Home They almost nuked UVA Baseball; now it’s one of the premier programs in the country
Sports

They almost nuked UVA Baseball; now it’s one of the premier programs in the country

Chris Graham
college world series
(© Lost_in_the_Midwest – Shutterstock)

I don’t take for granted seeing UVA Baseball shipping off for another College World Series. Because I saw the other side of UVA Baseball, back when I was a student on Grounds in the early 1990s.

Two of my first-year dormmates were members of the UVA Baseball team, so a group of us would go to home games on weekends to see them do their thing.

This is 1991 I’m talking about here.

The field was a mishmash – the infield was artificial turf recycled from Scott Stadium, a faded green; the outfield was natural grass.

The look was what you’d expect – just, odd.

Nobody went to the games, but for whatever reason, there were still a full complement of ushers in the bright orange blazers there working them, to the point that they almost outnumbered those of us there to watch the game.

You had to be careful when heckling; one Friday afternoon, I called the NC State first baseman, an unfortunately portly young man, “Spanky,” and he glared at me, because it wasn’t hard to tell who it was giving him the business.

It was for good reason that the University strongly considered the recommendation of a task force in 2001 to basically defund the baseball program.

Sadly, no one would have noticed.

UVA Athletics, instead, went in the other direction, putting money into baseball for the first time, the most visible results of that being the renovation of the field and the move to hire Notre Dame pitching coach Brian O’Connor as the new head coach.

The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

“I remember taking this job 21 years ago, and really believed that it could be a special program. But it’s, you know, there were some barriers that needed to be knocked down,” O’Connor told reporters on Saturday, after his team had defeated Kansas State, 10-4, to clinch the program’s seventh College World Series berth, and third in the past four years.

O’Connor thanked, you know, everybody – from “the elderly couple that comes to every game, even the games in February, and are so into what these guys do,” to “the people in the luxury suites that made our expansion happen,” and right on down the line, to all the people “that believed in what could be accomplished here, and then just all the overflowing amount of fans and kids that just love being a part of this.”

We used to get, maybe, 30, 40 people for those afternoon games back in the 1990s – before the 2001-2002 renovations, what is now Disharoon Park at Davenport Field didn’t have lights.

The past two weekends, we’ve been at capacity, which is 5,919 people, with the energy of several times that number.

The weekends in May and June at The Dish are special for the coaches and players who make them happen, but O’Connor acknowledges that they’re just as special, if not more so, for the UVA Baseball community.

“It’s a special opportunity when you get to host, just because it’s as great as it is for these guys and the coaches, it’s just as great for our fan base and everybody that’s so passionate about it,” O’Connor said. “And this won’t stop, you know. We’ll continue to build. I’ve made it a priority that we can’t stay where we’re at. Like, you know, college baseball is very, very competitive for players, facilities and everything that it takes to be successful, and we’ll keep pushing this thing forward as the years go on.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].

Latest News

abortion rights
Health, Politics, U.S. & World News

Supreme Court overturns federal appeals court ruling, secures access to abortion medication

cyclist in bicycle lane
Local

‘The Street Project’ screening June 20 aims to make streets safer for all users

It seems all too often that there is news about a bicyclist or pedestrian who has been struck by a car.

Arts & Entertainment, Local

‘Proof’ pulls audience onto stage with actors amid story of mental health illness, family

Mental health illness takes the stage at ShenanArts this weekend and next weekend. ‘Proof,” by American playwright David Auburn, won a Pulitzer Prize and was first performed on Broadway in 2000. “For me, it really hits home for me,” said director Clarence Finn, who watched his grandfather battle Alzheimer’s when he was 15 years old....

gym fitness exercise weights health
Local

Charlottesville bodybuilding coach who sent Viagra, camera to minors pleads guilty

uva baseball presser
Sports

UVA Baseball Notebook: ‘Hoos not happy just getting to Omaha again

handcuffs arrest police hands guilty jail
Local, Virginia

Lynchburg: Man wanted in strangulation investigation arrested in Waynesboro

uva baseball brian o'connor
Sports

UVA announces extension for baseball coach Brian O’Connor