Baseball field no longer an

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 8, 2002



Sports Editor

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Troy State senior infielder Wes Kelly remembers it well.

It was the first day of baseball practice and the usual net that hung behind home plate at Riddle-Pace Field wasn’t up.

"There was a foul ball that went up and landed in the stands," recalls Kelly. "It pounded off of the aluminum bleachers and everybody just cheered. We went wild."

Long overdue, Troy State’s baseball stadium was finally getting the attention it deserved with a complete renovation to the stands as well as the press box and dugouts during the offseason. Gone were the rapidly deteriorating wooden seats, replaced instead with high quality treated aluminum.

Now with the addition of 300 chairback seats, Riddle-Pace’s seating capacity totals over 2,000.

And Kelly hopes to see those stands full this year.

"If we can get the fans to fill it up, it would be nice," he said. "We’ve had a slow start, but I think we’re going to be real good this year."

The Trojans enter tonight’s game with Lipscomb currently 1-3 on the year, after dropping a road series to Nicholls State to open the season. Game time is at 6:30 p.m.

Kelly called the former stands and pressbox that overlooked the baseball diamond an "eyesore." Rain and rust had ravaged Riddle-Pace’s seating to the point where a 1.8 million dollar facelift was the only thing that could save the old stadium from potential ruin.

It also didn’t help that the stadium was the first thing promising student-athletes saw when entering Troy State off of Highway 231.

"I think this is a great thing for the whole university," said Kelly. "I’ve heard people say that it’s the most professional thing they’ve seen on campus. For the baseball program it’s definitely going to help, without a doubt."

And that’s something head baseball coach John Mayotte quickly agrees with.

Prior to the renovations, Mayotte had spent 11 straight years trying to sell recruits on a Division I-A baseball program without a Division I-A stadium.

"One of the first things these kids look for is a good baseball stadium," said Mayotte. "This new facility will be a defining moment in the history of our program. This allows us to have the potential to be a top Division I program as well as a national baseball power."

After three years of waiting, Kelly is just ready to savor is senior season and each of the 29 home games the Trojans have scheduled at Riddle-Pace this year.

"Everybody’s just real excited and ready to get started," he said. "We couldn’t imagine this any better. We’d all heard about the new stadium coming, but we really can’t believe it’s here."

Friday will be the season opener for the Lipscomb, who went 23-26 last year and 14-2 in the TranSouth Conference. Lipscomb is in the third year of a four-year provisional membership into NCAA Division I competition. It is slated to join the Atlantic Sun Conference for the 2003-04 academic year. The Lipscomb roster features six players from Alabama, including Saturday’s scheduled starting pitcher, Derek Caraway, who is from Andalusia.

This will be the first meeting between the two schools. Friday’s game will be carried live on WTBF 94.7 FM in Troy while Sunday’s game can be heard on 970 AM.

Reserved seats are $5, general admission tickets are $3 while high school students and under are $1. Also, anyone wearing a baseball jersey will be admitted free.