The Bland County High School baseball and softball teams are about to get a new batting cage, thanks to a partnership with the Celanese Corporation.

Celanese will be providing the labor, tools and equipment to build the cage, plus a $2,500 donation to go toward the cost of the cage. Construction is slated to begin as soon as possible.

Chris Jackson, head coach of the baseball program and varsity coach, estimates the total cost at $7,800. The teams are asking for donations to help with the cost and will be holding some fundraisers.

A new batting cage is needed because a snow storm two winters ago destroyed the school batting cage.

“We patched the old one back together to get us through the 2019 season,” he wrote in an email. “We had planned on building a new one once we got the money together, but we just hadn’t been able to do it yet. One day, Frank James approached me about Celanese donating time and equipment to build a new one, and we met at the field with Assistant Principal Tyler Estep to discuss where it would be located and what steps we needed to take to make it a reality.”

James’ son, Chance, a freshman at BCHS, pitches and plays shortstop for the BCHS baseball team.

Frank James, a contract employee, has worked as a project manager at Celanese for 18 years. He said the company does a lot of community outreach, so he asked if Celanese would help with the batting cage. The answer was yes.

“It is a great opportunity for the community, so I am definitely excited we were able to do that,” he said.

The new cage will be located behind the softball field at the sports complex in Bastian.

Jackson said the cage will help the teams out in a big way.

“The plan is to build an 80-foot by 30-foot shed to house two batting cages. We would like to raise enough money to pour a concrete floor and enclose all four sides of the cage so the kids can practice hitting and pitching in it during the winter months,” Jackson said. “We usually start practice the third week of February and that doesn't give us much time or good weather to getting ready for the season that starts the first week of March. With the cage built, we can use it to do skill drills and not be so far behind when season starts.”

Jackson said the players are excited about the new cage.

“They say it will be nice not to have to chase baseballs and softballs that get hit through the holes in the old cage,” he said. “They like the possibility that we may be able to enclose it and work year-round in it.”

Jackson said the cage will help keep students in the program because it will give them a place to work on their skills and improve.

“I know I'm partial, but we have one of the best facilities in the region, and this cage would just add to that,” he said. “We were fortunate enough to have new sidewalks built this past spring to make the fields ADA compliant and we also had new aluminum bleachers installed. I think when you have nice athletic fields, kids enjoy that. It makes our job as coaches easier, too. We have everything to make these programs competitive right at our finger tips.”

Donations can be made with a check, cash or money order by contacting Jackson directly at cnhjackson@yahoo.com or 276-389-9633, or by mailing contributions to Bland County High School, 176 Eagles Road, Rocky Gap, Va., 24366. Make checks payable to Bland County High School Baseball.

For more information, visit the Bland Bears Baseball page on Facebook.

To reach reporter Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 35, or email mrothrock@wythenews.com.

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