Owing to the installation of a new playing surface at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, Coach Jack Leggett and his Clemson baseball team had to conduct the early part of their fall season a bit nomadically.
And while the Tigers have recently begun playing on their new field, the initial stages of the improvement project required an exodus to other locations for full-scale scrimmages. To date, that’s involved four trips to Easley (the J.B. “Red” Owens Recreation Complex, which annually hosts the Big League World Series), and another one to Greenville’s Fluor Field (the home of the Greenville Drive).
Leggett said that he and the Tigers appreciated the hospitality at both venues.
“Really it wasn’t that difficult,” said Leggett. “Going to Easley was a very quick trip, and the recreation department of the city of Easley was very competent. All of the people that were involved were very accommodating, which took some pressure off of us as far as our scrimmages were concerned. And then the people at the Greenville Drive Stadium have also always worked very well with us.
“Other than those trips, we’ve been able to work in our cages, work on the turf, and work on the back field. And now we’re on our field, and we can scrimmage on our field, on occasion. So we haven’t really had to travel all that much, yet.”
As to the home-field revamp, which is the latest in an ongoing series of facilities upgrades, Leggett said that several different issues were addressed.
“We’re really excited about what’s happening with our playing surface,” he said. “It needed some TLC. It needed a new drainage system, and needed new sod and irrigation. And it needed to be leveled-off. It may have looked great to the naked-eye, but in the outfield it was not championship caliber.
“So now it’s nice and flat. The dirt has been redone, so we’ve got a great playing surface. The dirt in the infield comes from Pennsylvania, and it’s the dirt they put on professional fields, so it’s playing really well for us, right now.
“We still have our hill in the outfield, so I think the field’s been a great addition, and I think it’s going to be really nice once we get through fertilizing it and top-dressing it, and playing with it throughout the fall. We have the right guys in line with Mike Echols and his crew in getting this thing looking the way it needs to look.”
Though the Tigers are already enjoying the new surface, they’re also being careful with it.
“We are practicing on our field, though not every day,” Leggett explained. “Today (Oct. 8), we’re practicing on the turf and giving the field a day-off after it rained yesterday. So we’re trying to be sensitive to the fact that it’s still new turf. So we’ll scrimmage on it tomorrow and the next day, and then we have fall-break and five days off of it, and then we’ll come back and we should be on it more consistently when we scrimmage, at least.”
Another change involved moving home plate and the foul poles.
“The fences are staying in the same spot, though we brought the plate out just a few feet,” said Leggett. “And that really hasn’t made much of a difference in batting practice, so it’s not going to be like all of a sudden there are going to be a lot of home runs. It is what it is. We just moved the plate out, and moved the foul poles a little bit. So the plate’s just a little bit further away from the stands. You probably wouldn’t even notice it if I didn’t say anything.”
Moving the plate also sets the stage for renovations still to come.
“Next year we’ve got another plan to bring premium seats down behind home plate, which will bring things closer,” said Leggett. “We’ll move the dugouts out so that everything will go closer to the field when we get this next phase of things done.
“The plan right now is to put as many as 120 or 140 premium seats back there down at ground-level. The plan then is to do our player-improvement facility, and our offices, and our legacy room, where we kind of showcase the history of Clemson baseball. So we’ve got a really neat concept and a really neat building that I think is going to be approved, and will be started to be constructed as soon as the next season’s over. So we’re excited about it.”