Skip to content
Rally High School Sports
Link copied to clipboard

For Barrack Hebrew, home on the road

What did Barrack Hebrew baseball players call it when they boarded a bus at their Bryn Mawr school and traveled to Philadelphia to play at FDR Park, near the Wachovia Center?

What did Barrack Hebrew baseball players call it when they boarded a bus at their Bryn Mawr school and traveled to Philadelphia to play at FDR Park, near the Wachovia Center?

Same thing they called it when they played this season at Phelps School in Malvern, the Cheltenham Little League field, Radnor High School, Perkiomen School in Pennsburg, Plymouth Field in Plymouth Township, or Elwell Field near Haverford College.

A home game.

It's not uncommon for a private school to look off-campus to find fields for some of its teams, Barrack Hebrew athletic director Mitch Kline says. But having a team play home games on seven fields spread over four counties is a bit unusual, he acknowledges.

Barrack (pronounced like Army barrack) is completing its second year at its 35-acre campus in Radnor Township, about a half-mile from Bryn Mawr Hospital. Sports facilities include a turf field for soccer and lacrosse, five tennis courts, and a gymnasium, but no baseball diamond.

"It's kind of difficult," Cougars coach Jerry Kleger said. "Every place we go, it's like a new field. And we do lose a home-field advantage.

"However, it is what it is. We don't have the space at the new campus for a baseball field, so we're just doing what we can."

There was no diamond on the old campus, either. The school, formerly Akiba Hebrew Academy, was in Merion from 1956 to 2008. For much of this decade, the Cougars played home games at Bala Cynwyd Park.

But when fields at Lower Merion and Harriton became unavailable because of the construction of new high schools there, field space in the township got squeezed, and the school started looking elsewhere.

Radnor was in a similar field-space crunch when Barrack relocated there. So the Cougars look beyond the township and also outside Delaware County, paying rental fees at times.

The lack of a regular field has its drawbacks.

Students, as Kline noted, attend Barrack Hebrew for its academics, not athletics, and baseball players end up missing class time - and not only because of the travel to games. Towns such as Radnor have to accommodate lots of teams, including youth and school, so the Cougars don't always get field space at ideal times. That results in some early-afternoon starts, if not earlier.

Perhaps no one is more affected than the Cougars' pitchers. Righthander Daniel Saewitz said he has to get used to seven home mounds and "dig out" his holes.

"It makes it much more difficult," he said, "but it's more of a challenge that way."

Sometimes, challenging turns into hectic.

Barrack, which ended its season last week with a 16-6 record, plays in two leagues - Tri-County and Penn-Jersey - and advanced to host the Penn-Jersey final. Kline scheduled the title game for May 18 at Plymouth Field, but rain that day forced a postponement. He then secured Plymouth Field for last Monday.

The weather factored again, as rain fell last weekend. Groundskeepers in Plymouth Township declared the field unplayable, and Kline was notified at 11 a.m. Monday - 3 1/2 hours before game time.

The first-year AD quickly contacted Haverford Township. Elwell Field was available. After a chain of e-mails, calls and text messages to coaches, players, parents, the opposing team, umpires, and the bus driver, it was game on.

"It gets hairy. It gets pretty hairy," Kline said, laughing.

The only snag Monday: The bus never arrived to take the team to Elwell, leaving players and coaches to make the less-than-two-mile trip on their own.

Kline said he doesn't know if Barrack will build a baseball field on campus. He says the grounds include a lot of trees and hills, and he doesn't know if the township would allow Barrack to take down trees and level some of the terrain. Plus, he says, there's the cost issue.

At the very least, he hopes to simplify the field situation for next season. He would like to find a diamond or two that the school can rent for the season, and stop the home-field carousel.

"The kids have weathered it," said Butsie Weinstein, mother of senior first baseman Etan Weinstein, "but it would really be a disappointment if we had to do this another year, for the kids."