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Baranek: Happy days at H-F: softball facility is ‘first-class’

Homewood-Flossmoor coach Katie Rice | Tony Baranek/Sun-Times Media

Homewood-Flossmoor coach Katie Rice | Tony Baranek/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 29, 2014 6:19AM



Today’s topic is about being happy.

No, it’s not about that song. It’s about really and truly being happy.

Bob Carpenter is happy.

Jodi Bryant is happy.

Olivia Hamilton is happy.

Katie Rice is happy.

In fact, I don’t know of anybody in the Homewood-Flossmoor community who isn’t gloriously happy about the renovation of the softball facility.

And what an ending to a story that had a very unhappy beginning.

Back in 2012, Carpenter, whose granddaughter, Kaitlyn Shereyk, was one of the stars of the softball team, not only took the school to task over what he felt was a lack of gender equality in the area of softball vs. baseball diamonds, he filed a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

The OCR took the case, and what could have been an ugly fight instead turned into a productive dialog, the end result of which was a truly remarkable new face for Vikings softball.

I can say I’m truly happy with the press box. It’s got electricity. It’s got heat.

It also has a public address system, which I’m pretty sure makes the kids happy. Who doesn’t want to hear her named called out, cheers echoing in her ears when she steps to the plate?

The wheelchair accessible bleachers with a concession stand attached are top-notch. The windscreen across the entire stretch of the outfield fence looks really snazzy. There are new benches, batting racks and helmet holders in the dugouts. The batting cage now has a bullpen in it as well.

A Carpenter’s dream?

“It’s beautiful,” he said. “I thought they really did a gorgeous job. It really looks first-class. It was definitely worth rattling that cage.

“It’s like a mini-version of a college field now. It’s pretty cool.”

It made Hamilton, a senior center fielder, smile when asked about the new digs.

“I think we’re going to benefit from it a lot,” she said. “The stands are really cool, and once they start filling up, the games will be way more fun to play.

“I remember going to baseball games and they had walk-up music and it was just way more of a better atmosphere to be at. This is much better. We deserved it. Playing music before the game gets you going. It just puts me in a better mood.”

And a happy player is a better player.

How H-F and Carpenter came out of this so happy together is really pretty amazing. I can say that right from the start, though, there seemed to be a willingness on both sides to have a dialogue. Maybe a nudge from the OCR helped, but they did go right to it.

“Any time students and parents bring something to our attention that they’re concerned about, it’s important to take time, listen and see how it can be resolved,” said Bryant, the director of human resources at H-F.

“In this case it was brought to our attention and we evaluated our whole athletic program, not just the softball field.”

Indeed, this is one of the few times I can remember a parent or grandparent challenging an administration and having the administration actually embrace the challenge.

H-F not only re-did the softball field but also renovated the girls locker room.

“I can’t say I’m glad that the lawsuit was filed,” Vikings coach Katie Rice said. “Any time a lawsuit is filed it’s not good for anyone, but the outcome for us has been great.

“I can’t say that we were getting cheated but the field needed some repairs. We got more than we anticipated and more than we asked for. It looks awesome and it’s great for the girls to finally be able to be proud of their field.”



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