Almost two full years after seeing both of their home fields destroyed by an EF3 tornado, the Louisiana Tech baseball and softball teams stepped on the turf of their brand new – still under construction – stadiums for the first time Tuesday afternoon.
As the Bulldog baseball team was taking the field at JC Love Field at Pat Patterson Park, the Lady Techster softball team was walking through the left field gate at Dr. Billy Bundrick Field.
Two programs that have been nomads since April 25, 2019, were able to finally call their fields, truly, home.
“It’s been a long haul and I’m very proud of our players,” said Bulldog baseball coach Lane Burroughs. “They pulled me through a lot of tough days. That’s the message of the day. You did it. We have guys on our team that have been with us for two years and this is the first time they have stepped on a field on campus. We live in a world today where it could have been easy for our guys to pack up their bags and go somewhere else to play, but we didn’t have one single guy do that. They stayed here. I couldn’t be more proud of a group of young men.”
The last time the Bulldogs played on campus they were celebrating a walk-off win over Little Rock on April 23, 2019 – 658 days ago.
“It’s a surreal feeling coming back out here,” said senior Parker Bates. “It just felt like a nice homecoming for all of us and just everybody. Like (Taylor Young) said, having our own place again is really nice to have.”
“It felt like Christmas morning when we walked out,” said senior Steele Netterville. “Honestly, I was shaking a little bit because I was so excited to be in this new ballpark. It’s great to be out here with the guys.”
The Bulldogs are scheduled to open up the new park on February 26 when they host Southern.
About 300 yards up Tech Drive, the Tech ladies were having many of the same feelings.
“It was surreal,” said interim head coach Bianca Duran. “The girls were quiet at first. They were taking it all in. We all were. Their hard work these past six months, these past two years, and overcoming so many challenges … to finally be able to compete on campus was really special. They were excited. Then they went to work. They started a new legacy at this stadium today.”
Only three players remain on the roster from the 2019 team that fell to UL-Lafayette just hours before the old Lady Techster Softball Complex was wrecked by winds in excess of 150 miles per hour.
And while construction sounds remain as work continues to complete the complex before the March 5 home opener against Tarleton State, the ping of the bat and the pop of the mitt stole the auditory show on Tuesday.
“It was awesome walking into the new stadium for the first time,” said junior infielder Lindsay Edwards. “Even though there is still construction going on, it was a breath of fresh air. It was like a sigh of relief knowing we now have this place to call home.”
“I kept thinking we’ve been through so much adversity, so many challenges and now we get to focus on a good thing,” said senior utility Zoe Hicks, who was also a member of the 2019 team. “It is awesome. Honestly, it is hard to put into words.
“We have been through so many obstacles with the tornado and the pandemic and coaching changes, things that have pushed us. Now we have a home.”
Baseball photos: by Emerald McIntyre
Softball photos: by Tom Morris