Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sign of progress at Brown-Stroud Field

Students are on campus, classes start tomorrow, football season is less than two weeks away, there's an exhibition soccer game here Friday night against Rice and I'm talking baseball?

It's because for the first time since 1990, there's not a wooden fence around Brown-Stroud Field, home of Demon baseball. Jim Wells insisted that a fence be built and admission be charged to baseball games after he took over as head coach. I remember thinking "this is going to be odd," and as it turned out, it was just another visionary move by the Grand Master of Demon baseball.

Just this past week, the wood slats on the fence have been removed, leaving only the row of brick columns which held them. Fresh wood will be back, I suppose, without interrupting facilities guru Chuck Bourg on the weekend to find out (I'll confirm Monday).

This is the first sign of what will be some significant changes to the old ball park in the coming months. There are some really interesting long term concepts that could become reality in time, but in the relatively short term we'll finally see the long-awaited new entrance to the park, complete with a ticket booth and a lovely facade. On the drawing board is a major addition providing ground-level concessions and bathrooms behind the Demons dugout along the first base line, along with renovated press facilities atop the grandstand. Director of athletics Greg Burke is working to blend a combination of allocated state funding and private donations, already in hand and on the verge of fruition, to make these long-needed changes happen.

Brown-Stroud Field has one of the nicest settings in college baseball, built into a hillside and bordering Chaplin's Lake with some majestic pines and big bushes providing an outfield backdrop as pretty as you please.

There have recently been major improvements to the facility, notably the new artificial turf infield, drainage system and dugout renovation a couple of years ago; the enhanced batting cages; and the covered grandstand and expanded permanent seating, including the field level VIP box seats, completed less than a decade ago. Adding the perfect accent in the last few years has been some great landscaping at the existing gate and along the permanent grandstand, which seats up to 1,000.

It's never going to be one of those "cookie cutter" facilities, which have their place, but to me, usually have a rather lifeless look. Dating back to the 1930s, Brown-Stroud Field is uniquely ours, and the subtle and not so subtle changes on the horizon will make it the envy of many teams who have newer facilities that lack the charm and personality and character our park has.

Doug Ireland, SID

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