Long Beach State is in the process of renovating the baseball field on campus as well as the off-campus Blair Field.
After abandoning its old training grounds due to poor conditions in 2014, Long Beach State baseball will return to campus for practice next season.
With a newly renovated field, players will be able to go straight from practice to the weight room without cooling off during the commute back to campus.
“During the fall we have such a busy schedule that taking batting practice and ground balls can get crammed into a tight schedule,” Hughey said. “This will now help the team not have to go back and forth as often and feel as rushed through practice.”
With a budget of approximately $60,000, the new practice diamond currently under construction will be located behind the Barrett Athletic Administration Center. The construction on the field is expected to be completed in October.
The funding for the project came from a $5 million donation by longtime fan and Long Beach State athletics booster, Marilyn Bohl, in 2017.
A new facility will also play a role as a possible recruiting tool for the team in the future.
On the other hand, President Jane Close Conoley and the city of Long Beach had planned the renovations to Blair Field prior to 2016.
“We thought about the future and how can we build more effectively and efficiently. We want to open up Blair Field to host more events in the future,” Executive Associate Athletic Director Rob Clark said. “President Conoley has been amazing on this project. She’s looking at the greater whole of the community, and from that standpoint, she’s being a champion.”
For redshirt senior Jacob Hughey, getting to play everyday at Blair Field at Bohl Diamond has been a “blessing.”
“I’ve been lucky to be able to play here for nine years throughout high school and college,” Hughey said. “I love that they are trying to utilize another field for us because they film commercials and host other events [at Blair Field] a lot.”
The team moved to the off-campus location five years ago due to the infield corners causing problems for infielders and the outfield grass being a hazard for outfielders in the past.
The new practice field plans include laser-grating the grass field, installing new backstop netting, reconstructing the outfield grass and improving the bullpen area to meet NCAA baseball standards.
“We’re moving practice to campus several times a week,” Clark said. “Filming at Blair Field can take all day, and we have had to shuffle practices around before because of it.”
The renovation plans were made to keep Blair Field’s history and impact on the community in mind, according to Clark. The CSULB Director of Athletics, Andy Fee, and staff pitched the renovation plans to the school board for approval.
Since April 11, 1958, Blair Field, named after longtime Long Beach Press Telegram sports editor Frank T. Blair, has been a large part of the city of Long Beach community. Blair Field has been held in high regard in its 61 year history, showcasing MLB all-stars including Tony Gwynn, Jered Weaver, Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria.
It has also been utilized in an array of ways outside of baseball, movies “Mr. Baseball,” “Moneyball” and “Space Jam” have been filmed on site, as well as over 200 commercials. The Dodgers, Cubs, Angels, Indians, Los Angeles Rams and even rapper Snoop Dogg have taken the field to practice and play exhibition games.
Blair Field has also been the host of four NCAA Regional Tournaments and six MTV Rock and Jock softball games.
The field often gets over used, currently providing game time to Woodrow Wilson High School on top of being the main practice facility for the Dirtbags.
The Dirtbags are the primary tenants of Blair Field, which means the team is fully responsible for the upkeep. Being a natural grass field, the field requires additional time to properly be maintenanced to a playable condition, unlike other synthetic turf fields.
Former St. Mary’s College coach Eric Valenzuela, who was hired this June as the Dirtbags’ eighth head coach, said he and the club are excited for a new field.
“Not a lot of baseball programs have two facilities that are this legit, and our guys can really develop from it,” Valenzuela said. “It’s a dream for me to have an opportunity like this to get to Omaha.”
After turning around the St. Mary’s program in his five years at the helm, Valenzuela looks to take the same approach to his new ball club.
“Baseball is baseball,” Valenzuela said. “We’ve got all the tools that it takes to be successful. It’s going to take time, but we gotta bring it day in and day out.”
This article was previously posted incomplete and was updated Sept. 9 at 2:08