RU’s Remodeled Baseball Stadium Is a Home Run

With hundreds of students and hometown fans on hand despite threatening skies and storm warnings, Radford University officially opened its remodeled baseball stadium April 8, 2011, for the Highlanders’ first night game at home.

In the parking lot adjacent to the stadium, the crowd milled around vendors selling barbecue, peanuts and Cracker Jack, and shopped at a tent offering merchandise from the RU Bookstore. The aroma of the barbecue wafted across the lot as cheerleaders passed out red terry-cloth “rally rags” to fans as they entered the stadium for the opening ceremony and the Highlanders’ game against the VMI Keydets, the first in a three-game homestand.

First pitches being thrown out at the new RU baseball stadium

Ceremonial first pitches were thrown out in unison by Abie Williams representing the community of Radford and RU baseball parents, Robert Lineburg representing RU athletics, President Penelope W. Kyle representing Radford University, Mike Hurt representing the RU Athletics Foundation and Coach Joe Raccuia representing RU baseball alumni.

Inside the stadium, Athletic Director Robert Lineburg welcomed spectators, acknowledged major players in the upgrade project and introduced President Kyle. She greeted the crowd and recognized Lineburg and Baseball Coach Joe Raccuia for their leadership for such a “momentous and historic occasion.”

The president recounted a conversation four years ago in which she challenged Raccuia to find the resources to build the stadium he wanted for his program. She then emphasized that the subsequent upgrades,

including the eight tournament-quality light standards that made the night game possible, were funded entirely from private donations.

She thanked everyone involved in the fundraising and gave special recognition to alumnus Mike Hurt, who played Highlander baseball with Raccuia in the early 1990s and was instrumental in the stadium project. “Mike stepped in to give us the vision for this project, he led us to where we are, and he brought this project to fruition,” Kyle said.

Raccuia in turn thanked Lineburg, Kyle, Hurt and others, and he encouraged the fans to keep supporting Highlander baseball, which with the stadium improvements is well positioned to be a contender in Division I baseball.

Speaking for the players, fifth-year senior Cory Cook recalled the team’s former indoor practice facility: a vacant Kmart store. “A lot of people don’t realize how far we’ve come in five years,” he said.

Kelly Underwood, director of athletic advancement, acknowledged Hurt as one of the “unsung heroes” of the project, along with Georgia Anne Snyder-Falkinham, president of the Radford University Foundation; and Jack Murphy, project manager for engineering firm Thompson & Litton Inc.

Scott Gines, RU baseball coach from 1988 to 1994, was also introduced and recognized for his contributions to the program.

“This is an amazing facility and it’s going to help create a very promising future for Highlander baseball,” said Lineburg. “But the real story here is how everyone worked together, from the university administration to our alumni friends and partners, to make this dream come true.”