On the surface, the program is getting a $15 million upgrade to their stadium, with viewing suites and a new concourse area, new field turf, a new scoreboard, a team shop, press box, a team hitting area, and increased seating capacity.
In February, they finished construction on a $4 million dollar team building along the right field line, complete with team locker rooms, offices for the coaching staff, and a training room.
With the Huskies playing in one of the most competitive conferences in the country–with baseball powerhouses like the USC Trojans, Stanford Cardinal, Arizona State Sun Devils, the UCLA Golden Bears, and the 2012 CWS champion Arizona Wildcats–competition is fierce for young recruits. The new state-of-the-art facilities are a draw, as well as a symbol of the commitment the administration has made to the program.
The transformation goes far deeper, however, as Lindsay Meggs knows. The head coach, now in his third year at the helm for the Huskies, needed to change the mindset of his players, too.
“When we arrived three years ago, there just wasn’t a commitment to the things you had to do team-wise, administratively, or academically,” said Meggs. “You could have walked in here two years ago and made an argument that we had the worst facilities of any school in the country. There wasn’t a commitment to doing those things like championship programs do.”
Meggs challenged his team and the athletics department to start making some changes. The administration stood behind their coach, who has a history of turning programs around with success stories at Chico State and Indiana State.
The hardest part, he noted, was finding the people willing to make the commitment both on and off the field. But with Athletic Director Scott Woodward standing by the plans for new facilities, Meggs had the physical backing he needed to sell the program to young recruits.
“I think the biggest challenge was trying to find kids who wanted to make the commitment to (academics, fitness, and the game),” said Meggs. “We started chipping away at the facilities, bringing in students. We demanded our kids treat their bodies like Olympic athletes.”
Last year’s full recruit class of 21 players showed early signs of a program that has bought into the culture change, from modifying their style from a big-hitting team to small-ball style play, to student athletes completely committed in the classroom, to putting the effort in at the training room.
“We have such incredible resources on campus, we’re so renowned for academics, and we want people to speak the same way about our baseball program.”
The team is certainly making strides towards that. In 2011, the Huskies finished with a disappointing 13-37 record. In 2012, they went 30-25. As a team, they sat together during the selection show to see if they would be playing for a chance in Omaha. Though they didn’t make it in 2012, Meggs hopes to watch the show in 2013 to find out where—not if—they’ll make a post-season run. “Our goal is to watch it and know where we’re going. The following year is to know who is coming to us. That’s our calendar.”
More than that, Meggs hopes to be a regular host for the Super Regionals, thanks in part to the new facilities and new mindset. With the commitment in place and goals laid out, the Huskies are well on their way to building a program that goes beyond the bricks and mortar of the new ballpark.
“The history is something we’re trying to build, to create a tradition that our guys are going to look back on ten years from now and say ‘we were a part of that.’”
And if Meggs has his way, they will.