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Jackets Excited About New Baseball Home

Feb. 14, 2002

By Simit Shah – People are always a little giddy when they are moving into a new home, so you’ll have to forgive the Yellow Jackets baseball team for gushing a bit about their new digs.

The newly rebuilt Russ Chandler Stadium is a true gem. The $9.7 million facility, which rests in the same location as the previous structure, has plenty of amenities for both players and spectators.

First and foremost, fans will notice the expanded and improved seating areas. There are now approximately 1100 seats with chairbacks around the home plate area. Bleachers extended down the baselines well beyond first and third base. The capacity has ballooned to over 4,100.

There are also several indoor and outdoor suites along the upper concourse, which includes a new ticket sales and concession area.

Under the stands, the Yellow Jackets will enjoy some modern creature comforts that were lacking in the old stadium. The clubhouse has nearly doubled in size, and many of the auxiliary areas like the training and weight rooms have expanded areas as well.

There are also three indoor batting cages, which was a high priority for the coaching staff. Previously, the team had just two outdoor cages, preventing them from working during inclement weather.

“The stadium has exceeded my expectations,” said head coach Danny Hall. “We started out thinking that we might renovate, but now we’ve got a multi-million dollar facility. It’s a dream come true. We’re looking forward to playing here, and I think fans will be excited about coming to see games here.”

As nice as things are behind the scenes, the playing field itself has received the highest marks. The old playing surface, to put it kindly, had its own unique character. There were plenty of bad bounces, as well as wading pool-like puddles when the rain fell.

The new turf, which was bought from the Tennessee Titans’ sod farm, is more level and sits atop a state-of-the-art drainage system.

“I love the field,” said senior Victor Menocal. “A lot of guys get out here early, and they don’t want to leave.”

The senior All-American shortstop has enjoyed the true hops on the infield during preseason practice, and he compared it to the Braves spring training facility in Orlando.

“We played there last year, and this is just like it. It’s great to be able to have that quality for your home field,” he said.

Fifth-year senior Matthew Boggs had his share of adventures on the old surface, so he is looking forward to more consistent grounders on the infield.

“In the old stadium, we had a lot of uneven places that created a lot of tricky hops,” he said. “That’s the biggest improvement.”

Players like Menocal and Boggs truly appreciate the new stadium, but it’s a different story for the 17 incoming freshmen. The newcomers’ exploits will unfold in the lap of luxury, and that fact is not lost on the upperclassmen.

“They’re kind of spoiled,” said Boggs. “We joke around about the bad hops. I don’t know if they have the full appreciation for it.”

“For a lot of these guys, the high school fields they played on weren’t very good,” added Menocal. “They appreciate this new field as much as we do, but we always tell them how lucky they are.”

Other improvements to the field include padding along the outfield wall, which extends beyond the field’s previous dimensions. The bullpens are now tucked beyond the bleachers rather than in the field of play.

There is also a new video display in left-center field that will provide in-house replays at each game. The lighting has also improved and now meets AAA baseball standards.

“I don’t think there’s anything in here that I don’t like,” said Hall. “It’s a great baseball facility. It’s got the old-time stadium look to it with the brick. There’s nothing you can say that was done cheaply. Everything is first class.”

Hall puts the facility on par with a modern minor league stadium, but he feels it is definitely one of the best on the collegiate level.

“I’d put in the top five,” he said. “There are stadiums that are bigger, but in terms of what we have here, it has to be in the top five in the country.”

The architectural firm of HOK, which has designed several modern major league parks, had plenty of ideas coming into the process. The Athletic Association let them steer most of the decisions, but Hall did get to put his signature on the stadium-he picked the style and color of the seats.

Hall was a little unsure about the selection, but he soon got his validation.

“I was watching the playoffs, the Yankees and Mariners, I think. That exact same seat is in Seattle’s stadium, so I felt pretty good about that,” he said with a smile and quite possibly a hint of giddiness.

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