Sept. 30, 2011

by Nikki Philpot

MERION STATION, Pa. - With spring just around the corner, Hawk Report sat down with Fritz Hamburg, fourth-year head coach for the Saint Joseph's University baseball team, to discuss the construction of the new varsity baseball field that will be ready for the 2012 season.

Construction for the field began on the Maguire Campus this past June following the acquisition of the property formally inhabited by Episcopal Academy. Hamburg expects that the field will be completed sometime this fall and hopes to be able to begin practicing on the field this winter.

The baseball field, currently unnamed, will have a turf infield and outfield. The dimensions of the field will be 325 feet down the left field line, 330 feet down the right field line and 400 feet to straightaway center field. In terms of capacity, the bleacher seats will hold 400 spectators, and there will be extra room for lawn seating. Twenty-six of the team's 54 scheduled games will be played at home this season.

March 9, 2012 will mark the first home game of the season for the Hawks as they take on non-conference opponent Iona University. Moreover, the date will mark the first time in over 50 years that the Hawks will have played on the Saint Joseph's University campus. The Hawks played on Finnesey Field in the 1950s as the current soccer and lacrosse playing field once served as the home to SJU's football, baseball and softball teams.

SJU home games during the 20 seasons prior to 2010 were played at Latshaw-McCarthy Field in Norristown, Pa. The Hawks then transferred over to Campbell's Field, an independent league ballpark in Camden, N.J., for a portion of the 2009 season and all home games during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Although SJU had to share the field with the Atlantic League's Riversharks and the Rutgers University-Camden baseball team, Hamburg is very grateful to have had the chance to play at a field that has come to be known as one of the leading minor league ballparks in the country.

"It was awesome to work with the Riversharks and Rutgers at Campbell's [Field]," he said. "It was great to play in a ballpark that seats 6,500 spectators." Coach Hamburg is excited for how the on-campus field will affect the SJU community, alumni, faculty and staff, players and future players.

"Our soccer and lacrosse teams always have such a great turnout over at Finnesey," he explained. "There has always been a longing for on-campus sports. The field will have a nice, intimate setting on the Maguire Campus. Now students can walk over to the field for our games where before they could not. There is a convenience factor in that."

Coach Hamburg noted that in addition to seeing the actual field, opponents will be able to see SJU's campus, something that they would not have had the opportunity to do just a few short months ago. Hamburg believes that this home field advantage will be an advantage off the field as well since the players will have more time for training and studying due to the elimination of travel time for practice and games.

"The team can get on the field anytime they want to now because we will not be sharing it with one or two other teams," Hamburg said. "Our players will finally be able to have a true Division I program experience. I have the utmost respect and credit for those who came through this program due to the sacrifices that they were forced to endure."

As is the case with all Division I programs, recruiting is extremely important to the future success of the Saint Joseph's University baseball program.

"Playing on a field on campus is huge for recruiting purposes," Hamburg asserted.

The Hawks played as the home team 23 times during their 52-game 2011 season. They finished last season 21-31 overall (.404 winning percentage) and 11-13 in the Atlantic 10 Conference (.458%). The 2012 season will mark the first time in over half a century that the Hawks will be able to call a field "home" and have a true home field advantage.