Verona schools adds softball, baseball

Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Instead of taking hits from Wheaton on the hardwood, Verona's Tomas Estrada and his Verona teammates will get a chance to take a few swings at the Bulldogs on the baseball diamond as Verona High School has added spring baseball and softball to its sports offerings. Jared Lankford/sports@cassville-democrat.com

Wildcats to play their games in Aurora

The sharp sound of baseballs and softballs being driven off the bat will soon be heard again at Verona High School.

The school district will include the two spring sports additions, beginning in 2014.

School officials have negotiated with Aurora city officials to use fields in White Park, located just south of the Houn' Dawg football field, for games.

"We are excited to give our athletes another option in which to compete and represent our school," said Brad Stewart, Verona athletic director. "I felt it was important to give our boys a third sport option."

Prior to the board's action, athletes at Verona had five sports options: Boys and girls basketball, boys and girls track, and volleyball.

"We have several students in our school that play on a summer [baseball or softball] league team," Stewart said. "We have some large classes in our lower grade levels and we should be able to sustain the programs."

Stewart said that the district began kicking around the idea of adding sports to their athletic offerings a couple of years ago.

Originally, the district approached Aurora High School about the potential of co-opting their soccer, baseball and softball programs.

"Aurora was initially receptive to idea," Stewart said. "Their only objection was moving up in classification."

Since the addition of the Verona student body to Aurora's would indeed result in the Houn' Dawgs moving up in classification, the idea quickly lost traction.

A Missouri High School Activities Association rule change in 2013 allowing softball teams to play and compete for a state title ignited the debate at Verona. The idea quickly caught fire and resulted in the board's ruling.

The timing for Verona also coincides with the Ozark 7 Conference vote to move all of its softball programs to the spring.

With over half the schools in the conference now offering softball -- Wheaton, Purdy, Southwest, Exeter and Verona -- a conference champion can be crowned and all-conference awards earned.

Verona previously fielded a baseball program, but it disbanded in 1991.

Stewart stated that he is scheduling a small slate of games (approximately eight) for each sport this spring, with a full schedule for the 2014-15 season.

The school district believes it will cost around $20,000 in initial startup cost to implement the programs and plans to pay it's coaches a $2,500 stipend.

Although the programs still need a coach, Stewart believes that there are qualified faculty who could lead the baseball and softball teams, but he didn't rule out the possibility of hiring new personal.

Although soccer wasn't approved, Stewart said he is hopeful that the program will be added at a later date.

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