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Ben's Babbles: With budgets broke, teams strap on boots

April 16, 2011

It's a mantra we've heard plenty through this decade-long recession:

"We're going to do more with less."

Of course everyone knows that's a lie. You can't do more with less. You do less with less.

The Hood River Valley High School athletics budget will be trimmed by 20 percent next year. Coaches' salaries in golf and tennis are gone, as is travel to out-of-state tournaments or tournaments that require a lengthy travel distance. Supplies are cut. The one thing that was spared was the cutting of entire sports.

"I don't know where else I could cut," HRV Athletic Director Keith Bassham said.

At the same time as supplies, salary and travel is being cut, the cost to participate is going up.

Meanwhile coaches are asked to be many things. Tutors, mentors, amateur physicians - oh, and you know, coaches.

Even while the athletic budget is being squeezed, some teams are still hoping to do more.

Those teams are going outside of the less available in the school district budgets to get the projects done themselves.

The HRV baseball team would like to do significant upgrades to Traner Field. The tennis programs badly need an upgrade as cracks continue to widen and grow at the Tsuruta courts next to the pool.

The team is hoping to cover the approximately $150,000 costs for its baseball park upgrades through grants, fundraising and donations from individuals who would love to have their name on a brand-new facility.

Meanwhile, years of wear and tear and diminished city budgets are taking their toll on the Tsuruta tennis courts.

The HRV tennis teams couldn't actually play on one of the four courts to start this season because it was too slick to be safe, so they hired someone to come in and power-wash the court to make it usable again.

Now they will be hosting a community forum next week to discuss the future of tennis facilities in Hood River.

Among the options are doing work to the Tsuruta courts, or making use of county land at Golden Eagle Park next to the HRVHS baseball field for a new set of courts.

"Ten years ago there was a plan for courts at the high school," HRV girls coach Leslie Kerr said. "The grant was written but the plans fell through."

Both teams hope to raise enough funds through grants or donations to make facilities that the community can be proud of.

At the tennis forum, Kerr is hoping to hear what the community wants in a tennis facility; whether it needs more courts, better courts, covered courts or just upkeep on existing courts.

The HRV baseball team is already well into its plans for a baseball stadium, with a new backstop already constructed, and plans drawn for the expansion.

HRV coach Erich Harjo still sees a deep-seated support for baseball in Hood River, which as a small town has produced several players with major league experience.

He believes a remodeled baseball stadium would help reciprocate that support.

With budget crunches the way they are these days watching or participating in sports is one of the simple pleasures we still partake in.

The HRV baseball and tennis programs want to help provide that at no extra burden to the taxpayers or to a school district struggling to make financial ends meet.

Those should be efforts we can all get behind.

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