ROXBURY, NJ - Maybe it's the high-pitched screams of 11-year-old girls when a teammate bangs a ball over the head of an outfielder. It could be the scary grunt of a pig-tailed, 14-year-old fastpitch ace as she lets loose a 55 m.p.h. curveball. Or the way a skinny speedster adjusts her sliding pad after stealing yet another base.
In terms of athleticism, power and speed, softball is trumped by baseball. But there remains something special about the game, including the fact that it serves as a haven of competitiveness for older men whose days of throwing (or hitting) rocketing hardballs are long gone.
If all goes according to plan, the final inning for those sights and sounds at Roxbury's Horseshoe Lake Recreation Complex in Succasunna are coming. Nothing is formalized, but town officials are talking about removing Horseshoe Lake's three softball diamonds and replacing them with fields of a more rectangular and completely grassy nature.
"The plan is to put in multi-purpose fields for football, soccer and lacrosse at Horseshoe Lake," said Roxbury Recreation Department Director Dave Stierli.
This might be seen as sinful to folks who love softball, especially those who've had it up to here with soccer. However, before you begin pummeling Stierli with copies of Ann Coulter's treatise on soccer's anti-Americanism, the demise of softball at Horseshoe Park is only happening because another corner of Roxbury is on the verge of becoming a Northwest Jersey softball mecca.
Now under construction, the $3.5 million Landing Park Recreation Complex is pretty much all softball, and the facilities will trump those in Succasunna. While only one of the Horseshoe Lake complex's softball diamonds are now lit, all three of the new Landing diamonds will be illuminated, said Stierli.
The site will also have the types of modern features that draw weekend-long softball tournaments, events that can bring dozens of teams and hundreds of people to the community. "We hope to have tournaments play in Landing Park," said Stierli. "People travel from all over the U.S. for these tournaments."
At Sal's Pizzeria in Landing, co-owner Kandi Archer said she is looking forward to the influx of hungry softballers.
"I think it's a great thing for the community," she said. "We've been here for 28 years and we're glad to see something like this come ... It could do a lot for the area. I think the area needs something and I think the softball fields are a great idea."
Stierli said the new fields at Landing should be ready for ballgames by the autumn of 2015. Plans for how to replace the softball diamonds at Horseshoe Lake are still in the very preliminary "conversation" stages and the change isn't likely to occur until 2016 at the soonest. Stierli stressed there are no plans to remove the complex's baseball field, the site of Morris County high school baseball championship tournaments.
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