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Jackson Newspapers - Ripley, WV
  • Ripley looks to launch new sports complex in spring

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  • RIPLEY - For thirty-six years Ray Swisher served as the head baseball coach for Ripley High School.
    He knows a thing or two about championships, advancing runners, grooming young arms and getting production out of a bunch of unfocused 16-year old kids. The Ripley High baseball field deservedly bears his name.
    Apparently, He also knows a few things about scouting out land for youngsters to learn the game at an early age. Swisher has spearheaded a group of individuals who care about the community and look to improve it by giving young athletes a place to go and hone their craft.
    The land is located behind the old Dodge Dealership just before you cross the bridge to arrive at Ripley Middle School. The land is vacant and is a superb spot for a sports complex.
    "I was mowing the field one day and just thought what a great place for a fast-pitch softball and little league field. The Board of Education owns the land so I broke the ice by taking my idea to Superintendent Blaine Hess, and they approved it. We look to have this thing ready for some ballplayers to practice on by late spring," said an excited Swisher.
    Swisher was quick to point out that he had a lot of help getting the land leveled and ready for Ripley's version of "Field of Dreams."
    The Francis brothers (John, Paul and Steve) donated the bulldozer and Matt Zerkle donated his operating skills to do all the dozer work. Gene and Helen Fisher (Fairplain Tractor Sales) donated the tractor that was needed to work the land.
    The Fisher's granddaughter Dusti is a standout junior athlete at Ripley who was a hitting leader for the varsity softball team and a hard-nosed right fielder.
    Ray's brother Ken Swisher, who serves as Ripley High's softball coach has also put in many hours helping his brother with the project.
    Stanley Fisher has donated his skills to helping design the field and making sure that it functions to its maximum capabilities.
    Jackson County Schools Superintendent Blaine Hess believes it is a wonderful way to make use of the land.
    "There are 13 acres back there, and I believe this to be a real winner for the community. Ray Swisher doesn't waste any time. After we approved the use of the land he immediately went to work with other volunteers.
    We look to develop it further in the near future through grants and fundraising efforts. I am excited to see it put to such practical use for our community."
    In the on deck circle for future considerations are a fitness trail (or walking track) around the complex, concessions, lighting, bleachers and an athletic building on the property.
    "I just can't thank these folks enough for helping me make this project a reality. We have some very talented folks in the area and they gave of their time and many more will before it is over. The kids are going to be the ones who benefit from all of this hard work," added Swisher.
    Page 2 of 2 - The yet to be named sporting complex will be a tribute to a community who puts their youth first in everything they do. Good job Board of Education and good job Coach Swisher. Build it and they will come. Batter up!!

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