The University of Dallas baseball team will enjoy a new clubhouse behind the batting cages beginning next week, the last week of their season.
When current Head Coach Joe Myers was promoted from his pitching coach position four years ago, he established a baseball booster club to control where the money donated to the baseball program goes.
After upgrading the batting cages in the first year of the booster club, the members came to Myers asking for the next item on his wish list.
“I think every team needs to have a clubhouse all year round, not just a ‘hey basketball gets it during basketball season,’ ” Myers said. “If somebody came to me with money, the first thing I told them that I wanted to do was get these guys a clubhouse.”
“The genesis started last fall when the fathers of our players wanted to do something,” Athletics Director Dick Strockbine said.
According to Mark Peterson Sr., the president of the booster club whose son is an infielder for the Crusaders, the plan was finalized in January, but they ran into problems with permitting and fundraising.
“We ran into barrier after barrier and curveball after curveball and kind of just kept pushing through it, and we’re fortunate everything came together,” Peterson said.
The locker room is nearly complete, while the clubhouse will also feature a player’s lounge, two coaches offices and a storage closet. The locker room should be ready for use next week, while the player’s lounge and coach’s offices will be completed over the summer, according to Myers.
The lockers were built by Hollman, a manufacturing company based in Irving that builds high-end athletic lockers.
“Their lockers were way out of our price range,” Peterson said, but the club caught a break.
“Bad luck for them, good luck for us, they messed up on an order for another program and they didn’t have the sizing right, so the person we’re working with at Hollman has kids at Cistercian, and so she knew UD and called us right away.”
“Tom Abalos [father of junior infielder Josh Abalos] [said] ‘we love your lockers, but we can’t afford them,’ and she said, ‘wait a minute we may be able to work something out,’ so we got very fortunate to be able to get really top end lockers for ten cents on the dollar,” Peterson said.
The club raised $90,000 for the current project, but Myers expects it to increase to $100,000 once they add some extra decorations to the clubhouse, such as logos on the outside as well as decorations in the lounge.
“In the player lounge I’m going to have basically the history of UD baseball,” Myers said. “I’m going to get fatheads and photos of like the STUD in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s and have it going around [the] wall so when the players walk in they see the history of UD baseball.”
Parents, coaches, and players all helped contribute to the fundraising effort, asking for donations from anyone they thought could help.
“The boys did a lot of work to help with the fundraising and even with some of the installation, so they’ve got some real sweat equity in the building,” Peterson said.
Having a clubhouse on the field helps set UD apart from its Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) competitors.
“We’re going to be one of the first to have something like this, so it’s a huge recruiting tool,” Myers said.
The player’s lounge will have couches and a ping pong table and Myers believes it will help with team building.
“Probably the biggest thing is just the team camaraderie, being able to come down here,” Myers said. “We’re going to get a ping pong table donated so guys are going to be able to come down here and watch movies, hang out, take a nap, do homework, all those things. They’ll have somewhere to go and be in here with their teammates all year round.”
“A big part of it is the communication, camaraderie, team spirit, everybody working toward common goals is critically important and having a clubhouse environment where players can get to know each other better,” Peterson said.
It will also make life a little easier for the players. UD currently has one varsity locker room on campus. Baseball and men’s lacrosse both have access to it once basketball season ends, but the baseball team chooses to change in the dugout instead.
This also means that players have their entire equipment bags around the dugout, and between games in doubleheaders they eat lunch in the dugout as well. Now they will be able to leave their bags in the locker room and eat in there as well, keeping the dugouts cleaner.
The facility will help the program with recruiting as well.
“Kids nowadays, and [when] I say nowadays I’m not that much older, but everybody cares about the stuff,” Myers said. “They want a good locker room, they want a good dugout, they want good batting facilities. A lot of these high schools have such awesome facilities. So now it gives us something that’s better than what these kids have seen before, and it also gives us a leg up on other DIII teams that may not have as nice of something like this, because this isn’t just a locker room.”
The facility will have electricity but will not have water.
“We looked into showers and bathrooms and it was going to cost anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000, and since we’re so close to softball right now we were trying to get something to happen quick,” Myers said. “Another $50-60,000 in fundraising would’ve taken us another year to be able to get, and my first recruiting class they’re juniors this year, and they’ve been a huge part of us being able to upgrade our facility and clubhouse project. I wanted to make sure we got this in for them, and I don’t think they’re going to be too hurt by not having a bathroom or a shower.”
Peterson said that the booster club will take a breath after completing this project, but there are still several things the program would like to improve. Peterson mentioned improving the seating at the stadium, as well as looking into software that will help the team analyze statistics to improve their on-field performance.
Myers mentioned installing lights on the field as well as improving the dugouts.
“If someone said, ‘here’s a chunk of money,’ let’s get some lights,” Myers said.