Once again this season, the Ashland University baseball team is playing its home games at Donges Field. This year, however, that facility has a new look. This is not a fashion statement, it is an effort to bring players, fans and AU alumni a better experience.
An expansion of the facility includes the construction of a 36-foot long scoreboard, a 14-foot-by-28-foot, two-tiered press box and a radar gun. The press box features heat for those cold spring days when the temperature struggles to reach 45 degrees and air conditioning for hot, late spring days. The press box will seat 20 occupants with ease.
Along with these new improvements, in the future, the AU sports information department will be utilizing live statistics. That will allow fans to follow the home games via a computer.
AU head coach John Schaly commented on the many ways this will help the baseball program.
"We've never been able to do this (live stats), Schaly said. "All of this will definitely help in recruitment. There will be a better atmosphere."
The construction will also allow students to get involved in the game. Students involved in radio and TV on campus will call games from the press box, which is located directly behind home plate. This is the first time the baseball field has had a permanent press box. In the past, radio crews would broadcast from a folding table that was set up along either the first or third base line within an arm's length of the crowd.
"This will give them more opportunity to work on their craft," Schaly said.
Once the radar gun is up and running, fans will be able to see how hard pitchers are throwing. The new scoreboard is larger than the previous scoreboard and gives the inning-by-inning score. This unit also includes a message center. That will allow the Eagles to display information on upcoming games and promotions.
These are just the most recent alterations the Eagles have made to the baseball facility. In the past several years, the Eagles have improved the playing surface, installed a new backstop and updated the bullpens. For years, the baseball and football teams shared the locker rooms at the facility. Now, with football moving to the Troop Center, the baseball team is the sole occupant of the locker rooms and that area has been enhanced. Several years ago, the Eagles did work on the outfield fence. During this past offseason, the university has also installed a practice infield. That is located adjacent to the parking area just off the locker room area.
"It's all going to look a little different," Schaly said.
AU has played two home doubleheaders against Northwood and three home games against Grand Valley State. The next home date is Thursday, Apr. 7, (2 p.m.) when Lake Erie comes to Ashland for a doubleheader.