If you build it, they will comeBy Jake Gray | 01/30/2012 11:10pm
The University of Alabama has never been afraid to allocate resources towards athletics. Head football coach Nick Saban has made headlines numerous times for his lucrative contract offers and extensions. Bryant-Denny Stadium, home of the legendary Crimson Tide football team, nears the top of almost every list of nicest college football stadiums in America.
Bryant Hall, home to many UA athletes, is heralded as the best-equipped housing community on campus. It also contains unquestionably the best dining hall, or that was at least the case my freshman year.
From Coleman Coliseum to the newly renovated Foster Auditorium, Mal Moore has proven that he is committed to having the best athletic facilities in the country. This raises the question: Why hasn’t he renovated Sewell-Thomas Stadium?
Sewell-Thomas Stadium, more commonly referred to as “The Joe,” is home to the Alabama Crimson Tide baseball team. Similar to basketball, Alabama baseball has traditionally been a solid program. However, The Joe is considered by many to be one of the worst college baseball stadiums in the SEC.
The press box is too small. There is no box seating area. A video scoreboard wasn’t even put in until 2007. The stadium looks and feels like a high school field.
Other than the video scoreboard, the stadium hasn’t received an upgrade since 2001, and even that wasn’t significant. If you look up Sewell-Thomas Stadium on the UA website, it lists indoor batting cages, new bleachers and pitching machines as the main improvements.
You didn’t misread that. In an era when programs such as LSU, Arkansas and South Carolina are building top of the line, multi-million dollar ballparks, Alabama is marketing the addition of pitching machines and metal bleachers they added 11 years ago.
If you don’t believe me, take the time to search for other baseball stadiums in the SEC. Then, ask yourself which stadium you would rather play in. The answer is simple, and it is shows a major reason why Alabama struggles to become a national power in collegiate baseball.
Recently, we have witnessed the poor baseball facilities cause a casualty to Alabama football. Jameis Winston, considered by many to be the best quarterback in the 2012 high school class, is expected to sign with Florida State University in the near future.
The Hueytown native is also considered by many as one of the elite baseball players in the country. Winston has maintained that he plans on playing both sports in college if he does not enter the Major League Baseball draft.
It is well known among recruiting insiders that the drastic facilities difference in Alabama and Florida State played a strong role in Winston’s expected decision to sign with Florida State. Who can blame him? Dick Howser Stadium is notably a better stadium than The Joe. Seminoles fans are also known to pack out a baseball game every now and then, something that hasn’t happened in Tuscaloosa in recent memory.
If anything, this could possibly convince Mal Moore to make the upgrade for the sake of the football team. Coach Saban rarely misses top recruits, especially one in his own backyard. Anything going against “The Process” will surely put the wheels in motion towards building a new stadium, right?
Regardless of the reasoning, the Alabama baseball team deserves better. Mal Moore has proven that he is capable of raising the money, and I believe this program has the potential to be great. A new stadium is not too much to ask for with the recent addition of the Bryce properties.
Admittedly, Alabama baseball is not at the same level as Alabama football. It is hard to compare anything to Bryant-Denny Stadium. Unfortunately, that acceptance of mediocrity is what slows down so many other athletic programs at this University.
If you want a championship-caliber program, you have to treat it like one. Recruits and fans have proven they are fed up with Sewell-Thomas at its current state. It is time for a change, and as Ray Liotta said it, “If you build it, they will come.”
Jake Gray is a senior majoring in journalism and economics. His column runs on Tuesdays.