The University of Memphis Tigers baseball team is enjoying a new season in a new home.
The Tigers welcomed Middle Tennessee State inside the friendly confines of FedExPark
on the Park Avenue Campus opening day in February to begin a new era of Tiger baseball.
FedExPark is the result of a $3 million project funded by FedEx Corp. The construction
redesigned the former Nat Buring Stadium that served as the Tigers’ home for baseball
since 1972. Construction on the project began in February 2009, forcing the Tigers
to play their 2009 home games in AutoZone Park in downtown Memphis and USA Stadium
in Millington, Tenn.
“Our dream has become a reality,” said head coach Daron Schoenrock in referring to
the completion of the new facility. “After playing basically our whole season in Millington,
it is great to be back home in Memphis.” In addition to the new scoreboard, which
was added in 2008, the renovations include new locker rooms, coaches’ offices, a players’
lounge, dugouts, indoor practice facility and the new grandstand.
“We had two main goals in mind when drawing up the plans for construction,” said Schoenrock.
“First, we wanted to have an impact on player development. Second, we wanted to focus
on the impact this facility would have on recruiting.”
In previous years, the Tiger baseball team shared facilities on the Park Avenue Campus
with the soccer, football, softball and track teams. With so many squads sharing one
facility, time had to be split and reserved for teams wanting to use the weight room,
indoor turf room and training rooms. The completion of FedExPark allows the baseball
team to use their practice facility anytime throughout the year. Many players feel
they will reap the benefits of the new stadium.
“I think it is a tremendous advantage to have our own practice facility,” said sophomore
pitcher Heith Hatfield. “Being able to come in and practice whenever we want is the
best thing for our team.”
Redshirt freshman Michael Wills shares Hatfield’s opinion and believes the biggest
impact will be on recruiting.
“Now we have a nice facility to practice and play in. It shows that our program is
growing and I believe the team can greatly benefit from it,” he said.
The Park Avenue Campus of the U of M is undergoing a facelift. Over the past two years,
a new softball stadium, golf practice facility and an artificial turf football field
have been built. Now with the new FedExPark completed, the U of M baseball program
can go no other direction than up.
— by Brennan Somers