Yorkville’s new turf baseball, softball fields scheduled for April unveiling

Baseball to have turf infield, grass outfield, softball an all-turf field behind high school

Pictured is an aerial view of Yorkville High School's new turf baseball and softball fields.

David Yodelis has worked on the athletics fields at Yorkville High School since he was 17 years old.

Now the assistant director of facility operations, the 2014 Yorkville graduate got hired by the district that same year as summer help. His first full-time job was working grounds at the school.

So when he speaks of the transformation of the baseball and softball fields behind the high school this spring, Yodelis sounds like a proud parent.

“I think we brought the ‘Wow’ back to Yorkville,” Yodelis said.

The school is indeed breaking new ground.

Synthetic turf baseball and softball fields, a combined $3.1 million project, are tentatively – weather permitting – scheduled to be unveiled for games the first week of April.

“Our goal was to make sure they could play as of April 3, one of their first home games,” director of facility operations Heather DiVerde said in a phone interview on March 22. “And we’re close. We are worried about the weather coming in, a lot of rain.

“We are using a company called FieldTurf, that is who we purchased the turf from. When installing and putting down the turf they put down an inch or two of Infill. If it is wet, or conditions aren’t right it will clump together. Everything has to be dried for Infill to be laid out. It is combed through the turf and you don’t want it to clump.”

Pictured is an aerial view of the new Yorkville High School turf softball field.

The new baseball and softball fields are the next phase of athletic facility upgrades this school year that started with the installation of synthetic turf at the football stadium last fall.

The varsity baseball field behind the high school, which is currently the sophomore field, will be converted to a turf infield while maintaining a grass outfield. Softball will be an entirely turf field.

The administration brought the plan to the school board in 2023, but quotes that came in during the summer were quite high and over budget. The installation of the football field went forward and turf for all three fields were purchased last summer, but the district was able to cut costs drastically on the baseball and softball field by waiting until the fall and winter for work to begin.

“You are praying that Mother Nature works with you and we were lucky. We had all of three weeks of winter,” DiVerde said. “We were able to get this installed and save money by doing it this way.”

“A lot more goes into baseball and softball than football, which was easier and more streamlined,” Yodelis said. “It’s a night and day difference. You have to reconfigure dugouts, backstops, reconfigure size of the field. We had really old fields that needed to be updated.”

The new turf fields will provide a huge benefit to maintenance and planning. Yodelis noted that the current varsity softball field had a very bad drainage problem – “if we got rain, the first base dugout would have 6-10 inches of standing water. It was time.”

“The upkeep is a huge part. It will help with planning,” DiVerde said. “[Yorkville athletic director] Luke [Engelhardt] works really hard with maintenance and with David on upkeep of the fields, but when it rains we would be throwing Turface and different types of sands that would absorb the wet. Now we don’t have to do that.

“The other aspect that Luke doesn’t have to do every day is the ‘can we play, can we not play.’ A lot of times he has to wait until 1 p.m. depending on the spring weather, which is always so iffy.”

Yorkville’s varsity softball team, which is currently playing home games on its JV field, played on an all-turf field at state last spring in Peoria.

But Foxes’ coach Jory Regnier isn’t aware of another high school that has an all-turf field. Romeoville and Bolingbrook, which will join Yorkville’s conference next year, have turf infields. Once the field is ready, Regnier said her staff will need to be trained on the maintenance of it before kids get on it.

And then there is learning how to play on a new surface.

“The speed of the ball on the turf, it typically picks up speed. Any gapper in the outfield is going to keep rolling,” Regnier said. “Strategically, how do you do bunts differently, sliding. Sometimes a ball just hits the dirt and sits. All of these things we have to teach our kids how to play on the surface. We’re fortunate that most kids play on this surface in travel.”

Pictured is an aerial view of the new Yorkville High School baseball field.

Yorkville baseball coach Tom Cerven said the closest comparison of what the baseball field will look like aesthetically is what is in place at Romeoville.

He anticipates it could take the first couple weeks, maybe the first full season, to adjust to the new field.

“And it might play differently down the road,” Cerven said. “What we went through in making the decision with the turf is what they call the DoublePlay series of field turf. We have two different types of fills. The one fill in the grass area plays more like grass. The fill for dirt plays more like dirt. In terms of hops it will be as close as we can get to a natural surface.”

Yorkville’s current varsity field, down the street from the high school, will be used by the freshman team in the future.

“It helps with logistics [playing at the high school]. It’s not a big deal, but it can be a pain getting practice and games going,” Cerven said. “In terms of the big picture we will be looking to host regionals and sectionals down the road. Being on that side of the campus, there’s a lot more parking, it’s a lot more suitable to host a regional and sectional.”

Even with the fields near ready for unveiling, DiVerde emphasized that the project is not complete. The press boxes are not fully useable. Painting of the insides of the dugouts and press boxes will not be done until the summer. A sound system needs to hooked up, as well as all of the ground restoration.

Final steps are being put in such as fences and backstops being completed, paths to the fields going in, electrical supply to the dugout, batting cages and all the netting.

But the goal was to get these Yorkville seniors, and athletes in general, on the new field by as close to their opening home game as possible.

“Seeing everybody’s reaction when they walked on it, when they see the baseball and softball field, we have a ‘Wow,’ Yodelis said. “Minooka has a great stadium. Now we can say ‘look at ours.’ We will be able to compete at the same levels as other districts. Just to see the changes in the last 9-10 years, it’s incredible. It’s a proud ‘wow’ moment.”

Regnier felt like Yorkville had good softball facilities already in comparison to other schools. Yorkville hosted a college regional several years ago.

But the new fields are exciting for present, and future Foxes.

“It’s exciting for not only our players, but it’s an investment in them and they see that,” Regnier said. “It’s cool that the school and the district are supporting these girls and the sport they play. It’s a driver of intrigue for the community and outside of the community. It’s awesome to see Yorkville give back to its programs.”