|Bill Hawley, son of Hawley Field namesake Roy "Legs" Hawley, throws out the ceremonial first pitch for the last game at Hawley Field.
|All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – We saw just about everything that Hawley Field has become known for through the years on Sunday afternoon when West Virginia defeated Texas, 12-6, to claim a three-game series from the 11th-ranked Longhorns.
There were lots of hits – some real rocket shots out there from both teams – lots of runs and, yes, lots and lots of wind.
Oh, that Hawley Field wind … sometimes it was blowing so hard from across the field that the pine trees behind the outfield fence were going sideways. It was a real challenge for anyone at the ballpark to eat those $1 hot dogs without wearing them, but no one seemed to mind all that much.
Kids were playing catch, mothers were pushing infants in strollers behind the leftfield fence and the hillside below the soccer field was littered with lawn chairs and blankets. Afterward, a couple hundred of those kids stuck around to run the bases and get autographs from the players. And then there was Bill Hawley, the son of Hawley Field namesake Roy "Legs" Hawley, out there to throw out the first pitch. Even The Rocket himself, Roger Clemens, was at the ballpark to watch his son Kasey play for the Longhorns.
Everyone was having a blast.
Through the years, we’ve seen lots of hits, lots of runs, and certainly lots of wind at Hawley Field, but what we really haven’t seen are lots of people out here to take it all in – that is until Randy Mazey arrived two years ago.
The announced crowd of 2,237 for today’s game was the second largest in the 43 ½-year history of Hawley Field. I write 43 ½ years because West Virginia actually played some games here during the 1970 season, it was pointed out to me in an email earlier this week.
Nevertheless, Mazey said he was so happy to see everyone out at the ballpark on Sunday to help West Virginia defeat the Longhorns that he decided to take his players out on the field afterward to sing Country Roads with them.
What better way to send Hawley off into the history books than by singing Country Roads, right?
“It was an unbelievable crowd and somehow you’ve got to thank everyone for coming out and that’s about the best way to do it,” Mazey said.
The largest crowd ever at Hawley Field occurred last year in 2013 during Mazey’s first season when 2,535 showed up for the Pitt game to see Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin sign the bill to build the new ballpark that is now under construction at the University Town Centre.
Three weeks ago, there were 2,143 here for a Saturday afternoon game against nationally ranked Oklahoma State with 4,142 fans ending up watching that three-game series. That was the best three-game series total ever at Hawley Field until this weekend when 5,413 walked through the turnstiles to watch the Mountaineers take two out of three from the Longhorns.
There were many years when 5,413 didn’t come out to Hawley Field to watch WVU baseball games for an entire season, let alone a three-game weekend series. Mazey said the excitement and energy in the dugout picked up throughout the morning as the players watched the stadium begin to fill up.
“Texas comes to town and the community rallies around us,” he said. “I made a plea for everyone to come out here and help us win – not just watch the game – and they did that because as the crowd is filing in you can see our guys getting excited and wanting to play in front of this many people.”
“It was great having everyone come out today to support us in this huge series,” added senior first baseman Ryan McBroom
. “We love it when they come out and support us and it’s a big reason why we win games.”
Last year, Charleston and Beckley were ecstatic with the turnouts for Big 12 Conference baseball games. More than 3,200 watched West Virginia play Oklahoma and attendance topped 2,000 two other times in the Capital City against the Sooners and TCU.
Down in Beckley, more than 2,000 braved frigid temperatures to watch West Virginia defeat Kansas last season.
Earlier today, it was announced that the Mountaineers’ game against Virginia Tech on Tuesday night at Hunnicutt Field in Princeton is now sold out. To my knowledge, there has never been an advanced sellout for anything involving Mountaineer baseball. The capacity for that facility is 1,700 and there are no tickets to be had two days before the game.
This all bodes well for the Mountaineers when they open their new ballpark next season on the hillside just west of the current field, across the Monongahela River.
“A couple of times I came out to coach third base and it was just littered with people; every seat was taken and I told somebody before the game, ‘Look how far we’ve come in just a short period of time,’” said Mazey.
They sure have.
Director of Athletics Oliver Luck once spoke about the rejuvenating effect the Big 12 would have on West Virginia University baseball and you can now clearly see it when you come out to the ballpark. It’s just a fun place to be. Yes, it can be windy at times, but the brand of baseball that is being played out there right now will also blow you away.
I imagine it will be windy up at that beautiful new ballpark when it opens next year, but I don’t think Mountaineer baseball fans will mind too much - they will be too busy enjoying some fantastic college baseball.
Just like we did today.