The sixteen host sites for this spring's NCAA Baseball Regionals were announced on Sunday afternoon. Over the next week, those sixteen cities will witness some of the best teams, players, coaches, and fans that college baseball has to offer. With that in mind, here's a glance at each of those facilities, the history behind them, and what they mean to the teams that play there, both in pictures and in words.
Glancing at the NCAA Hosts, Part I
Hawks Field on the campus of the University of Nebraska
Hawks Stadium has been home to the Nebraska Cornhuskers since the spring of 2002. Located a half-mile west of campus near downtown Lincoln, the $29 million dollar facility is shared with the Northern League's Lincoln Saltdogs and can seat up to 8,500. It was named to honor avid NU baseball supporters Howard and Myrna Hawks who enabled the university to move forward with construction after a generous monetary donation. The fences are set at 335 in left, 403 in left center, 395 in center field, 400 in right center, and 325 down the right field line. The playing surface is Kentucky Bluegrass, and you can find Black Hills Spruce Pine Trees beyond the center field wall. The facility has three different restaurants, sixteen suites each containing sixteen seats, 4,500 chairback seats, and a 2,100-square foot two-tiered press box. The Huskers won nearly 81% of their home games over the first three seasons and set a school record for attendance when more than 8,500 fans saw NU clinch a CWS spot in 2002.
Mark Light Field on the campus of the University of Miami
Mark Light Field, or "The Light" as it is more commonly known, became the home of the Miami Hurricanes in 1973. The first time the 'Canes ever took the field was on February 16 of that year against in-state rival Florida State. Miami took down the Seminoles 5-1 on that day, just a small moment of the fine tradition of Miami baseball. UM has won four national titles, including those most recently in 1999 and 2001. Current New York Yankees superstar shortstop Alex Rodriquez spearheaded a movement to improve "The Light" in recent years. The facility, which sports a grass playing surface, can seat 5,000 fans on gameday. The outfield fence is located 330 feet away from home plate down the lines, 365 feet away in the power alleys, and 400 feet away in dead center field. This year alone the Hurricanes have gone 27-9 in Coral Gables, closing out the home schedule by winning seven of their last nine contests in the friendly confines of Mark Light Stadium.
Blair Field on the campus of Long Beach State University
Blair Field, operated by the City of Long Beach, has been in operation for over 45 years, but the Dirtbags did not officially call the facility home until the 1993 season. A $1.4 million dollar renovation along with additional improvements along the way led to Baseball America honoring Blair as one of America's top fifteen collegiate baseball parks during the winter of 1998. The 1999 season saw several improvements to the facility including 774 new box seats and a brand new scoreboard. The stadium is named for Frank Blair, the only sports editor the Press-Telegram newspaper ever had. Blair, who was vocal in his support for a new ballpark in the city of Long Beach, worked at the paper from 1921 until his death in 1953. The first baseball game ever played at Blair was actually a high school contest in 1958 between Poly High School and Huntington Beach High School. More recently, Blair Field has been home to MTV's Rock & Jock softball game six times, and movies like Space Jam, Mr. Baseball, and Odd Couple II were filmed on location.
Alex Box Stadium on the campus of Louisiana State University
Well over three million fans have seen the LSU Tigers play at Alex Box Stadium over the past twenty-one seasons, a time period that has seen the Tigers win 81% of the games played in Baton Rouge. The stadium was originally completed in 1938 with 2,500 grandstand seats. The facility has hosted four SEC Tournaments, three NCAA Super Regionals, and sixteen consecutive NCAA Regionals. Seating capacity was increased to 7,760 in 1999 when "The Box" underwent a renovation that moved the scoreboard from left-center to right-center field and saw bleachers installed in left-center field. The so-called "intimidator" billboard was unveiled in 1997 in right field, showcasing LSU's NCAA titles. The field has a natural grass playing surface with the foul lines located 330 feet from home, the power alleys 365 feet away, and center field 405 feet from home plate. The facility is named in honor of Simeon Alex Box, a member of the 1942 LSU baseball team who was killed while fighting in North Africa during World War II.
Doug Kingsmore Stadium on the campus of Clemson University
Doug Kingsmore Stadium, formerly known as Tiger Field, has been home to Clemson baseball for thirty-four seasons. Baseball America named the facility the 16th-best college baseball stadium in January of 2003. Even since then, Kingsmore has undergone extensive renovations including the addition of a brick facade that surrounds all entrances and a new press box twice the size of the previous one. The Tigers have hosted eight NCAA Regionals at home over the last eleven seasons. The stadium holds 3,500 permanent seats, but a hill down the left field line has become popular with Clemson students meaning capacity is actually well over 6,000. A 2001 renovation saw the fences move closer to home plate. Right field now sits 330 from the plate, right-center 375 feet, straight-away center 400 feet, left-center 370 feet, and left field 320 feet. The facility is located across the street from Littlejohn Coliseum and Clemson Memorial Stadium, the homes for Tiger basketball and football. It is named in honor of Doug Kingsmore, a former Tiger baseball player who earned All-ACC honors and was the first Tiger to ever hit 10 homeruns in a season.
Lindsey Nelson Stadium on the campus of the University of Tennessee
The Vols have called Lindsey Nelson Stadium home since it's $2.2 million dollar construction in the spring of 1993. UT has won nearly 75% of its games in Knoxville and has hosted four NCAA Regionals and one SEC Eastern Division Tournament during that twelve-year period. The main grandstand area can seat 2,300 fans, 696 of them in chairback seats and an additional 1,604 in bench seats. The 2003 season saw several improvements to the facility including a brand new scoreboard and video screen as well as permanent grandstands down the right field line, bringing total stadium capacity to about 4,000. Fans enjoy elevated seating at Lindsey Nelson, offering a view of the entire playing surface. The left field line sits 335 feet from home plate, left-center 373 feet away, center 404 feet from home, right-center 358 feet away, and left field 330 feet from the plate. The facility is named in honor of the late broadcasting legend Lindsey Nelson who started the Vol Radio Network in 1949 and became sports information director at Tennessee in 1951.
Dick Howser Stadium on the campus of Florida State University
Dick Howser Stadium on the campus of Florida State University has been the home to Seminole baseball for over 20 years and has seen over two million fans come through the gates since 1983. Since its opening, the facility has seen numerous upgrades including the addition of a 40-by-70 foot video board for replays and highlights and the addition of seats to increase capacity to 6,700. FSU ranks among the nation's top ten in terms of attendance each season, averaging almost 2,500 fans per game. Named in honor of Dick Howser, a former star for the Seminoles and Kansas City Royals, the facility has played host to nineteen NCAA Regionals since it opened. The outfield measures 320 feet in right field, 400 feet in center, and 340 feet to left field. A 1986 renovation saw the outfield fence increase in five-foot increments from 20 feet in the power alley to 30 feet in right field.
Packard Stadium on the campus of Arizona State University
Packard Stadium has been the home of Arizona State Sun Devils baseball since 1974. Since that time, ASU has captured two national titles and hosted a dozen NCAA Regional Tournaments. The facility holds more than 3,000 permanent seats in the main grandstand and can seat nearly 8,000 fans on gameday thanks to additional seats down both the first and third base lines. Packard Stadium also has a $240,000 scoreboard in left-center field, a two-tiered press box, and a tiff green grass playing surface in the field and a Bermuda grass playing surface in the outfield. The dirt infield consists of crushed red brick similar to that in many MLB parks. The outfield wall measures 338 feet down both lines, 368 feet in the power alleys, and 395 feet to straightaway center field. A 30-foot high wall is located in center, and only 18 players have ever homered over that portion of the wall. The outfield is lined with orange trees, and the Salt River, which runs through the Valley of the Sun, lies just beyond the left field fence. The Superstition Mountains offer a beautiful backdrop beyond the outfield wall as well.
Special thanks to: huskers.com, hurricanesports.com, longbeachstate.com, lsusports.net, clemsontigers.com, utsports.com, seminoles.com, thesundevils.com
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