ZooKeepers, Post 45 wait on McCrary Park

Randolph County Post 45 shortstop Tanner Marsh makes a tag at second base against Davidson County during an American Legion game last week in Randleman, where the team is playing home games temporarily. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)

ASHEBORO – The Asheboro ZooKeepers and Randolph County Post 45 baseball teams are playing relocated home games for perhaps a few more weeks as the latest renovation project at McCrary Park is keeping the park off limits to spectators.

The ZooKeepers, a collegiate summer team, have reworked the early portion of their schedule and already have played road games. The team will play select home games at UNC Greensboro, beginning with Friday night’s game vs. Forest City.

Post 45, which won five of its first six games, is playing American Legion games at Randleman High School.

Ronnie Pugh, who’s part of the family ownership group for the ZooKeepers and the manager of the Post 45 team, said challenges exist for both teams.

“As hard as it is with the Legion team, it’s more (difficult) with the ZooKeepers,” Pugh said. “There’s so much more to it and we’re playing at a university facility and there’s things that go on with using that. But everyone has jumped in and tried to make it work.”

First-year ZooKeepers general manager Melissa Godwin is wife to Billy Godwin, the UNCG baseball coach.

Pugh said McCrary Park should be open for games by June 22.

“We may very well be in before that,” he said. “It’s all a work in progress. We’ll see some improvement every week.”

The new grandstand is completed, Pugh said, but parking and grounds outside the gates need more work before it’s safe for spectators.

In some ways, the inconveniences are a recurrence of several weeks of the 2022 season when the first phase of ballpark’s renovations for the playing surface and dugouts were delayed. The ZooKeepers rescheduled numerous games, while Post 45 played home games at Southwestern Randolph.

For the ZooKeepers, the team will bus to “home” games at UNCG. The Coastal Plain League team’s other operations and interns remain based in Asheboro.

Among schedule revisions, the ZooKeepers also will have games June 13, 16 (a doubleheader), 19 and 21 at UNCG. The latest revision shows the McCrary Park home opener coming June 22 against the Boone Bigfoots.

Three ZooKeepers games, either non-league or exhibitions, have been cancelled. The regular season ends Aug. 5. The home finale is Aug. 1.

Unlike a year ago, the teams are able to hold practices at city-owned McCrary Park. An official re-opening for the ballpark is set for July 4, Pugh said.

** Post 45 has players from throughout the area, representing numerous schools. Randleman is an ideal alternative site, Pugh said.

“It’s a good place to play until we get back into McCrary Park,” he said. “We’ve worked with the high schools before.”

Up to four members of the Uwharrie Charter Academy baseball team, which won the Class 1-A state championship during the weekend, will be joining the Post 45 team, Pugh said.

By Bob Sutton