EDITORIAL: Build the Baseball Stadium

Growing up, there was nothing quite like going to a Bluefield Orioles game at Bowen Field. For just a few dollars, my grandfather and I would go watch a group of guys fight for their chance to make it out of Single A rookie league baseball. Some friends and I would chase baseballs into the parking lots, risking our lives as if we were playing frogger for the chance to get the batter to sign the ball after the game. 

 I remember sitting in the grass just past the centerfield wall, waiting for a ball to, quite literally, fall into my lap. It was a master plan. I remember looking up quickly from the blades of grass I was dissecting as I heard a loud crack followed by a roar from the opposite side of the wall. Jumping to my feet, I looked up as a baseball plopped down in the grass over by right field. I ran over and put it into my glove. That’s how I got my first baseball. 

When I first got to Marshall, I signed up to do sports broadcasting with WMUL-FM. I didn’t see my first time behind a microphone until baseball season, a time with ample amounts of opportunity due to the sheer number of games in a week. I got my first game in March of 2019, a 25-3 Marshall win against Eastern Michigan. 

The Marshall baseball team plays at Kennedy Center Field, a field that is roughly 20 minutes away from campus. Because I had no car, I was driven to the field by Nick Verzolini, a now Marshall journalism alum, and dropped off in a way that I can best describe as your first day of school.  

I remember kicking rocks and tossing pebbles into mud holes after games while sitting on top of a case aptly named “Big Bertha.” Eventually, Nick would pick me up. Those are the memories I have of Kennedy Center Field. I doubt many people have them. 

47 people came to Marshall’s home baseball opener this season.  


Marshall has had games in which its dugout has outnumbered the fans in attendance. 

Marshall University’s higher ups do not care about the growth of their baseball program. They have done nothing to prove me otherwise. I want to be proven wrong. 

I doubt the guy who hit my first ball made it to the big leagues. If he did, I don’t know his name and he probably does not remember the Bluefield Orioles. I don’t have that ball, either. My brother and I lost it in the creek near my childhood home in attempts to replicate the way that it found us.  

 The immaculate run of Marshall men’s soccer on its way to a championship was fueled primarily by talent and coaching. While fans certainly play a part, only 400 people attended a men’s soccer game that was themed around alumni appreciation in 2018. For comparison, 3033 people came to Marshall’s game against WVU last season following a national championship, packed like sardines in Hoops Family Field.  

The Herd men’s soccer team rarely had prominent levels of support before it struck gold, and even when it was not successful, it had 10 times the number of fans than baseball does currently.  

What does the baseball team have to do to deserve Marshall’s attention? 

Marshall baseball players regularly get drafted in the MLB draft. As recently as the 2021 season, Marshall alumni have made MLB debuts. The program is not “failing” or “unsuccessful.” Marshall is producing occasional MLB talent on a field that does not have lights. 

A few google searches will help you find that less than 40 off-campus baseball fields exist in division 1 baseball. There are 299 division 1 programs across the country. Marshall’s YMCA field is possibly the smallest of those off-campus fields used in the entirety of Division 1. 

The smallest facilities used in the Sun Belt have a capacity of 1,000 fans but have recorded attendance numbers as high as 5,000. That’s roughly one hundred times larger than any crowd Marshall has had this season.  

Marshall is a school that is making strides in athletics. With a new football coach, a new conference and a new athletic director, the Herd is displaying that it wants to show progress and improvement. However, with one of the lowest level baseball facilities in the nation, it is impossible for me to buy in to that line of thinking.  

When the Bluefield Orioles became the Bluefield Blue Jays, attendance fell down a little bit. I was a little grown up at this point, watching those games at Bowen Field from the foul-ball line instead of from behind that wall in the outfield.  

All the seats were painted Toronto blue. Paint chipped from the edges of some seats to give that sense of Orioles pride that the city used to have, but the Blue Jays became a staple until the Appalachian league quit being a rookie league. My strategy was a little different for getting baseballs. I just asked guys for one when they returned from warming up the outfield. 

In a place like Bowen Field stood one rookie talent at the plate in 2016, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He once hit a foul ball toward where I was sitting. I asked the ball boy if I could have it and he tossed it to me. I lost that ball in the creek too. 

Without a little field in my hometown, the former free agent rookie turned MLB home run leader could have been left in the dust. College baseball provides those same types of sparks to catch fire. I want a kid in Huntington to have the memories I had in Bluefield. 

Build the baseball stadium. Let some sparks fly in Huntington. 


This editorial was written by Tyler Kennett – The Parthenon sports editor.