When students approach Ball State, turning right off of McGalliard and onto Tillotson, they’re greeted by one of the first sights Ball State has to offer: the decrepit, but functional, crumbling, yet serviceable baseball field known as Ball Diamond, where Ball State’s baseball team has played for more than 40 years.
Ball State went just 29-71 combined in 2011 and 2012. With the program itself starting to reflect the stadium, Ball State coach Rich Maloney stepped in, immediately asking for change to be made.
Maloney doesn’t just want to rebuild the team; he wants to rebuild the entire program, including the infrastructure.
“The whole field needs to be redone, the dugouts are way old, they need to be addressed,” Maloney said. “The puke green grandstand has to be demolished and completely redone, it’s an eyesore, the pebble rocks are primitive, the restroom facilities are not very good.”
When Ball State announced Saturday that a $20 million fundraising campaign was underway to rejuvenate athletic facilities, Maloney was thrilled to hear Ball Diamond would be involved.
The plans include renovations to Ball Diamond’s press boxes, dugouts, grandstands, and concession stands. The improvements are exactly what Maloney has been looking for.
“Oh, we’re hugely excited,” Maloney said, talking about the upgrades. “We’re going to raise the level of Ball State’s ability, and with the improvements on the way it should help with recruiting, we just have to do it right.”
Despite all the enhancements for Ball Diamond, there was one specific detail Maloney said is more important than the rest.
“The hitting facility, the cover on the hitting facility,” Maloney said. “That’s the one they’ll be able to use to get better.”
There has been no announcement made about the addition of a cover for Ball State’s batting cages, which Maloney has stressed is a key toward player development and improved recruiting.
Stadium upgrades play an important role in recruiting. Big Ten teams like Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State and Minnesota have recently renovated their stadiums. In the Mid-American Conference, Miami of Ohio, Western Michigan, Kent State and more have done recent revamps to improve the quality of both the stadium and the program.
For Ball State, it’s difficult to compete against those ballparks when its own field has wasted away.
“Right now, you don’t want to bring a recruit to the field because it’s inept,” Maloney said. “Reality is, we need it all. It doesn’t need to be a Taj Mahal, it just needs to be cleaned up and represent Ball State well, so when people pass it by, they look and say, ‘You know what, that’s a nice looking ball park right there.’”
One improvement Maloney would like to make is removing the barn that sits next to the Ball State dugout. Currently, the team uses the barn to house equipment and supplies, but only because there’s nowhere else to put it.
“You look next to the dugout, there’s the barn sitting out there,” Maloney said. “It doesn’t need to be there. Come on, seriously? A barn.”
Eliminating clutter and improving field conditions are solutions that would help Ball Diamond be more aesthetically pleasing.
After coaching at Michigan for 10 seasons, where the baseball stadium was recently renovated, going back to Ball Diamond may not have been easy for Maloney.
Knowing improvements were imminent could have been a key cog in spurring him back to the Cardinals.
“There was some deep thought, and my expectation was there would be a stadium very soon,” Maloney said. “Everybody was on board with knowing what we need to do, and I’m excited that we’re well on our way to doing what’s needed to be done.”