A home stadium for the Marshall University baseball team will become a reality in a short 17 months, Athletic Director Mike Hamrick announced Saturday morning at a groundbreaking ceremony inside the Chris Cline Athletic Complex.
“We will be playing baseball in Huntington, West Virginia instead of Charleston, instead of Beckley, instead of Chillicothe, instead of wherever,” Hamrick said. “We will have a baseball stadium that we can call our own.”
The stadium will seat 3,500 people, and it will be located between 3rd and 5th Avenue on the old Flint Group pigments property. Construction is set to begin in the spring.
For years, the failure to follow through on the promise of a baseball stadium has left many doubtful that it would ever happen, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said.
“The reason this is happening is because of the connection between the city and the university,” Williams said. “What we have is something special that doesn’t happen around the nation.”
The city of Huntington teamed with Marshall to play a big role in helping the university get this long-lasting quest accomplished.
The Huntington Municipal Development Authority purchased the land with the help of $500,000 from the $3 million attained in the America’s Best Community Competition, said Williams.
Although Williams stressed the importance of the combined effort, Hamrick said that without Williams and “his driving force,” they would not be in the position that they are.
For the next phase of the process, Marshall announced the onset of the “Herd Rises” fundraising campaign during the homecoming football game against Western Kentucky.
The campaign will require donors to step up and make the AECOM architectural plans a reality.
Donating $1 million, former baseball player Rick Reed stepped up to the plate to lead off the fundraising campaign, Hamrick announced to those present at the ceremony.
“It’s a thrill to be here and be involved in this,” Reed said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
No one has had a longer time waiting and hoping than legendary Herd baseball coach Jack Cook, who was in attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony.
“I’m 93. I’ve had a lot of days, but not too many of them have been like this,” Cook said. “This is probably one of the happiest days of my life.”
Cook’s coaching career ended in 1989, but he still plays a vital role in the Marshall program.
Current Head Baseball Coach Jeff Waggoner said his first interview for the Marshall head coaching job was with Cook.
Years later, Waggoner is about to begin his 14th season as Marshall’s head coach.
“Coach [Waggoner] is a good baseball coach,” Cook said. “But when you go to Charleston or Beckley to play a home game, that’s a big disadvantage for you.”
Waggoner said he knows the advantages the stadium will bring his program in recruiting and with wins and losses, but he said his main focus is on things that will help nurture the development of his players.
Batting cages, bullpens, lounges, a video room and a nutrition bar area are all accommodations Waggoner mentioned that will be a part of the new stadium.
“All of those things are going to help us develop our guys,” Waggoner said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Grant Goodrich can be contacted at [email protected]