Interhigh League baseball coaches say if the maintenance of the playing fields doesn't improve, the interest among the students doesn't grow and the administrators don't place more priority on the sport, baseball will not be played by D.C. public high schools five years from now.

Coaches say participation recently has dropped considerably because of the 2.0 grade-point requirement, the poor condition of facilities and the athletes' indifference. Two schools with successful athletic programs, Anacostia and Spingarn, couldn't field teams this season because of the lack of interest. Two others were forced to cancel or forfeit games because they didn't have nine players, and the majority of the league games played were stopped after as few as four innings because of a two-hour time limit designed to restrict lopsided outcomes.

"Something has to change soon or there will be no coaches," said the league's senior coach, Maceo Hutchison, in his 10th year at Ballou. "Right now, this league is hanging by a shoestring. The basketball- football phenomenon along with the absence of recreation or boys club teams has hurt baseball in the city. And these facilities are just not cared for adequately.

"I play my home games at Fort Greble {Martin Luther King Avenue and Elmira Street SE; Ballou is at Fourth and Trenton streets SE}. Fortunately, the father of one of my players is an officer at Bolling Air Force Base and he asked the base groundskeeper to come over and work on my field. Afterwards, some parents came over and helped me. It should not be necessary for us to maintain the fields.

"As coaches, we have to do something if we want to continue to play. If I stay, I'll go down to the mayor's office myself and lobby. No one takes our league seriously and our kids are losing scholarships. Baseball is defintely not being promoted as much as it should be."

Eastern Coach Tillman Frizzell agrees the main problem is the condition of the fields, but feels the lack of quality athletes and officiating doesn't help matters.

"I have the best home facility but that's because it belongs to RFK. They allow us to use their auxiliary field and they maintain it. My problem comes when we go on the road. All of those fields are bad. We've had to cancel games because the field is in such poor shape we couldn't play.

"The officiating isn't the best and the best kids just don't play."

Wilson and McKinley are the only teams that have a baseball diamond at their school. The others use nearby facilities, operated jointly by the school system and the D.C. Recreation Department.

William Bailey, the acting chief of the school system's grounds and facilities, said the schools are totally responsible for the maintenance of Wilson and McKinley, but not for the other fields.

"Both Wilson and McKinley are baseball-ready. They are on school property but they belong to the recreation department," Bailey said. "We can't just send a crew to those fields and work on them. Marshall Cropper {supervisor of facilities for the recreation deptartment} and I work together on the fields and if he needs some assistance, I will send a crew out."

Cropper said he had no comment about the baseball fields situation.

Lloyd Oakley, the coordinator for baseball in the Interhigh, is aware of the problems but feels they are not severe.

"I think baseball will be around in the future. I don't see it getting any worse," he said. "The number one issue is the care of the fields. The schools have to find a way to get more students to participate."

Willie Stewart, who has been Anacostia's baseball coach since 1980, said he hasn't been able to field a team the past two seasons because the kids just don't want to play.

"We have tried and we'll try again next year," he said. "I could see the decline coming. We won a couple of division titles in the '80s, but fewer and fewer kids were coming out. We lost some to the 2.0 requirement. As soon as a few of the others got hit in the chest with that line drive, off they went to the basketball court to shoot hoops."

The baseball coaches know they can't compete with basketball.

"Basketball is killing us. Summer league basketball takes the kids away from all the other sports -- baseball, swimming, tennis," said Frizzell.

"The kids we get are not baseball players. They don't know what a forceout is but they know what three seconds or traveling is. I have to hold classrooms to teach baseball. We need help."

Because of the Interhigh's problems, only a few teams were able to schedule nonleague games.

Most of the coaches were upset with the two-hour time limit and say they will vote the rule out next season. Coaches were also upset with the so-called run-differential rule that had to be used to decide the tournament's top-seeded team in the West Division. Bell and Wilson tied for first place but the Tigers were awarded the top seeding because they had scored more runs.

"That is not a good rule. Games are shortened because of the two-hour time limit, you are not encouraged to run scores up and if you get a forfeit, the automatic score is 7-0. How is that fair to a team that beat that same school, 20-0?" Wilson Coach Marc Harris said. "We need some commitment from the top to take care of these fields and take care of these other problems. I've been coaching only three years and I'm getting very frustrated."