Taylor Stadium and Simmons Field are undergoing subtle, yet necessary, changes in preparation for the weekend’s regional baseball tournament.
Bunting, the prototypical patriotic adornment for any occasion, rests over the green-padded backstop, under the windows of the press box, and down the right and left field lines. The freshly painted foul poles, bright yellow against a cloudy sky, sway in the Wednesday evening wind.
And the beer advertisements on the scoreboard are gone.
“We had two rows of Busch ads on the scoreboard,” said Tad Dunn, the assistant athletic director of operations. “The newer sign was attached to the old face of the scoreboard. We took the newer sign off, and underneath it was the older sign.”
“We had to paint over the old sign,” said Randy Kaiser, the assistant coordinator of maintenance.
The removal of the Busch advertisements from the scoreboad were necessary because of NCAA regulations for postseason tournaments.
“That is a non-negotiable area when it comes to the NCAA,” Dunn said. “There are three areas: tobacco, alcohol and gambling. They are nonnegotiable. In this case, the only thing we had was the Busch sign.”
There are even smaller changes to Simmons Field.
“We do a great job on the field anyway, but a little extra care is going into it now,” Kaiser said. “You see the edging all around, and that may not be done this time of the year had we not been hosting the regional.”
True to his word, Kaiser makes sure to point out where the grass meets dirt to show all the straight lines and right angles.
“The entire skin area was laser-grated,” Kaiser said, referring to a process in which the infield dirt is leveled. “It stays in pretty good shape, but as the year wears on it gets a little hump in it, high and low areas.”
The upgrades to the stadium aren’t entirely cosmetic. Temporary bleachers were added down the right and left field line. The maintenance crew even had to sacrifice the netting of one of the batting cages in order to put in some of the bleachers. Portable toilets were added just behind the left field fence to accommodate an excess of fans that Dunn said he expects this weekend.
The maintenance work was made possible because of the increased budget for the tournament.
“Our budget expenditures will probably be in the neighborhood of $25,000,” Dunn said. “But that’s all-encompassing. That includes event staff, emergency response, security, hospitality, our banquet, everything.”
Dunn said that he’s looking to impress everyone who comes to Taylor Stadium this weekend.
“You don’t want anyone to have a bad experience,” Dunn said. “When it comes down to it, you want to have that good experience with the NCAA because they’ll be more likely to give it to you again in the future. This is our foot in the door.
“We want to put on a good show — for the fans and for the NCAA and for the other teams. They might not advance, they might go home. We want to make them feel welcome and make sure everything was there for them.