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Thursday, August 18, 2022

Baseball

$2.2 million facelift expected to elevate UH program


The Cougars’ new field will not only serve as an appealing site to Cougar fans, but will also help boost notoriety around the nation. |  Jenna Frenzel/The Daily Cougar

The Cougars’ new field will not only serve as an appealing site to Cougar fans, but will also help boost notoriety around the nation. | Jenna Frenzel/The Daily Cougar

Though UH made major aesthetic changes to Cougar Field this offseason, the idea dates back to head coach Todd Whitting’s arrival.

“The turf is something I’ve wanted to do since I took the job back in 2010,” Whitting said. “There’s an advantage to it, and I think it now has elevated us to have one of the premier college baseball stadiums in the country.”

In more than three years, UH has raised more than $2.2 million in commitments from members of the Dugout Club and Coaches Committee — UH’s baseball’s fundraising programs — which has allowed improvements to the field, clubhouse and facility.

The Cougars’ home field has a brand-new look, as the grass has been replaced by an artificial playing surface called FieldTurf. The only dirt remaining on the field is on the mound. The warning track and base paths are turf. What could catch the eye of fans is that the base cutouts are not the traditional brown color, but UH red instead.

UH hopes hosting NCAA regionals and attracting talented recruits become perks of the new FieldTurf. Though the makeover has value for its looks, it will also provide a deeper advantage, too. Cougar Field will also help UH between the lines this season.

“I want it to be a fast surface, because with the lack of offense, with the NCAA changing our bat standards a couple years ago, it’s kind of taken the offense out of the game,” Whitting said. “That’s another reason why I wanted to put the turf down — was to create more offense.”

The field has two permanent branding elements. One is in center field with the UH emblem, and the other is located behind home plate with “Cougars” written in script.

Players like sophomore shortstop Josh Vidales are excited about the new look.

“It’s awesome — our success last year brought us more attention and proved to people we can play on a field like this,” Vidales said, who was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team last season. “Playing on this field so far is the best I’ve played on at the collegiate level.”

Alumni have voiced their approval of the new look. Pat Cauley, a middle infielder for the Cougars in 1993-94 and assistant coach in ’95, emphasized the importance of this upgrade.

“The field looks great — very encouraged with the Athletics Department to keep baseball on the forefront. This will benefit all to achieve the ultimate goal of getting to Omaha,” Cauley said.

The Cougars will welcome back Cauley and other alumni Feb. 1 as they take part in the annual Fan Appreciation Alumni Game. This will be the first live action on the new surface before opening day, Feb. 14.

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