It was later than normal, but by mid-October you could finally hear the sounds of baseball emanating on Mulholland Drive.
Following five months of renovations, which included the installation of a FieldTurf playing surface and raising portions of the field as much as three feet, Don and Sue Schaly Field at Pioneer Park was open for action.
“There’s a level of excitement right now surrounding the program that we haven’t had for a couple of years,” says Brian Brewer ’93, who is in his 17th season as the skipper of Marietta College’s baseball team. “Our hope is that this translates into community excitement, stronger recruiting and more time to work with our student-athletes on the field.”
Any critics of switching from natural grass to FieldTurf only need to speak with Sue Knicely Schaly ’62 for some perspective. Her late husband, Hall of Fame baseball coach Don Schaly ’59, believed baseball was meant to be played on grass, but she says he was also realistic.
“He knew if you lived in this part of the country, the best way to go is turf. I’m sure Don would be very pleased because the end result is very beautiful,” she says. “He would really appreciate the field being raised so it was level. He always thought the field wasn’t level.”
One of the first stops for former big-league player and manager Jim Tracy ’78 made during Homecoming weekend was to the renovated baseball complex.
“I was blown away by it,” says Tracy, who initiated the project a few years back. “I don’t know how recruits can’t be impressed and want to play here.”
Also included in the renovations was the addition of an 8-foot, dark green ChampionWall (that was moved in 10 feet to 400 feet in center field), larger, step-down dugouts and a pole-less backstop with net and padding.
The project was made possible by a lead gift from The Spartan Foundation and Hap and Meg Esbenshade, and other generous gifts from alumni and friends.
“It was Hap who saw the wisdom in recognizing the Schalys, while also returning the stadium name back to Pioneer Park,” says Bill Ruud, Marietta College’s 19th President. “We are excited that we will get a chance to officially recognize Hap and Meg Esbenshade, the Schaly family and many others this spring at a home baseball game.”
Current members of the Etta Express are looking forward to running out onto one of the best Division III facilities in the nation this spring.
“He knew if you lived in this part of the country, the best way to go is turf. I’m sure Don would be very pleased because the end result is very beautiful.”
“I’m really excited about the new turf and I know that a lot of the other guys are too. It’s been fun to follow the progression throughout the summer and into the fall on the live stream,” says utility player Isaac Danford ’21. “The new surface gives us a facility that is comparable to, if not better than, some of the top programs in the nation throughout all divisions. It should bring a lot of excitement to the program, the school and the community.”
The coaching staff is excited to work less on the field and more with the student-athletes.
“Everything about this is 100-percent positive,” Brewer says. “There is no more tarp duty, no more edging, cutting, raking or lining the field. There is zero upkeep that will fall on the players.”
- Tom Perry