URI's Bill Beck Baseball Field receiving major improvements
Bill Beck Field is scheduled for renovation in the next year in hopes of making URI’s baseball program more attractive to prospective athletes and other highly competitive college teams. Carissa Johnson | Cigar
At the start of the 2009 season the Bill Beck Baseball Field endured an extreme makeover.
New fences and bullpens were put in, along with a new backstop, scoreboard and the installation of Field Turf. This was all done in order to enhance player development, help recruiting and create one of the best venues in the state. And according to head coach Jim Foster as well as Athletic Director Thorr Bjorn, the best is yet to come.
"Most people see schools through their athletics," Foster said. "We're hoping to build a true stadium that can bring in some big schools and hopefully host the Atlantic-10 tournament and regionals."
The $1.3 million project was made possible by one extremely generous and helpful donation to the baseball program.
"It never would have been done without it," Bjorn said when asked about how big of an impact the donation had to the field.
The idea to have turf as a playing surface instead of grass came down to two main reasons. The first was an effort to improve player development. Meaning, coaches and players can practice on the same field they play on. That is something most schools don't have a chance to do or refrain from doing in order to not mess up their home playing surface. Also having a mild winter, as we had this year, gave Rhody coaches and players the advantage of being able to practice on their field nearly all year, which they did.
Another focus is that URI can now rent out the field for games and host fundraisers in the summer, which can help raise money for future projects.
FieldTurf, a company based out of Georgia, put in the artificial surface. They supply over a half dozen NFL teams with their turf, as well as the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays with their home diamonds.
"It's a great surface," junior outfielder Chris Famiglietti said. "Probably one of the best fields I've played on before."
The team also added a hitting barn last year, so instead of dropping down the nets in east gym on the days when it was to cold to hit outside, they have somewhere else to go.
As for the future of Bill Beck Field plans have been in the drawing phase for sometime.
The program's current primary focus for upcoming years is adding stands, hopefully big enough to hold a capacity of 1,000. Additional plans that are in place are adding a student section, press boxes and the installation of lights.
"People don't realize how lucky we are to have the land we have to work with, we always saw a lot of potential here and we want to give people a strong first impression when they come here," Foster said.
Bjorn, just like any other bright athletic director, isn't focused on improving player development in just baseball. Over the last several years there have been evolving discussions of creating a student athlete development center. The plan is to make east gym into a large weight room, renovate vacant space near the ROTC to turn into academic support and improving the training room.
"It would be great to be able to show incoming recruits where they will be working out, where we can help them academically and where they will be taken care of physically," Bjorn said.
Bjorn will continue to look at more "donor-interest" projects similar to the baseball field. With the extreme amount of success and positive feedback the university has received with the baseball field more projects like this should be encouraged in the future.
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