The annual Ballpark Digest Awards continue, as University of Florida AD Scott Stricklin discusses our selection of Florida Ballpark at Alfred A. McKethan Field as our 2021 College Ballpark of the Year.
Stricklin, UF athletic director since November 2016, directed the development of Florida Ballpark at Alfred A. McKethan Field as a replacement for Alfred A. McKethan Field. He joined host Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, publisher Kevin Reichard and Populous’s Jason Michael Ford to discuss the ballpark’s impact both on fans and players alike, while also covering current trends in college ballparks and college baseball. The popularity of college baseball across the country is growing in leaps and bounds, with plenty of new and renovated facilities driving fan interest and improving player performance.
Florida Ballpark exemplifies this new breed of college ballpark by addressing multiple needs. Created to please fans with game-day amenities like plenty of shade and a 360-degree concourse, while also pleasing players with expanded workout facilities, including a private nutrition area, video and team meeting rooms, indoor pitching and batting cages, and enhanced training and rehabilitation areas, Florida Ballpark addresses both sides of the equation. Our Jarah Wright previewed the facility before it opened, and in this episode Stricklin discusses how the new ballpark was conceived, what was important in creating a top-tier college facility, and how the new ballpark fits into a competitive college-baseball landscape. With the level of play improving, the fans respond, and as fans respond, college put more resources into the sport. Stricklin addressed the growth of college baseball by associating it with the unique culture of college athletics:
Baseball has made so much sense, and I think has been such an easy transition or growth for the sport of college baseball. It combines two things the culture understands. One is the sport of baseball, which has been around for over 100 years, 150 years, and people understand that sport very well. And they understand the Gators, or they understand Alabama, Tennessee, LSU or whatever the school is. So it’s a very natural connection for fans to have a passion for [college baseball], feel like it’s important and support.”
There’s a reason why the SEC schools typically dominate the top 10 in attendance in college baseball. The weather’s nice, and schools have really invested in the facilities. It’s made for a very unique culture. Football is king, but in May and June, when postseason time is ramping up and you have Regionals and Super Regionals leading up to the College World Series, if your school is in that mix, playing for something important, there’s a tremendous amount of passion in these facilities, these stadiums like the Florida Ballpark. They are showcased during that time at a high, high level, and it’s why we invest all the money into it. The payoff is when you have a nice June night and there’s 10,000 people and you are on national TV playing one game to go to the College World Series. That’s a pretty special environment.
Check out the full discussion here:
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2021 Ballpark Digest Award Winners
2021 Logo/Branding of the Year: Burlington Sock Puppets
2021 MiLB Executive of the Year: Patrick McVerry
2021 MLB Broadcaster of the Year: Melanie Newman
2021 MiLB Broadcaster of the Year: Sam Levitt, Amarillo Sod Poodles
2021 Best New Food and Beverage: Beloit Sky Carp
2021 Editor’s Choice Award: Jesse Cole and the Savannah Bananas
2021 Promotion of the Year: The Wonders reunite at Erie SeaWolves game
RELATED STORIES: 2021 Logo/Branding of the Year: Burlington Sock Puppets; 2021 MiLB Executive of the Year: Patrick McVerry; 2021 MiLB Broadcaster of the Year: Sam Levitt, Amarillo Sod Poodles; 2021 Editor’s Choice Award: Jesse Cole and the Savannah Bananas; Ballpark Digest Podcast Season 3 premiere posted