When Hawley Field was built in 1971, no one would have envisioned what it would witness this season.
West Virginia has won five of its nine Big 12 home games, swept Big 12 preseason favorite Kansas State, took two of three from No. 11 Texas - arguably the most successful college baseball program ever - and has even served as a host to former Major League great Roger Clemens.
Most importantly, though, in just 13 home games in 2014, 14,655 people walked through the gates to watch the streaking WVU baseball team in its final year at Hawley Field.
Mountaineers fans have proven one thing – they’ve come to appreciate good baseball played by both the hometown team and its oppositions.
In just the two seasons since West Virginia’s move to the Big 12 Conference, the baseball program has recorded 16 of the 19 largest home crowds ever since its first season of competition in 1892.
More specifically, the top seven largest crowds in Hawley Field’s 43-year history have come since WVU made the jump to one of the most competitive baseball conferences in the land.
Perhaps the most impressive part of these numbers is the fact this spring baseball season hasn’t exactly been the most welcoming to fans in terms of weather conditions. The Mountaineers played a mid-April contest while being blanketed by snow flurries and had just one Friday night game begin as scheduled and not delayed due to weather.
Another note to consider is that West Virginia played its 12 conference home games in Charleston and Beckley a year ago. In 2013, 10 of those 12 games saw crowds greater than 1,000, highlighted by 3,279 in the attendance on May 3, at Appalachian Power Park – the largest home crowd ever at a WVU baseball game.
The crowds have proved to be more than beneficial for the Mountaineers, too, contributing to a 27-9 home record for head coach Randy Mazey and the Mountaineers over the past two seasons, including a 13-8 record against Big 12 Conference opponents.
The baseball program hasn’t been the only to see a major spike in home attendance since West Virginia joined the Big 12 Conference, though. Three of the top seven volleyball crowds in program history came in 2013 alone, and a crowd of 3,112 – the largest ever to watch a home volleyball match - watched the Mountaineers face Texas on Aug. 29, 2012 in the first-ever on-campus Big 12 event.
The women’s basketball program has reaped benefits as well. The WVU Coliseum welcomed 13,447 fans to take in a matchup with top-ranked Baylor. That was by far the largest home crowd to take in a WVU women’s basketball game.
The Big 12 Conference is as competitive a conference as it comes in the world on college athletics. Since the Big 12 began competition in 1996-97, the league can boast 52 NCAA team titles and 537 individual national championships.
The tradition and prestige of the league has clearly attracted the interest of Mountaineer fans everywhere.