Tecumseh High School’s baseball team loses field after Ridgeway man’s property is foreclosed
By BENJAMIN RAY
Herald Special Writer
John Rowe wiped the sweat off his forehead as he approached the pitcher’s mound Tuesday afternoon.
He wasn’t about to play. He had just finished mowing the baseball field behind his house at 8710 Mills Macon Road in Ridgeway, the field that had taken him four years to build.
It’s a field and a dream that is being taken away from him, though, as Rowe is being evicted within the next few days, another victim in the long list of Lenawee County residents whose homes and land have been foreclosed.
Rowe, 45, is not bitter about losing the field. Not today, anyway. He needed to mow because the Tecumseh varsity baseball team would be using it for a practice.
“It’s their last time, maybe, so I have to make it look nice,” he said, the regret creeping into his voice.
The field has seen many visitors in the last couple of years, such as traveling league players and the Tecumseh junior varsity team. Tuesday was the first practice for the varsity team at the site, although a couple of the players remember using it last year when they were on the JV squad.
In addition to being regulation-size for a minor league team, the field is flat and looks professional, a contrast to the one field that all Tecumseh High baseball teams use.
Players and coaches are hoping voters approve the May school bond proposal that would pay for, among other things, a second field. Because there is only one, two of the three teams must practice in a barn or in a small field behind Coach Tom Bullinger’s house.
“There is nowhere else for us to go,” Bullinger said as the team arrived for practice.
Rowe’s field has been useful for school teams and traveling leagues, but more than that it has been a dream for him since 2004, when he moved into his home.
Owner of his own mowing/plowing business, Rowe first got started with baseball fields when he was asked to work on two Little League fields in town. Using that experience, he began clearing the field behind his house in hopes of creating a baseball diamond.
He plowed and graded the field. He added drainage tile and planted trees to mark the edge. He installed wooden stumps, built dugouts out of old lumber and planted grass to make the outfield.
And he installed bases, built a pitchers’ mound, put in a tall backstop with netting and put down the white lines for base paths. Stepping onto the field Tuesday, a couple of the seniors quoted the movie “Field of Dreams” — “If you build it, they will come” — as that is almost what Rowe Field resembles.
The work began in 2004 and ended in 2006.
“I’m proud...and extremely sad,” he said. “I was hoping to help everybody out.”
But now Rowe will have to move out of his house, as the house payments became too much to handle, a fate that has befallen many Michiganders. Rowe moved some of his belongings to his parents’ home Tuesday; he will sell what he can this week and rent a house for a while.
When he has enough money, he will try to buy back his field, his dream, his sweat and hard work that served as a therapy for many years. With any luck, and some financial help, the site will be more than just a baseball field someday.
Still, as they are relegated to practicing in a barn, the Tecumseh high players will miss Rowe Field, especially those who played on the JV team in 2006.
“It’s better than our own field,” said junior Zach Noack. “We’ll miss it for sure.”