I envisioned an immaculate turf field that would excite recruits and make opposing teams envious. I envisioned a baseball field that would make me proud to say I was a former Spider. But months after I first heard of the plan to renovate Pitt Field, that vision exists only in my head.
Over a month into the season, the baseball team has played just 12 games, none of which have taken place at Pitt Field (or in Virginia for that matter). The field sat covered in gravel for months, as repeated delays in its resurfacing led to successions of game cancellations and re-locations. This project was a necessary one, but the way it has been handled has been disappointing and inefficient.
Pitt Field has been around for roughly 40 years and you can tell. As a former player, I am all too familiar with the extreme bounces a routine ground ball would take on the uneven field, and with the frustration that came with having to cancel so many games due to rain because of the field’s poor drainage system. The field had been begging to be redone for years, so I was excited when I learned of the plans to renovate it.
I was first told about the renovation at the start of the fall 2014 semester, roughly six months before the first scheduled home game of the season. The project didn't actually begin until two months later, which still seemed like ample time to complete the task. But when factoring in the potential for bad weather as fall turned to winter, how those in charge of the plan expected the field to be ready in that span of time is beyond me. I cannot claim to be aware of what goes on behind the scenes of big projects like this, so this timeline could be customary. But I doubt that.
It’s a shame that the completion of the field is extending well into the beginning of the baseball season, especially for the seniors on the team. If this were my senior year I would be angry at the Athletic Department and their failure to plan efficiently. I cannot imagine what it must be like spending the majority of what could be your last year ever partaking in competition without the slightest clue if you will ever play on your home field. This is the harsh reality at the moment.
I can go on for hours about how this unfortunate circumstance affects every aspect of the players’ lives on and off the field. It disrupts both the mental and physical aspects of their game, as well as compromising their academics and their routines. That is simply not the way it should be for these guys.
This is a team that has shown nothing but success over the past four years, going to the playoffs in each of those years and making it to the championship twice. I guess this is the price they pay for playing a sport that does not generate revenue. Imagine how quickly the field would have been finished if baseball earned money for the school like some of the other popular sports at Richmond. It’s amazing what money can do.
Many people do not understand what a grind baseball actually is or how difficult it is to stay healthy and keep your head in the game. Without a proper field to practice on, how can the players be expected to be at peak performance? Practicing on an intramural field without a pitcher’s mound just cannot replicate playing on a real baseball diamond.
Beyond the physical detriment of practicing without a field, the mental element – which can often have the largest impact on baseball players – must be wearing on the team. Worrying about what is going to happen to the rest of their schedule only adds to the mental exhaustion that already comes with the game.
All of the unexpected weekends on the road can only be a detriment to the players’ academics. Richmond is a school that prides itself on academics, so one would think the administrators would do everything they could to ensure the success of their student athletes. What is going to happen to the players who are in classes that have strict attendance policies when they are not in control of when they miss class or how many times? Are these student athletes going to be punished for being on a team that has suffered by no fault of their own?
I understand the field is nearly complete, but it has taken far too long to reach this point. Like I said earlier, I do not know the ins and outs of the business, but I do hope the field is actually ready by the current projected completion date of March 27. Hopefully one day I’ll see it in person. Best of luck to all my brothers on the baseball team. I wish you all the success in the world. #RollDamnSpides