After not having a ballfield to call their own, it looks like the Marshall Thundering Herd's baseball team is finally going to be playing on a true home field. A new baseball stadium is on the drawing board right now, that will allow the Herd to start hosting ball games in March 2021.
Talking about an early Christmas present: I met Herd head baseball coach Jeff Waggoner at this year's state high school baseball championship and, wow, was he excited about the project.
I recently caught up with the coach to talk more about the stadium and how much he is looking forward to the new digs.
"It's something we have been working on for some time to build, since I first arrived at Marshall in 2007. The new stadium will help us reach our full potential as a first-class Division 1 baseball program."
Under the plans previoulsy unveiled, a new Marshall ball stadium will be constructed at an eight-acre parcel of property in Huntington's Highlawn neighborhood.
Marshall officials have previously stated that if fundraising efforts go as planned, their goal is to begin construction on the new ballpark in March of next year. Waggoner made it clear to me he is involved.
"While it's basically the architects that are pushing the wagon right now, we are working together to plan out a budget for the massive project," he said. "One area I am watching closely is the design of the locker rooms; it might not sound exciting but having the best locker facility is an important factor when you bring a recruit in to see your facility. It's basically going to be their home away from home and it has to be top notch."
The cost of the planned ballpark will be about $20 million.
Marshall has been searching for that "Field of Dreams" for its baseball program for some time. The name of the game in college athletics is recruiting and Waggoner said he knows this new facility will help Marshall stand out when attracting new student-athletes and developing them.
"All of your development for the players is going to be in one place, including an indoor practice facility, academic area and weight room, which is really nice to tell a kid about when you are sitting in their living room, trying to convince them and their parents to come and play at Marshall," Waggoner said.
The plan is to have the new ballpark feature seating for 3,500 fans, including 500 club seats, designed to meet the NCAA's requirements for hosting regional and super regional games.
A nice, new baseball field in Huntington is going to be great for student athletes and fans to enjoy, but it doesn't necessarily mean winning baseball. Waggoner is confident though, a new facility isn't going to hurt.
"You just don't build a field and you're good - it takes some time to get the right players in there. We are recruiting kids right now that are going to affect the next four or five years in the stadium. What it does is, it gives you a chance to get depth in your program. When you only have 11.4 scholarships to offer, you are splitting up that money a lot, a new stadium just adds so much value to your program."
Getting the project funded and built in about two years is very ambitious, but considering the fact that the university now has a new multipurpose facility, along with recent improvements to the Cam Henderson Center and at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, the task is feasible. I am personally looking forward to being able to watch college baseball in Huntington, when the Herd takes the field in the new stadium.
Christian Deiss, of Scott Depot, is a rising sophomore at Hurricane High School.