FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
CARBONDALE, Ill. – In the midst of a renaissance, which has included recent additions and renovations to many of the athletic department facilities on the Southern Illinois University campus, the athletic department is now planning a major renovation project at Abe Martin Field, home of the SIU baseball team.
The plan includes a renovation of the seating bowl, press box and dugouts as well as the addition of stadium lights, a synthetic grass playing surface with a new drainage system and a security fence around the facility.
To fund the project, former coach Richard “Itch” Jones helped to form a committee along with many baseball alumni to begin the fund raising effort. The committee has already raised nearly $700,000.
“The response has been big early,” Jones said. “The majority of former players were interested in helping the university.”
Baseball alumni have driven the campaign. Mark Newman, senior vice president of baseball operations for the New York Yankees, is one of many baseball alumni who have contributed to the project.
“My involvement in this project is an expression of gratitude for all that SIU and the Saluki baseball program has given me,” Newman said. “My time as an undergraduate student, a law student and as a player and coach with the Saluki baseball program has had a deep and lasting effect on my life. It is difficult for me to adequately express my appreciation for all SIU has done for me and so many others. My contribution is a humble attempt to say thank you.”
The plan has already met preliminary approval from the board of trustees, and the university will now begin exploring the next logistical steps, which will include working with an architect to formalize the plans and taking bids from contractors. In the meantime, the committee continues to raise funds for the project.
Abe Martin Field was built in 1964, and much of the original structure still stands today. The last major changes to the facility were the addition of a clubhouse in 1988 and a batting cage complex in 2000.
“Everyone is glad to see that this is happening,” said former Saluki outfielder Steve Finley, a two-time major league All-Star and Gold Glove winner. “This will give Southern Illinois the facility that it needs to compete. Not a whole lot has changed since I was there, and that’s a long time to go without any change. I’m happy with the university. They are really putting a strong effort to make this happen, and we all want to make it a reality.”