Thursday, March 19, 2009

Baseball Heaven...The Southeast

RT Staff Note: This is part two of our collegiate baseball series on baseball heaven. Enjoy our southeastern picks.

Florida State

We love this place! Dick Howser Stadium will take its place as one of the top collegiate baseball facilities in the country after a two-year, $12 million dollar project was completed in 2004. Located on the campus of Florida State University, the stadium has provided almost two million fans with the feeling of having "the best seat in the house" to watch the finest in college baseball action.

Florida State's players and coaches enjoy the convenience and luxury of a clubhouse and locker room currently located behind the Seminole dugout. The Griffin Family Clubhouse was moved to the first base side for the 2004 season as the construction process was completed. The main locker room area is fully-carpeted and contains a personalized wooden locker for each player, a separate locker room for the Seminole coaches, and a video area where FSU players and coaches can watch film. The coaches' offices look over the stadium behind home plate. A built-in stereo system blares the players' latest favorites. There is also a weight room and training area adjacent to the clubhouse. Each of the areas were expanded and improved during the renovation process.

There are on-going efforts to keep Dick Howser Stadium one of the top facilities in college baseball. Truly a "player's ballpark," the stadium has had many upgrades since it opened in 1983: the addition of a 30-foot screen to the top of the right field wall, the adding of a roof to the grandstand and state-of-the-art video board.

Dick Howser Stadium, named after the late Kansas City Royals and Florida State manager who was also Florida State's first-ever baseball All-American, is a showcase befitting one of the top collegiate teams in the nation. From the beautifully-manicured playing surface to the chairback seats, Howser Stadium is one of the best places in the country to watch a game.

Stadium capacity increased to 6,700 as additional seats were added during the two-year construction process. Florida State annually ranks in the top 10 nationally in attendance. In 2003, Florida State baseball fans set records in both total attendance (131,223) and average attendance (3,281). In 1994, the one-millionth fan walked through the gates of Howser Stadium in only its 12th season of operation. Total attendance will reach two million early this season. Since the 1983 opening, FSU has averaged almost 2,500 fans per game.

Florida State fans are simply the best and most knowledgeable in college baseball. Although they live and die with "their" Seminoles, the FSU faithful are known nationwide for their sportsmanship and appreciation of good baseball - by both teams, as well as their sometimes "creative" brand of support. Fans, along with the stadium and a professional game operation, are a large reason Dick Howser Stadium has been the site of 19 NCAA Regional Tournaments in 20 years since its' opening in 1983.

The stadium was dedicated in honor of Dick Howser in March of 1988 prior to an exhibition game between Florida State and the Kansas City Royals, two of Howser's former teams. As part of the stadium dedication, Kansas City all-stars George Brett and Bo Jackson helped unveil a new $150,000 matrix scoreboard and a bronze bust of Howser.


In 1971, former Miami coach Ron Fraser had a dream of building a state-of-the-art college baseball field and Hurricane supporter George Light came forward with the funding. In 1974, when more assistance was needed, Light again was the savior. However, Light never got to see the Hurricanes reach the College World Series. He died shortly after that second donation as the Hurricanes finished second in their first CWS. The field, dedicated in 1977, is named for Light's son, Mark, who died of muscular dystrophy.
Several additional renovations were made in the fall of 1996. The locker room, training room and umpire's room were each revamped. A new hitting backstop and sound system were also added. The facility currently holds 5,000 spectators.

Mark Light Field will undergo renovations in the near future. A $3.9 Million contribution by New York Yankees All-Star Alex Rodriguez got the fundraising campaign underway. The gift was the largest ever to the Universtiy of Miami baseball program. The University will name the newly renovated facility Alex Rodriguez Park upon its construction. The first will assist the program in continuing to develop first-class facilities. The entire place is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $11 million.


Foley Field, constructed at a cost of $3.5 million in 1990, is one of the finest baseball complexes in the country. The stadium's capacity of 3,291 includes chairback and bleacher-style seating. The grandstand area is covered by a partial roof with both concession stands and rest rooms located in the stadium. A new playing surface and drainage system was installed in the summer of 2003.
The complex continues to get better with new chairbacks on the lower level and in the covered area of the grandstand added in 2003. There are indoor and outdoor bullpens and indoor hitting cages. The lower portion of the stadium includes a spacious locker room, players lounge, a coaches office, an equipment room plus exercise and athletic training facilities.

The first home for the Diamond Dogs was Herty Field where they played from 1886 until 1911. After that, they moved to Sanford Field until 1943.

After World War II, the Diamond Dogs played on a field with no name located on "Ag. Hill," where Stegeman Coliseum is today. When construction for the Coliseum began in 1962, the Diamond Dogs moved to their freshman field, which was next to where the Butts-Mehre building is now. In 1966, the Diamond Dogs moved to their current location, and two years later, it was named Foley Field. On May 5, 1990, a $3.5 million refurbished Foley Field was dedicated.

Named after Judge Frank Foley, Foley Field is consistently ranked among the nation's top collegiate baseball stadiums. Frank Foley is considered one of Georgia's all-time greats for his contributions both on and off the field. Foley was part of the 1908 Southeastern championship team that recorded a mark of 20-2. He was a distinguished alumnus who is remembered by many as a kind and caring gentleman. His enthusiasm for the University of Georgia was second-to-none.


Auburn's Samford Stadium-Hitchcock Field at Plainsman Park placed itself among the nation's finest college baseball facilities after receiving a $4.2 million facelift nine years ago.

The commitment to excellence of Auburn's baseball program is evident by the continuing efforts to keep Plainsman Park on the forefront of college baseball. Those efforts have included three additions to the facility since its initial renovations in 1996.

The most recent projects included a new drainage system and playing surface in the Summer of 2003 and the completion of the Strength and Rehabilitation Center adjacent to Plainsman Park in January of 2004.

The Strength and Rehabilitation Center is a two-story, 13,274 square foot facility that houses a weight room for the baseball team on the first floor and a rehabilitation and research center on the second floor.

The weight room is unrivaled in collegiate baseball and features nearly 50 pieces of equipment. The facility also has its own locker room.

Upon completion in February 2002, the new landscape now provides a more intimate setting for the nation's top facility, allowing fans to have seats down each foul line within feet of the playing surface. Renovations also included additional concession and restroom facilities behind the newly added seats along the right field foul line.

The bullpens, which once existed where the seats down the foul line were added, have found new locations in Plainsman Park. Auburn's bullpens are located behind the Green Monster in left field, while the visiting bullpen rests beyond the right center field fence, next to the K Corner.

Georgia Tech

Scenically nestled in downtown Atlanta, Russ Chandler Stadium provides a brilliant backdrop for college baseball and offers one of the best atmospheres for the game in the country.

Russ Chandler Stadium, the home of Georgia Tech baseball for more than 70 years, has a long and storied history from its original construction in 1930 with funds from Tech's 1929 appearance in the Rose Bowl game to its use as a training facility for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. The facility underwent a complete reconstruction for the 2002 season in less than eight months at a cost of $9.7 million, making Russ Chandler Stadium one of the top collegiate ballparks in America.

With a seating capacity of 4,157, Georgia Tech's baseball facility more than doubled in size from the previous stadium. Russ Chandler Stadium features approximately 1,100 chairback seats behind the home plate area in addition to nearly 3,000 bleacher seats. Space is available down the left field line for future expansion that would bring the capacity to over 5,000.

The facility includes locker rooms for both Georgia Tech and the visiting team, as well as one for the umpires. Tech's locker room area, which has moved to the third base side of the stadium, includes a player's lounge with a large-screen television, a video room where players and coaches can break down game film, and a separate locker area for the coaching staff. A state-of-the-art athletic training room is adjacent to the Tech locker room in addition to a sizeable weight room and workout facility.

The stadium features three covered batting cages and pitching mounds. One is located underneath the grandstand, while an enclosed area above the left field grandstand houses two additional cages and mounds.

Two enclosed luxury suites are located to one side of the press box, while six open-air, covered suites are on the other side of the press area. The stadium was designed by the architectural firm of HOK, which also designed Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Jacobs Field in Cleveland and AT&T Park in San Francisco among others. The joint venture of Carter & Associates and Turner Construction handled the construction of the project.

In 2002, the Yellow Jackets enjoyed a record-setting season with attendance. Tech set a Chandler Stadium regular season single game attendance record when 4,264 watched the Yellow Jackets defeat Georgia, 9-1 on March 27. Tech attracted over 15,000 fans for its games in the NCAA Atlanta Regional and Super Regional. The Yellow Jackets opened the new stadium with 22 straight victories and went 36-4 for the season on their home field.


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