MOUNT VERNON — Baseball coaches are not usually happy when their baseball fields are torn up and demolished.
Cornell Coach Seth Wing, however, was ecstatic when bulldozers ripped through the Rams’ outfield Wednesday and Thursday.
“It was just an exciting feeling,” Wing said. “It was a breath of fresh air and rejuvenation.
“I’m very thankful for the school district and all the Cornell donors who helped make this happen. Without them, President (Jonathan) Brand, (Athletics Director) John Cochrane and their support it isn’t happening.”
Cornell began the third phase of the Ash Park renovation project this week, consisting of refurbishment of the baseball diamond that is shared with the Mount Vernon School District.
The project began with new field turf for the football field last year and lights that will allow for the Rams’ opener against Coe on Sept. 13 to begin at 7 p.m. The next step is the reconstruction of the baseball field, including new turf, new fencing around the entire field, new dugouts and a new scoreboard. The outfield will have eight-foot vinyl fences and the new dimensions will be 320-feet down the foul lines and 385 to center field.
The changes reflect the administrative support for the program.
“It demonstrates a commitment to baseball,” Cochrane said. “it’s not only to our alumni, who feel good about it, but to perspective student athletes.
“It shows we’re going to have a first-class facility for athletes to compete in.”
The diamond was in dire need of an upgrade. Wing said a facilities manager told him there was a six-foot difference in the ground level from the right-field foul pole to the one in left field. Wing suspects the infield was leveled but the natural slope (Cornell’s campus sits on a hill) remained in the outfield. The remodeled field impacts the players, allowing them to practice and compete on better surfaces.
“It enhances their day-to-day experience in our program,” Wing said. “They now know they have the support of our administration, because they are putting the money into it.
“This program actually matters, instead of it being just baseball.”
The cost of phase three will be approximately $250,000, but Cochrane said he hopes for some savings. Mount Vernon School District will split the bill since the Mustangs baseball team shares the facilities during the summer. The Rams play their season in the spring. The cooperative agreement and community support made this possible.
“We feel real good about that,” Cochrane said. “Being able to get a facility like this at 50-percent of cost because of our sharing agreement, is really a special thing.”
Wing has coached the Rams for three seasons, leading them to a 21-17 record and a second-place finish in the Midwest Conference south Division. Cornell had its first winning seasons in 11 years and its nine Midwest conference victories last spring was the most since 1970. The work to the field reflects the improved product on it.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” Wing said. “From where we are with our program, the type of players we are starting to get here, and to throw this on top of it is like icing on the cake. It is exciting.”
Work on campus continues as Cornell balances athletic and academic needs. Phase four of the Ash Park project will focus on the track and field facility and grandstands for football. The baseball field is expected to be complete in plenty of time for next season.
“We’ll have the sod laid by mid-September,” Cochrane said. “We hope to have the entire project wrapped up well before the snow flies.”
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