|A conceptual rendering of what the new ballpark at the University Town Centre will look like.
|WVU Sports Communications
West Virginia baseball games are different this year. An aura of energy has encompassed the team since the season began in February and when one walks into Hawley Field, it’s hard to miss this feeling. Junior center fielder Bobby Boyd
has some insight into the season’s atmosphere.
“The fans have brought a different feeling into the ballpark this season,” said Boyd. “They have done a great job of energizing our team during games”.
Boyd is not alone in his sentiment, other members of the club have noticed the vibe. Junior second basemen Justin Fox
believes the energy has been building for some time.
“I noticed a slight change last year,” explained Fox. “We have always had a great base of support, but over the last two seasons the community has grown”.
These guys are onto something. The program had some of its largest crowds since Randy Mazey has taken over the program. In fact, 12 of the 15 best-attended games in school history have occurred in the last two seasons. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Ross Vance
said the energy in the park these days is something off which he feeds.
“It is great when you have the fans backing you,” explained Vance. “It adds another element to the game.”
The players have identified another factor contributing to the buzz, and it is located on the hillside above Hawley Field just across the Monongahela River.
“With the new field next year, eyes have turned toward us,” said Boyd. “All of the guys on the team are really excited for the move."
This weekend’s series against Texas is the last time Mountaineer baseball will be played at Hawley Field. Next year the club will make its highly anticipated move to a new park located at the University Town Centre. The new facility will bring with it a plethora of improvements.
“The biggest addition is having everything we need in one central location,” explained Boyd. “The new facility in itself will progress the program.”
Construction on the field is just getting started, but it has already impacted West Virginia's ability to recruit. Junior right-handed pitcher Michael Bennett
saw the opportunity to pitch in the new park as one of the reasons he transferred to WVU.
“Knowing that West Virginia was building such a state-of-the-art facility influenced my decision,” said Bennett. “It is going to help bring in athletes from different portions of the country.”
A native of Bandon, Ore., Bennett is a testament to this fact. The numbers also support his statement. Six of the Mountaineers' 2015 recruits are from the state of Texas. The class ranks No. 48 in the country, according to Perfect Game, and is the highest a West Virginia class has ever been ranked.
The team is eager to play ball in its new home but the players also understand the responsibilities of being the last group to play at Hawley Field this seasons.
“Playing here (Hawley Field) has been great,” articulated Fox. “We are excited to move but understand the history of Hawley.”
Fox’s classmate Boyd agrees.
“Hawley is one of the best hitter’s ballparks I have ever played in,” said Boyd. “Leaving will be a change, but hopefully the movement will continue the energy of this season.”
This weekend’s series against the Longhorns represents more than a Big 12 matchup for the Mountaineers: it symbolizes the passing of a torch that will usher in a new era of West Virginia baseball, one that promises even bigger things ahead.