By Victoria Sheridan
With this year's mild winter, there is not much snow that needs to melt quickly in order for baseball and softball season to begin. Which it great outcome for the spring athletes who are practicing for the upcoming season. While every season is an important one, this one is special. It marks the first time athletes will dig their cleats into the dirt of the newly renovated Matt McGloin Baseball Field and UGI Utilities Softball Field.
The makeover that took place over the past few years was phase one of a three part multi-million dollar campus Athletic Facilities Renovation. Future phases of this project include a campus wellness center, an auxiliary gym and major improvements to the Multi-Purpose Building such as renovated offices, classrooms, restrooms, shower and locker facilities, and a new gymnasium. This will be the first time the Multi-Purpose Building has seen any work done since it was built in 1968.
For now, however, the baseball and softball fields are a much needed improvement. Before the renovation, the fields were not up to other local college standards. It was dangerous for athletes to play on as there not a lot of dirt and a hard lip. In the outfield, there were many holes and divots. The fields were not regulation size as they were longer and bigger than NCAA rules. There was no scoreboard to keep track of the innings or score. The field lacked bleachers and a concession stand.
Now, it is a sight to be seen. There are scoreboards, dugouts, bleachers, a field house, a concession stand, and a sports information center. There are sidewalks to insure safety for those and a new parking lot to accommodate spectators and opponents.
While these fields are state of the art, none of it would have been possible if weren't for a collective effort from the plethora of donors in the local community and former student athletes. Both fields, along with the scoreboards and dugouts, were named after campus alumni to recognize their generous donations to Penn State Worthington Scranton's campus.
The softball field was named UGI Utilities to recognize the generous gift from the company. The Matt McGloin Baseball field was dedicated to the West Scranton native and former Nittany Lions quarterback and currently the quarterback for the NFL Oakland Raiders, Matt McGloin.
According to Penn State Worthington Scranton's website, Mr. McGloin released a personal statement at last year's ribbon cutting ceremony about the dedication.
"Having grown up playing baseball, and with baseball being one of my favorite sports, it's truly an unexpected and terrific honor to have a baseball [field] named after me in the Scranton area," he said. "I hope the Matt McGloin Baseball Field will inspire future athletes to excel in athletics."
Many faculty and staff have expressed their feelings toward the three part renovation series. Jeff Mallas, Director of Athletics at Penn State Worthington Scranton, stated the renovation is an asset to the school and athletes, "The renovation is positive for our campus. It helps us and our student athletes."
Mr. Mallas expressed that once phase two and three of the renovation takes place, the facilities will rival colleges in the area. With a sharper appearance to the campus, it could help to recruit athletes.
Mr. Mallas has high hopes for the fields, "It will be good for the community during the summer for camps, programs, and clinics."
Assistant softball coach, Mar Tsakonas, has been part of the athletic program since 2009. This spring marks the first time ever that the softball team will be playing at home instead of Sherwood Park located in Dunmore.
"It's a great opportunity to be playing on our home ground. We now have a place to call home and ours so there's a greater pride that comes along with it," Ms. Tsakonas commented, "Now it allows the softball team to show the campus the hard work they put into their game."
With the convenience of a home field, it makes it easier on everyone involved. "It's easier to practice and have a game. Before, we had to schedule all this time just to travel," Ms. Tsakonas explained, "It puts us on the map now that we have our own facility. It adds a nice aspect to the campus for prospective students thinking about coming here. It also helps with recruiting too."
While the faculty and staff are excited, so are many of the athletes. A few of the returning baseball and softball players are excited to step onto the field for the first time.
Those involved in the Athletics Department have expressed their gratitude to those who made this renovation possible. Although it was a long process with construction, it was possible.
Soon, players will have their chance to play on the fields this month as opening day is fast approaching. To celebrate the opening of this facility, the baseball and softball teams are playing double-headers throughout the months of March and April.
The first home game for softball is a double-header on March 24th, against St. Joseph starting at 2 p.m. On March 28th, Penn State Worthington Scranton plays a double-header against Brandywine beginning at noon. On April 3rd, PSWS goes up against Penn State Hazelton in a double header at 3 p.m. April 19th, is another double-header match against SUNY Delhi beginning at 3 p.m. PSWS plays a double-header against Penn State Beaver at 2 p.m. The final softball home game will take place on April 24th, against Penn State Allegheny at noon.
When the players step onto the home plate for the first time ready to bat, it will be a sight to be seen as all the hard work through phase one of the three part renovation is paid off. For more information about stats, scores, or pictures of the renovation, please visit www.psuscrantonathletics.com.