PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The North Bay Haven baseball team is doing what the rest of Panama City has been doing since Hurricane Michael: powering through a difficult year.
Head coach Bryan Normand estimates that a quarter of the team lost homes in October, a problem still persisting nearly six months later.
Although on the field problems pale in comparison, there a plenty of those too. Chief among them, the Buccaneers don't have a home field to play or practice on.
Cain Griffin Park in Lynn haven was their home (away from home), but the field was destroyed by Michael. The program had been fundraising to build an on-campus field for six years, and though they weren't quite ready to start the building process, the storm moved the project to high priority. In early November, a lot across from the administrative office was purchased and field construction for a real home field began.
"We had to rush it," Normand said. "I did not think that we would be where we are right now with this field. I had to be pushing. Our contract is with GAC and every day I was telling the guys, 'you've gotta work hard. Because if you don't get the dirt-work done in time, then my boys won't have a place to practice and play baseball.' They were really good about helping us out and doing what they could to get us where we are."
Although there are home practices for the first time ever, those are on an unfinished facility.
"Basically this piece of land was a pit," Normand added. "They were coming out here and digging dirt. We bought this piece of land so we had to come out here and do a lot of drainage work. Our Board of Directors at our school had that great vision that we shared, to come out here, spend a lot of money to get that drainage and the grading right, and they turned it over to me shortly after November 5th and said, 'coach, here it is, do with it what you can.'"
There's no outfield fence, no outfield grass, nothing but a cement backstop and infield dirt...but it's something. All games are on the road, like a "home game" Tuesday Night at Frank Field on the Mosley campus.
From facilities to their 2-12 record, the season hasn't gone according to plan.
Still, what's important is that they're still playing. After more than 30 kids showed up to the first post-hurricane team meeting, Normand's goal was to get on the diamond.
They've accomplished that, christening their new home in unforgettable fashion.