something.”
He isn’t alone.
The Senators’ baseball team consisting of 27 players, five of which are seniors, are one of several teams in Scioto County and thousands across the state of Ohio whose future remains in limbo as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Everyday life isn’t the same as it even was 10 days ago — when the newly-inducted Southeast District Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer and his coaching staff had the sit-down with his team to inform them that they would have to continue the offseason work they had put in up until that point on their own until further decisions regarding the future of spring sports were announced.
“We met with them the Friday before we knew the season would be postponed,” said Rapp. “We told them we know we’d worked them hard up until this point, but that we couldn’t be there for them, that they would have to do this on their own.”
Prior to the shutdown of all school-related extra-curricular activities — the West baseball team, softball team, junior high programs and a host of athletic teams comprising the Senators’ community were taking advantage of the newly-built hitting and weight-lifting facility located on the campus of Portsmouth West High School.
The new facility — which is partially still under construction — includes a full-size indoor hitting area for all grades and programs at West, additional weight facilities to be used by the various teams, and a full-size concession stand area to service the nearby baseball and softball games.
“Probably about six or seven years ago I saw a need (for the facility),” Rapp said, “I was taking my team to a hitting league in Huntington. We were going in the winter and we’re driving through bad nights in the snow, ice and the cold weather. Then we had kids going to Chillicothe, Ashland, going away on the weekends to hitting clinics. They had no place really to go and hit in the offseason.”
Such a facility that would serve its’ purpose would indeed need the backing from the Portsmouth West School Board and administration who oversaw the financial and logistical plans to further add to the Senators’ athletic complex.
“They were very cooperative,” Rapp said of the West board. “They decided to come up with a plan. It wasn’t something that was overnight, it took a few years to iron out all the particulars about getting this built.”
The hitting and weight-room facility were being used by athletic programs for a large portion of the winter months prior to the shutdown of schools in Ohio.
However, there are still outside cosmetic features that will be added when work and school resumes.
With the help of the Future Farmers of America class and engineering classes that are satellite programs at Portsmouth West through the Scioto County Career Technical Center, Rapp has convened the creativity and ingenuity of students to help come up with design plans for a brick walkway — which will replace a 20×80-area gravel plot — and the planting of shrubs to provide landscaping to the area.
Each of these design projects by Portsmouth West students and the SCCTC will also have hidden symbolism behind them — in relation back to the history of Senator athletics.
For example, the brick walkway is planned to be the same number of square feet as there are the number of seams on a baseball, there will be seven diamonds in the walkway which will represent seven innings in a game, and the number of shrubs — 39 — will represent the year 1939 in which the Portsmouth West district played its’ first baseball game.
If that’s not enough symbolism, how about the fact that the Class of 2020 is creating a time capsule that will be buried 60-feet, six-inches away from the entrance, symbolizing the distance between home plate and the pitcher’s mound on a baseball field.
In the time capsule, West students and players will bury items such as a cell phone and charger, a laptop, newspaper clippings from today’s news events, and other items to be opened on their class’s 25th reunion in 2045.
“They’re all taking ownership in this,” Rapp said of the different projects Portsmouth West students have undertaken. “It’s something they can go back and say that they were apart of.”
Rapp mentioned that alumni of the Senators’ baseball program will also be given the opportunity to put their name and year of graduation on one of the bricks in addition to the bricks which will honor the Southern Ohio Conference championship teams at West in the to-be-continued walkway.
“It is full all the time,” Rapp said of the facility. “Now of course all facilities are shut down and locked up. When it was in use, it was being used by all the sports, boys and girls, and the junior high programs as well. The high school players in football were lifting in the morning, and then the spring sports were using it after school for practice. It’s something we’re very fortunate to have and very appreciative of the board making it possible for us.”
The newly-built facility at West and baseball and softball fields across the country are empty today and will be for the foreseeable future as the ongoing pandemic continues.
If there does happen to be a spring sports season for Senator baseball and all of Scioto County’s spring sports squads, it will be a welcome sight for those like Rapp and the West team, who’ve put much time in preparation for what this year might have otherwise been.
“It hurts this year because I think we have a really good team entering into the season, our first game was scheduled to be this Saturday,” Rapp said. “We’re just going to have to see how this all works out.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved