By Chris Sokoloski
Mike Johnson Park in Georgetown has been named the No. 1 high school baseball facility in South Carolina by www.thediamondprospects.com.
"We are honored that the people they polled said that about the old park," said Georgetown High baseball coach Mike Johnson. "Those old oak trees all the way around it just capture everybody's eyes and hearts."
Diamond Prospects tracks and scouts every high school baseball player in the state and hosts showcases for players.
The website surveyed scouts, coaches, players and fans to come up with a top 10 and some honorable mentions. Ballparks were judged on overall quality - batting cages, locker rooms and practice areas - history and atmosphere.
Johnson said he was told the park won "hands down."
The judgment on Mike Johnson Park was: "this landmark has been the anchor for teams and coaches over many years. Many prominent people have eaten a hot dog while watching baseball above the 1B dugout."
Johnson called the park "an old soldier," and said coaches, scouts and players all love it. He recalled one player from a visiting team asking if it was a minor league stadium.
Waccamaw High's baseball coach Jeff Gregory used to be one of Johnson's assistants and also coaches American Legion Post 114 games at the park.
"It's a good place to attend a ballgame and to play. A good atmosphere all around," Gregory said. "Over the years that park has had a lot of baseball games and a lot of championships."
Originally called Georgetown County Stadium, the facility was built in the late 1800s for baseball and football. Johnson said the earliest games on record were in 1896.
The stadium hosted a semi-pro team in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1962, it was converted to football use only and years went by before it welcomed baseball back.
Winyah and Howard high schools both used the stadium for football and baseball until the schools were combined in 1982. Georgetown High School's Bulldogs played football and baseball at the stadium until a football stadium was built behind the high school in 1988.
The City of Georgetown renamed the stadium Mike Johnson Park after the Bulldogs' legendary coach, who had overseen upgrades the stadium.
Mike Johnson Park is home to Georgetown High School's baseball teams and hosts American Legion Post 114 games every summer and the annual IP Baseball Classic every spring.
"I've been blessed to have the opportunity to take care of it," said Johnson, who after 42 years of coaching has no plans to retire. "I've just always loved the old place."
Waccamaw High School's Warrior Field got an honorable mention in the Diamond Prospects survey.
"If you were just grading on playing surfaces ours is one of the best around," Gregory said.
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