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Field of dreams

Wed., April 18, 2007

After playing its home games off campus for the past 3 1/2 seasons, Gonzaga University’s vagabond baseball team settled into new digs earlier this spring.

On Friday, prior to its 6 p.m. West Coast Conference matchup against Saint Mary’s College, GU will officially dedicate its $8.5 million Patterson Baseball Complex and Washington Trust Field, which coach Mark Machtolf hopes will help level the playing field in his ongoing recruiting battles against opponents from warmer climates.

“It’s amazing how many more doors this place has already opened as far as recruiting is concerned,” Machtolf said earlier this week while taking members of the media on a tour of the new facility that features 1,300 theatre-style seats, which are part of the brick-detailed grandstands, and heated dugouts that provide access via underground passages to locker rooms and shower areas for both the visiting and home teams.

“It might not be one of the biggest facilities in the country, but it’s one of the best,” Machtolf added.

The home locker room and shower area sits adjacent to a team lounge that is similar to those used by the men’s and women’s basketball teams in the nearby McCarthey Athletic Center and includes leather sofas, a 42-inch plasma television, study area and direct access to a fully equipped training room.

There is also a locker room and shower area for Machtolf and his staff, along with an umpire’s room and a large press box that sits atop the grandstands behind home plate and is serviced by an elevator.

GU officials broke ground last June on the new complex, which is located on the south side of the McCarthey Athletic Center parking lot on a piece of land that formerly housed a postal annex. ALSC Architects did the design work and Garco Construction handled the construction.

Former Gonzaga player and coach Steve Hertz, who is the university’s director of athletic relations, spearheaded fundraising efforts for the new complex, which is named after the family of Michael Patterson, chairman of GU’s Board of Trustees and was a major contributor to the project.

Hertz, who stepped down as Bulldogs coach three years ago, will emcee Friday night’s dedication ceremonies, which start at 5:45, and said he has been losing sleep over the upcoming event for the past several days, knowing he won’t have enough time to thank all the people who had a hand in helping make his dream of building a new baseball stadium a reality.

“I’d need an hour and half to do that,” Hertz said, “and that saddens me. But other than that, it’s been perpetual chills and goose bumps watching it being built. And now I look out at this and think, ‘My goodness. Did this really happen?’ “

Hertz said he was particularly pleased by the university’s decision to go top drawer with nearly every element of the project, including the visitors’ locker room, which is a rarity among even some of the newer college stadiums.

“The administration’s resolve, from the very start, was to do this thing right, and we did,” Hertz said. “Not to use a baseball cliché, but you only get one swing at it.”

The new complex features a beautiful, plush playing surface with a state-of-the art draining system to further accommodate the cold, wet springs of the Pacific Northwest.

Tommy Brown, who was hired away from Whitworth College to take over as GU’s athletic turf manager last fall, said the grass used on the field is a blue-rye mix that was tested and recommended by A M Landshaper, Inc., which handled the initial grow-in period prior to his arrival.

“For this climate, it’s probably the best grass you can have,” Brown said. “The bluegrass gives you a nice thatch layer for density, and then the rye grass gives you great color, too. For this area, it’s the choice.”

The dirt portion of the infield is made of an orange clay that gives the playing area a unique color and consistency and adds to the overall beauty of the stadium.

“It’s just a great facility,” Brown said. “Look at it. Can you imagine coming to work here every day? It’s really tough.”

Machtolf said his players, especially those old hands who were forced to play home games at Spokane Falls Community College and Avista Stadium after August/ART Stadium was razed in April 2003 to make room for the McCarthey Athletic Center, are ecstatic over their new playground.

The Zags have won five of the eight games they have played on Washington Trust Field aftet Tuesday night’s 7-4 non-conference loss against regional rival Washington State in the first contest played under the stadium’s newly installed lights.

“You can’t help but feel good for a guy like (senior shortstop) Aaron McGuinness, who has been here for four years and gets to go out playing in a stadium like this,” Machtolf said. “But I know the guys that came before him and helped build and maintain our program are really proud of this facility, too.”


 

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