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Thursday, June 20
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball softball

New baseball and softball facilities approved, will open in 2013

IU Baseball Coach Tracy Smith has worn the hard hat before.

Five years ago, Smith and then-IU President Adam W. Herbert stood together, shovels in hand, to approve plans that included funding for not only new baseball and softball stadiums but also the North End Zone Student-Athlete Development Center, a basketball practice facility — Cook Hall — and an academic resource center.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2011 and Smith’s baseball program is finally scheduled to receive the gift it was promised.

On Aug. 19, the IU Board of Trustees approved construction of a new baseball and softball complex to be built north of the Indiana Tennis Center and Mellencamp

Ground is scheduled to be broken in spring 2012. The stadiums should be ready for the 2013 season.

Six years into his tenure at IU, Smith said he is relieved and excited about the announcement. He also said he knows he has been down this road before.

“I appreciate all the efforts of the people that have been working on this for years in getting this thing to the forefront,” Smith said. “A lot of time went into this, and I’m very thankful and will be looking forward to that first piece of dirt being moved.”

Funding problems pushed the baseball and softball stadiums to the back burner in 2006 as the revenue-producing sports football and basketball had their projects built.

With an athletic budget near the bottom of the Big Ten, Smith said he wasn’t mad about the baseball program having to wait its turn.

“I’m sitting here at a BCS school, and you have to have the best in football to compete because for all of us (the entire athletic department) to do well, football has to do well,” Smith said. “Indiana basketball has tradition that is probably parallel(ed) by no other, and in my mind, those things should have come first.” 

“(IU Athletic Director) Fred Glass and current administration have followed up on commitments that were made before them, and I really give them a lot of credit because they probably could have said, ‘Look, that’s (the lack of funding) not our problem,” Smith said. “‘We didn’t promise you these things, and we weren’t here,’ and they did not take that stance.”

A popular topic surrounding the construction of a new baseball stadium has been building location. IU is in a unique situation among Big Ten schools since their baseball and softball facilities are in close proximity to the student dorms. The new location places almost all of the Hoosier athletic facilities in the same area.

When Glass took over in January 2009, he and his staff made it a priority to bring the baseball and softball stadium project back to the forefront. 

“Our (current) facilities are woefully behind the rest of the conference,” Glass said. “We have great coaches, and we have the best climate in the Big Ten for that. I think it’s a great foundation and step forward for our softball and baseball programs.”

Two years ago, the baseball program made the NCAA Tournament. Smith has had three players selected in the first round of the MLB Draft in the last three seasons.
“It speaks incredibly highly of what an extraordinary coach he is to recruit kids here when we have subpar facilities,” Glass said.

The 2009 Big Ten Championship, won by Smith’s Hoosiers, was the first since 1996, and the NCAA Tournament appearance was only the second in school history.

Smith said the stadium will make things easier for his staff in terms of recruiting, but at the end of the day, it still comes down to the players on the diamond.

“I’m a big believer in you win with people, and you build your program with people,” Smith said. “I think there is a big misconception out there that you build new stadiums, you win championships, and the recruits just fall into your lap. I think with the people we have here and the way we do things, this will certainly be an enticement for kids to come.

“I think when you go back through all of this, I don’t think you’ve ever heard me say, ‘We will not be able to win here without a new stadium.’ Whether we got it or not, we were still going to win at Indiana.”

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