The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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June 22, 2013

Baseball not just on Marshall backburner

BECKLEY — With all the improvements to existing athletic facilities and the groundbreaking on projects currently under way, a Marshall fan’s first reaction might be that baseball is an afterthought.

True, other things have taken precedence — an indoor practice facility and new soccer facility chief among them — but baseball does have its place in the university’s plans.

Coach Jeff Waggoner’s team is without an on-campus stadium, forced to play its home games either here in Beckley at Linda K. Epling Stadium or at Charleston’s Appalachian Power Park. Playing in Huntington would have its obvious advantages, and work toward that end is the ultimate goal.

There is, however, one hurdle to be cleared.

“The main issue with baseball is land,” Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick said. “Even though we love to play in Beckley, and even if we had our own facility would still want to play in Beckley, and would love to continue to play West Virginia in Beckley, and we play in Charleston; (Appalachian Power Park) is a great facility. But land is the issue.”

Finding a site to construct a new stadium certainly presents issues. One former Marshall official recently indicated there would be too much red tape for certain tracts of land to be purchased or used because of regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency.

But Hamrick stands firm that finding a site is a priority. He and Huntington mayor Steve Williams were teammates at Marshall and have that very goal. There has even been speculation in published reports that a new stadium be used to attract Minor League Baseball back to Huntington.

“We’re searching every day,” he said. “We have talked on several occasions. We are going to aggressively look for land here in the next year to two years to where we can do something with a (potential) baseball stadium.”

Given Hamrick’s track record since he took over as AD nearly four years ago, don’t bet against a stadium becoming reality. At one time the indoor practice facility was thought to be a perpetual dream, but ground was broken last month. And there have been numerous upgrades to existing facilities.

“If you were to ask me when and where, I couldn’t tell you, other than we are making every effort. But we had to get these other facilities taken care of first,” Hamrick said. “And we had to improve the football facility. If you remember, three years ago we put new scoreboards in, new sound system in, videoboards. We put new lights in the Henderson Center. A new sound system in the Henderson Center. Air cooling units at the Henderson Center.

“I would feel safe to say (in the last three years), we have put — with what’s happening now — over $40 million into our athletic facilities. We’ve tried to upgrade them and improve them, and (build) new ones.

“But, baseball is next up on the agenda.”

— E-mail: gfauber@

register-herald.com

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