By: Michael Marazzacro
A new era in Radford athletics is underway. From the addition of women’s lacrosse, new basketball locker rooms and now a legitimate field that Radford softball can call their own. The Radford softball field has gone under a renovation project with new dugouts, new bleachers, and a new press box that is sure to give Highlander fans something to look forward to this spring. After opening the first moth of the season up on the road, Radford softball finally returns home to their beautiful renovated field on Saturday, April 5 against Presyterian.
Executive Associate Athletic Director Randy Butt is very excited about this latest project.
“We’re extremely excited. It’s long overdue, something that we’ve wanted to do ever since we began with baseball and to be able to do it and put a facility out there that our student athletes can be proud of is very exciting for the program,” Butt said.
When the baseball stadium got renovated in 2011, the attendance numbers increased and Butt thinks this new softball field will follow suit.
Butt added, “That’s one thing that we did see in baseball. Once we put in a facility that was comfortable for the fans to sit in, it was advantageous for them to come and watch an event. We saw an increase in attendance and we’re hoping the same thing would happen with softball. A new level of excitement around the team, everybody likes a new product and likes coming out to see the new things so we’re hoping that they’ll take advantage.”
The design of the softball field will be similar to the baseball field in a lot of ways. The only difference will be the size. The stadium will have about 370 seats and the dugouts will be smaller than baseball with 22 players on each team compared to baseball’s 35-man roster. The press box will be identical to that of the baseball field, only taller, and the seating bowl will go upwards whereas in baseball, the seats go downward.
“We did everything in our power to make both fields virtually identical,” Butt said.
The softball team has opened the first month of the season on the road. This month long road trip included games played in Greensboro, NC; Chattanooga, TN, nationally ranked University of Florida, as well as nationally ranked Auburn. They opened Big South Conference play last weekend with a series against Campbell going 1-2. They head home with a 7-16 overall record and a 1-2 conference record. For head coach Maggie Johnson White, she couldn’t be more excited to come home.
“Playing in a new stadium is something that this group has never gotten to do before and very excited about that, very appreciative that they’re gonna be able to come home to that. Also just being in your own bed in your own town is a little less stress than being in a hotel on the road so they’ll be able to come out and get into a routine and it’s gonna be exciting,” said Coach White.
This project took years to complete but this year they finally got it. For senior Jessie Hutchens, she’s thrilled to play her final season in the new stadium.
She said, “It’s kind of funny I was actually promised that the stadium would be completed my freshman year so I’m just thankful that I at least get to play in it for one season as compared to none.”
According to Hutchens, a lot of students are excited about the new stadium too.
Hutchens added, “I’ve already gotten a lot of comments from random people on campus and other athletes saying that our stadium looks awesome and they can’t wait to watch us play.”
With the snowstorms in February, a lot of players were worried it would delay the project but that wasn’t the case.
Junior Mackenzie Blackwell said, “Once we got that big snowstorm we were all really worried. We were scared that we would have to play on our intramural field and we wouldn’t have a stadium but the construction team has been working really hard and progress is coming along great so it’s looking good.”
On the renovations she added, “We’re super excited. It gives us a lot of momentum going into games having a brand new stadium. It gives us a home field advantage and it’ll give us a lot of energy with more fans and more people willing to support because we have a nicer facility. It will also be good for recruiting and high school softball players will be attracted to our softball team because of this stadium.”
Be sure to check out the brand new softball stadium as they play their first game on Saturday, April 5 with a doubleheader vs. Presbyterian with first pitch scheduled for 2:00 p.m. This will also be the grand opening of the new fields for everyone to see. This game will feature plenty of events and promotions around the stadium including pregame ceremonies. In addition a lot of Radford softball alumni will be on hand for the grand opening game.
This isn’t the first time Coach White has experienced something like this. While coaching at Georgia Southern before taking the Radford job, they renovated their field as well.
White said, “When I was down at Georgia Southern they had just built new stands and locker rooms for the program so I know what it feels like just to take your sense of pride to another level when you take the field and having brand new and renovated facilities gives you an extra kick when you get out on the field. You know you have something beautiful behind you and you’re just ready to take your game to another level and it’s been great for the girls. They’ve been looking forward to it for a long time.”