by Dan Heuchert
baseball season gets under way this Saturday, Feb. 16, when
the Cavaliers host a doubleheader against Bucknell at the
Universitys newly renovated stadium. For a complete
2002 baseball schedule: http://virginiasports.fansonly.com/sports/m-basebl.
Weekend doubleheader to open
transformed baseball stadium
By Dan Heuchert
around noon this Saturday, an umpire will yell Play ball!,
officially opening U.Va.s baseball
question is, will he be heard over the clattering of construction
While construction wont actually be going on during the
doubleheader with visiting Bucknell, it wouldnt be a surprise
to see work continue right up until game time. As of last week,
dugouts were not completed, and not all of the seats were installed.
Were trying to focus on everything we need to play
the game, said Jason Bauman, associate director of athletics
field itself is in fine shape. In fact, the team has been practicing
on it for a few weeks while construction continued around them.
(Hardhats have come in handy for more than the usual reasons,
as batting-practice foul balls carom off various parts of the
in all, the renovated stadium is already showing vast improvements.
Where before fan seating was relegated to a few cold metal bleachers,
exposed to the elements, there is now a towering covered grandstand
with 1,500 seats, about half with individual chairbacks. Down
the left-field line there is room for 500 more fans on a gently
sloping hillside that officials hope will become a magnet for
families. Eight luxury suites are roughed in, ready to be fitted
out for the 2003 season.
Fans will now park in the University Hall lots and enter through
the same Alderman Road gate used for Klöckner Stadium. For
the first time, admission will be charged: $5 for adults, $3 for
youths and seniors. U.Va. students are admitted free with their
fences around the outfield and a new hitting backdrop should be
completed in time for the first pitch. Lights have been installed,
allowing night baseball for the first time; the first scheduled
night game is March 29 at 7 p.m. against rival North Carolina.
As the season progresses, new restroom and concession areas will
open, and by April, a new home clubhouse should be complete.
project is a welcome shot in the arm for a program that has struggled
to compete against other better-funded schools in the Atlantic
Coast Conference, many of which have more modern facilities and
dont know what the single most important thing in the history
of Virginia baseball is, but this has to be pretty close,
said head baseball coach Dennis Womack, entering his 22nd season
at U.Va. If a young man decides not to come to U.Va., it
wont be because of the facilities.
facility improvements, and the message they send about the Universitys
commitment to baseball, appear to be opening doors already with
recruits, he said. U.Va. went head-to-head with the University
of Miami, arguably the top collegiate baseball program in the
country, for one prospect in the most recent recruiting season.
Although the young man eventually signed with the Hurricanes,
We made it hard on him, Womack said.
raising has gone well, with approximately $3.8 million already
committed to the $5 million project, said Barry Parkhill, director
of athletic development. He hopes to raise the balance with a
few incentives: those who give $1,000 or more will have their
name inscribed on a chairback (although it will not be a reserved
seat), while former team members giving at least $10,000 can have
the name of a former player, coach or manager inscribed on a locker
in the new clubhouse.
project was jump-started last summer by $2 million in anonymous
gifts, which were quickly followed by an additional million-dollar
gift, Parkhill said. That allowed planning and construction to
begin almost immediately, with Charlottesvilles VMDO Architects
churning out the blueprints. Construction began in the fall, and
has been aided by a fairly mild winter.
a phenomenal project, Parkhill said. Its just
going to be a great-looking baseball venue.