By: Payam Agha-Ghassem, Staff Writer; Kati Day, Staff Writer; Matt Hamilton, Sports Editor
Even though the weather has been less than cooperative, many of Towson’s athletic teams have begun their spring seasons, playing in the same facilities as usual. For two teams, though, this season marks a beginning of a new era.
Towson’s softball and men’s and women’s golf teams will welcome new facilities this year. For the softball team, it’s a newly-renovated stadium that has been in the works since the fall. For the golf teams, it’s an indoor facility that replaces old racquetball courts in the back of Towson Center.
The softball stadium was the more expensive project, costing $2 million in total, all of which came from the State. The upgrade was due since 2002, when it was recognized as a Title IX inequity because it lacked amenities like permanent bleachers and a press box, which baseball’s Schuerholz Park received in its renovation in 2001.
The softball stadium was one of Title IX disparities that led to the discontinuation of both men’s baseball and soccer in 2012. The $2 million came in the Spring of 2013, just days after the baseball team received a $300,000 allocation to keep the program alive for two years. The indoor golf facility was less costly.
It took approximately $30,000 in donations to complete the two-room facility, which began construction shortly after the plan was approved by the Space Committee in early 2014, according to Men’s Golf Head Coach Brian Yaniger.
The indoor facility features two rooms: one designed for full-swing practice and the other for putting. It fits alongside other rarely-used racquetball courts and makeshift batting cages for the softball and baseball teams at the Towson Center. Both teams will begin their seasons within the next few weeks and will join volleyball and basketball as teams to inherit new athletic facilities in the last two years.
“Part of something so monumental”
Senior pitcher Missy McCormick is a member of the first Towson softball team to play in the newly-renovated Tiger Softball Complex when the field officially opens this week and hosts the Tiger Softball Classic.
“Winning programs deserve top-of-the-line fields and I am entirely thrilled to be a part of something so monumental,” McCormick said.
Major enhancements were made to the stadium. Amenities include sunken dugouts with restrooms, improved spectator seating, a press box, a concession stand with restrooms and a new scoreboard. The batting cages have been equipped with Astroturf, the bullpens are now turfed, and a state-of-the-art sound system has been installed.
“In my opinion, the grandstands and press box are by far the best renovations to our field,” McCormick said. “Having fans surround the field and hearing the names of your teammates echo throughout a beautiful stadium is the best feeling a Division I player could have.”
Once baseball was saved, the University began to focus on improving the softball stadium.
“Our old field was not even comparable to most high school fields,” Head Coach Lisa Costello said.
Costello said the new stadium is among the best in the Colonial Athletic Association and will be used as a way to entice potential recruits.
“Every player who aspires to play college softball dreams of the stadium they’ll be recognized on,” McCormick said. “A brand new stadium is going to bring in more talent than ever before.”
In December, the Tiger Athletic Fund also announced a seat-naming campaign in which fans can donate $1,000 to have a seat dedicated in someone’s name. By donating, fans receive a seat nameplate and they’ll have their name put on a recognition plaque mounted in the facility.
The team is scheduled to play its home opener on Tuesday against Morgan State if the conditions permit it. First pitch is set for 2 p.m.
“We’re moving up the ladder”
Men’s Golf Head Coach Brian Yaniger knew his team needed an indoor facility to take its game to the next level and did not stop working for over 10 years in order to achieve it.
The mid-season winter lull might not hold the Tigers back now, courtesy of the new indoor practice facility. Winter was once a golfer’s worst nightmare, with the cold and snow preventing the team from playing, but the Tigers are now able to practice indoors.
“What happens is in spring, being our championship season, is that you really need to come out ready,” Yaniger said. “We’ve never really been ready and it puts you in at a huge disadvantage.”
Yaniger had been fundraising for years to begin this project. He said the facility will help his team continue to improve.
“Our athletic director has a vision of Towson that we will continue to grow, get better and compete,” Yaniger said. “We’re moving up the ladder. Having a facility like this only helps to achieve those goals. [It was] the athletic director’s vision that made this happen.”
The first room is dedicated to putting, with four built-in holes that emulate a true breaking green.
The second room features two hitting bays and FlightScope Technology.The monitor captures the players’ swing and projects the ball’s flight path, speed, distance and spin rate as well as the players’ swing-speed, path, club-face and more. This data is projected onto television screens, which the players can use to analyze and correct their swing.
“It really helps with keeping your feel and especially working with your mechanics over winter break, so when you get back it gives you a better opportunity to score,” Sophomore Mackenzie Rice said. “It helps build a positive golf culture for the season ahead. It’s really awesome to just be in that positive environment, working with your teammates to improve and working hard toward the championship season.”
Yaniger said the facility provides an opportunity for growth, not only for golf purposes, but also for the players to build rapport within the Towson athletics community. Women’s Golf Head Coach Kate Schanuel said she agrees.
“It’s convenient because it’s at the Towson Center and feels like a second home away from your dorm room,” Schanuel said. “But we’ll also get to see players from other teams that we wouldn’t ordinarily get to because we usually practice 20 minutes away. That builds camaraderie, not only within our team, but with the other 19 teams as well.”
With the help of the program’s latest addition, the Tigers get closer to achieving their goals, one swing at a time.