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$2 Million In Anonymous Gifts Launch Project To Transform U.Va. Baseball Complex

June 25, 2001-- The University of Virginia Department of Athletics has received $2 million in gifts to launch a $4 million construction project that will transform the University’s baseball facility. 

The announcement comes a week after an anonymous donor pledged $20 million -- the second-largest single gift ever made to U.Va.’s athletics department -- to allow the University to proceed with planning a new basketball arena. It also comes shortly after the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors affirmed its commitment to maintain and improve the competitiveness of U.Va.’s intercollegiate sports program.

The gifts announced today, from anonymous donors interested in the future of U.Va. baseball, are designated to create "one of the best places to watch and play baseball in the Atlantic Coast Conference," said Dennis Womack, U.Va.’s head baseball coach. Pending state approval, the University plans to break ground later this summer and complete the first phase of the project by the beginning of the 2002 baseball season.

"This sends a very positive message to our recruits," Womack said. "If you’re looking for a great facility, a great conference and a great education, U.Va. is the place to be. The stadium project indicates a commitment to baseball that will encourage more high-profile players in Virginia to remain in-state."

Improvements planned over time will include a canopied grandstand with 2,000 chair-back seats, replacing 1,500 metal bleacher seats; six to eight skyboxes for lease by fans and corporate sponsors; stadium lights; dugouts for home and visiting teams; an on-site locker room and clubhouse; a digital scoreboard; a new press box; and concession area. The first phase will include the new seats, dugouts, lights and concession area.

The new ballpark will enable U.Va. to schedule games against nationally prominent teams that previously would have been played on the road. "This will increase the opportunity for television game coverage," said Craig Littlepage, interim athletic director. "Adding stadium lighting will allow our team to play or practice at night and thus miss fewer classes. In addition, the facility will become a community asset, offering a potential venue for high school tournaments and adult-league games."

"We hope the success of this fundraising effort for the new baseball facility, led by loyal alumni and friends, will become a model for addressing future needs of other Olympic sport programs," Littlepage said. "We are grateful for the leadership of these generous donors."

History of University of Virginia Baseball

Baseball is one of the oldest athletic programs at the University. The first team posted a 7-0 season in 1889, when it played at what is now Madison Bowl. The current ballpark opened in 1970 alongside Lannigan Field, the University’s track-and-field facility across from University Hall.

The Virginia baseball team had its most successful season in 1996. That year, the Cavaliers won a school-record 44 games, captured the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship and advanced to the NCAA South I Region championship game.

This season – Womack's 21st as head coach – the Cavaliers went 25-31, with the highlight a 5-0 defeat of then-No. 3 University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. Womack’s 540 career victories are the most in school history.

Since 1966, 50 former Cavaliers have been selected in the Major League Baseball draft, including two this year, Hunter Wyant (Florida Marlins) and Jon Benick (San Diego Padres). Twenty-one former Cavaliers have advanced to the major leagues. Brian Buchanan, a first-round draft pick by the New York Yankees in 1994, currently is listed on the Minnesota Twins roster.

Perhaps the most outstanding player in U.Va. history was Eppa Rixey, the only player from the current ACC schools enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Rixey, a left-handed pitcher, won 266 games for the Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds in a 21-year major-league career that concluded in 1933.

The seven-year, $1.43 billion Campaign for the University of Virginia, which ended in December 2000, raised $117.7 million for the Department of Athletics. Of this amount, approximately $50 million in gifts to the department allowed the University to expand the football stadium at Carl Smith Center, home of David A. Harrison III Field at Scott Stadium.

Annual gifts to the Virginia Student Aid Foundation (VSAF) for athletics scholarships increased from $4 million to $7.5 million during the campaign. In addition, the VSAF increased its scholarship endowment to $33 million. VSAF funded approximately 284 scholarships during the most recent academic year.

Contact: Carol Wood, (434) 924-6189


FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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