As soon as Cherokee Bluff baseball coach Jeremy Kemp was hired for the position in January of 2018, he was already thinking about potential locations for an indoor practice facility. When he first met Lady Bears softball coach Kristi Underwood a few months later, the facility was one of the first topics they discussed.
More than a year later, Kemp and Underwood stood on the concrete foundation of what will become the school’s brand new indoor practice building — tangible proof that the dream shared by the two coaches and their teams was finally going to be a reality. Ground broke at the school in June, and the facility is set to be ready by this fall.
“It’s kind of cool how it all just came together,” Kemp said.
Underwood had to agree.
“I think it’s going to make a huge difference,” she said.
Plans for the building got going last year when Kemp approached Cherokee Bluff athletic director Ken Hill with his hopes for the new facility. Kemp was persistent in wanting to get the project done, and with Underwood on his side as well, Hill gave the coaches permission to seek funding.
Kemp had a drawing made up that would include new locker rooms and bathrooms for both baseball and softball teams as well as coaches offices, meeting areas and six new batting cages. After meeting with a few potential donors, Kemp got an offer for a large donation from David England — a parent of one of Cherokee Bluff’s players — and the plans for the new building were officially set into motion.
“The vision was shared months ago, but it’s just now coming to fruition, which is really cool,” Hill said. “Anticipating it being finished has really made it even more exciting.”
Of course, the project has required more than just money.
Kemp and Underwood said they were both blown away by the level of support they’ve received from the athletes, their parents and the community surrounding Cherokee Bluff in general. Whether it was labor, materials or anything else required to get the job done, the two coaches have received it without hesitation.
“My parents and the softball parents were just willing to do whatever it takes,” Kemp said. “No is not an option. Not being able to get something done is not an option. They’ve worked extremely hard.”
Now that work is close to paying off.
Kemp said he hopes for the facility to be operational by mid-October, and he believes the results of getting in more batting practice will make a huge difference in the coming baseball season.
“It’s going to equal probably 700 more swings per kid per week,” he said. “That’s the way I look at it. Our batting averages hopefully will go up because of it.”
Underwood said she’s expecting a similar impact from the extra practice space.
“Right now, we don’t have any space to kind of spread out and be able to swing all at once,” she said. “To be able to work on several different things at once is going to make a night and day difference in what we’re doing right now.”
As construction gets underway, Hill said he’s excited for the future of Cherokee Bluff athletics.
According to Hill, successful athletic programs begin with top notch coaches and top notch facilities. The Cherokee Bluff baseball and softball facilities are soon to have a major upgrade, and Kemp and Underwood have been the driving force behind that.
“It may be everyone’s vision, but once it’s out of sight, out of mind, it may not be as important to some people,” Hill said. “But to (Kemp and Underwood) it was always important. It was always to the forefront. And it was their push and everyone else’s support in the community that’s really allowed it to become a reality.”