Viera High hopes to build baseball, softball complexes at school


Published:

School board member Matt Susin is going to bat for Viera High School to have its own baseball and softball complexes rather than having its teams face having to play its home games at Viera Regional Park.

Originally VHS teams played at Space Coast Stadium, which originally was the spring training facility for the Florida Marlins (1994 to 2002), Montreal Expos (2003 and 2004), and Washington Nationals (2005 to 2016).

Viera High School opened its doors Aug. 9, 2006.

VHS got on the fields during its time as home of the Brevard County Manatees (1994 to 2016). Therefore, it didn’t need its own complex as is found at every other high school with baseball programs in the county.

VHS has been back on the fields since they were taken over by the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA). Founded in 1968 as the United States Slow-pitch Softball Association, the USSSA has grown from a couple of thousand slow-pitch softball players to more than 3.5 million participants playing 13 primary sports.

Even though technically not a home field for VHS teams, the arrangement with the USSSA has worked well, especially with fundraising opportunities, Susin said.

“Our schools sold $5,000 for the baseball and softball programs worth of sponsorships to hang banners inside that park. USSSA is a premier place,’’ he said.

The USSSA fields require the use of special rubberized cleats rather than metal cleats. This was after the USSSA converted the fields from natural grass to artificial turf.

When teams recently announced they did not want to play on the USSSA fields because some of their players use metal cleats, the school was informed that all games would be played instead at the regional park.

“Three softball teams decided not to play at the USSSA,’’ Susin said. “Those are Melbourne, Bayside and one other school. All baseball teams have continued to play at the stadium.’’

When playing in a public park, Viera High is not allowed to hang banners to raise money or continue the other traditions of home fields at other high schools.

“How much of a home game is that? A true home is you turn the dirt with your players to get the field ready. You have the trophies that you’ve won. What they did by never building a new facility is take that away from Viera kids and that’s just wrong,’’ Susin said.

As a compromise, the rest of the VHS games will be allowed to play at the USSSA fields — unless an opponent objects — and Viera High School programs will receive $500 per game to compensate for the inability to advertise, Susin said.

The next step is getting cost estimates to build baseball and softball complexes on the VHS campus, he said.