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With the 2014 baseball season right around the corner, renovations are in full swing for Panther Field. In addition to the upgrades of previous years, which include a new press box and stadium seating, this year sees additional improvements in an ongoing effort to provide the baseball program with a stadium it can be proud of.

With the help of head baseball coach Alex Ferguson and his staff, Athletic Director Lee Ellis is spearheading the current renovations.

The estimated price tag for this project is $500,000, to be spent over several years. Everyone is anxious for it to be completed in time for the 2014 home opener.

Ferguson said the centerpiece is the new warning track and outfield fence that will replace the hazardous existing design. The gravel has been laid to define the warning track for fielders. It will serve an additional purpose, by continuing around the field on both sidelines to allow for the Gator tractor to drive on it without damaging the grass on the field. In rainy weather, costly damage can be caused by driving the Gator over wet grass.

The temporary on-field bullpens from last season have been upgraded. They have protective fencing to enclose players warming up. Catchers will not need “spotters” to protect them from foul balls with the new fencing. Instead of using a temporary, portable mound, pitchers will now be able to warm up on a regulation mound, built into the bullpen. This will help pitchers get ready in near-exact game conditions.

Less noticeable improvements will be the new brick wall that will serve a dual purpose. Primarily, it will form the back wall for the dugouts, which can now comfortably fit a whole team, while also providing structural support as a retaining wall, containing any run-off of mud in wet weather. This improvement will lessen the need for daily maintenance to remove mud and debris that washes down on to the fields with rains.

The brick wall will further extend down both foul lines to the end of the field to continue the retaining wall and keep the hillside from washing onto the field. This will give the field a sense of enclosure and turn it into more of a stadium rather than just an open field.

“These were much needed upgrades and shows Principia College’s commitment to upgrading facilities,” Ferguson said. “Over the past five years, the transformation of the field has been incredible. I played at Prin from 1999 to 2003, and when I became head coach, most of the complex was the same.”

During fall practice, it has been difficult at times to work around the renovation activities. The team is excited to have these improvements made to the field. Assistant baseball coach Greg Ball played for Principia before the renovations and said that “the field definitely didn’t have as special a feel compared to now.”

Ferguson is looking forward to an exciting season and is working long hours overseeing the improvements and getting practices scheduled around the construction work. “Once all these projects have been completed, Principia College’s baseball complex will be one of the top facilities in the conference,” he said. Ball added that “There is an added element of excitement for players and fans who get to experience a ball game at Principia because of the new renovations.”

The coaching staff and team hope to see fans enjoying the spring season when it comes around. “The goal is to always present Principia in the proper manner and to meet student needs as performers and spectators,” Ellis said.

Image courtesy of Julia Suber