Until now, South Albany High School's softball teams have squeezed their off-season practices in and around most of the other sports on campus.

They've used the baseball team's batting cages whenever they've been available. They've set up cages in the "turf room" where track teams share space with weights and P.E. classes. They've practiced in the upper gym whenever they can grab a few minutes away from volleyball, dance or cheer.

"Is it doable? Yeah," said Steve Hummer, South Albany's head softball coach. "Is it ideal? Absolutely not." 

With a growing program plus a growing need to practice all year round, Hummer figures what would be ideal is for his teams to have their own off-season space, complete with batting cages and pitching lanes.

He's heading an effort to build an 84-foot-long, 44-foot-wide structure to house that space and is looking for community help with donations, labor and materials.

Hummer figures if he were to have the structure built at full cost, it would be about $90,000. He's secured $35,000 so far.

A website with more information about the project and a link to donate can be found at https://southalbanysoftball.squarespace.com. Hummer himself is available by emailing steve.hummer@albany.k12.or.us.

The plan is to put the building about 30 feet from the gym, on the grassy space that used to house the junior varsity softball field before the 2015 cafeteria arson fire forced its relocation.

Having the batting cages there keeps them in close proximity to the softball fields while still leaving room for South to expand its new commons building someday, Hummer said.

If enough donations can be raised, Hummer said he'd love to start work on the building in the next month or so.

"I would love to be able to use it this season," he said. "We'll see what happens." 

Hummer envisions using the new cages for elementary players up through high school. He'd like to oversee three youth teams next summer, one for ages 10 and under, one for 12 and under and one for 14 and under.

"I'm trying to get kids to have skills before they come here," he said. "If you're only doing it in season, you're going to struggle." 

That said, it's hard to practice softball in, say, rainy November, and working around the rest of the teams at South is just no longer practical, Hummer said. "We want to be able to have our own space."