Baseball gets new FieldTurf infield

Turf installation begins on the north campus ...

... and now in place.

Baseball gets new FieldTurf infield

By Gene McGivern
Sports Information Director

One year after St. Thomas installed FieldTurf on its football field, the institution has installed the same state-of-the-art surface on the infield on its on-campus baseball field.

The $300,000 project was covered through a major gift from former Tommie baseball pitcher David Koch – a 1952 graduate. Koch is the former CEO of Graco Industries of Minneapolis, a worldwide industry specializing in fluid handling systems and components. A member of the university's board of trustees since 1978, Koch and his wife, Barbara, have been among the university's top benefactors.

Also included in the project will be 200 bleacher seats installed behind home plate. New chain link fencing was also put up across the outfield. The field is now flanked by two residence halls constructed in the last seven years – Morrison Hall, opened in 1998, and Selby Hall, opened in 2005.

"For years we had one of the worst fields in the conference, and now we'll have the best," said Coach Dennis Denning, the 2001 NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year.

The turf will allow for more flexibility in March and early April when snow and rain have often postponed games and practices. And Denning noted that the turf will save time and money on maintenance. "Most days I was dragging the infield dirt three and four times before and during varsity and junior varsity practices," Denning said, "so the FieldTurf will be a plus every day."

There are only two cutouts in the artificial turf – for the pitching mound and home plate. Denning said that will make it a surer, faster and safer surface for fielders and base runners.

A long-term goal is to turf the outfield, which would further enhance the facility for campuswide use by St. Thomas intramurals, PE classes and recreation.

St. Thomas is 26-3 on its home diamond over the last three seasons. The Tommies have swept the conference regular-season and postseason baseball titles in 2004 and 2005, and have reached the NCAA playoffs in 10 of the first 11 seasons under Denning.