Summerville making horseshoes pitch

The horseshoe pits at Doty Park in Summerville.

SUMMERVILLE -- This pitch might not be a ringer. But it just could be the good luck leaner that Doty Park needs.

Town recreation workers are trying to draw horseshoe pitching tournaments to the underused park off Laurel Street. Yep, horseshoes. They're hoping that one of the lost pastimes in a video game world can lure more people to the trendy facility they made of a beloved neighborhood ballfield a decade ago.

A ringer is a high-scoring horseshoe toss that encircles the stake; a leaner is a lower-scoring toss that tips at the stake. Doty could use that kind of nudge.

The block-long park includes a community building, covered pavilion, gazebo, playground, strolling trails and tennis courts along with six horseshoe pits. The tennis courts and the community building get some use. But, back off on side streets, Doty doesn't draw like the town's acclaimed Azalea Park or the expansive Gahagan ballfields that took over for the old Doty fields.

The park doesn't often have more than a few people in it and generates almost no fees for a town that is relying more and more on that sort of revenue. The pits, complete with grass swaths and concrete walkways, are maybe its least-used feature. A quirky touch when they were built 10 years ago, they still look barely scratched.

Now, they might be. The South Carolina Horseshoe Pitching Association has gotten in touch with Mike Hinson, Summerville parks supervisor. The town might be able to host two to four tournaments in the coming year.

Horseshoes? Oddly enough, more community parks today incorporate the pitching pits, and they are finding something of a popular resurgence. The sport is one of those handy picnic-type activities that people look to the parks to provide, Hinson said. Horseshoe pits don't lure the big crowds, fees and tourist dollars that a softball complex like Gahagan does. But they can be draws.

"It's really what we need down in this area," said Bob Koontz about the prospect of a Doty Park tournament. Koontz is a horseshoe pitching pro, one of 25 to 30 members of the Moncks Corner Horseshoe Club. He's headed to Newberry this weekend to compete in a state tournament, because almost all the tournament-grade pits now are somewhere upstate.

The tournaments aren't big money raisers, he readily concedes. But depending on the prize money, they can bring competitors by the dozens at least. A tournament the club runs at the annual Hell Hole Swamp Festival in Jamestown earns the festival organizers some $400 to $500 per day, he said.

Doty Field used to do that. It was built in the early 1950s as a classic, walk-up softball field. It became for a while a brick-walled South Atlantic League minor-league baseball park, a relatively big-time addition to a then-small town.

Used also as a football field, it developed at least two generations of league players who went on to play for champion Summerville High School teams. Built beside the historically black Brownsville neighborhood, it also played a role in the integration of the town when the predominantly black Carolina Dixie Youth League began playing there in the early 1970s.

But one by one, teams deserted it for newer, better-equipped fields. When the town built its vaunted Gahagan complex in 2000, Doty was history.

Now, it might get the touch of a lucky horseshoe.