Having only lost one senior, the Harding baseball team is ready to open up their season come spring with a little advantage up their sleeves.
New lights and poles are being installed at Jerry Moore Field so the Bisons are able to play some of their games at night rather than only during the day. Head coach Patrick MaGaha has had this on his list of goals since he received the job 12 seasons ago.
“The poles aren’t tall enough right now, so a batted ball can get above the pole and you lose it, and they just aren’t bright enough,” MaGaha said. “It’s extremely hard to see a pitch coming in at home plate.”
Coach MaGaha said there were two main reasons why he wanted to add lights.
“First, it will allow our players to stay in class much more. We can start games at 6 p.m. instead of having to start at 1 p.m. From an academic standpoint, it’s going to be very beneficial for our players and for their progress,” MaGaha said. “At 1 p.m. pretty much all of our student fans are in class so we aren’t able to really get out the kind of crowd we would like; obviously the student body is very supportive of the other sports when they have night games, so we’re hoping that if we can flip the lights on for a night game that the students will come out and support us.”
The normal Tuesday afternoon games will now be played as night games, which will allow more students and people from the community to attend games. Assistant head coach Andy Schatzley is excited for the energy this will give the team.
“The overall atmosphere and environment is going to definitely play to our advantage,” Schatzley said. “This is going to give our guys more exposure, which I think helps their energy level.”
Along with coaches, the players are more than ready to play under lights. For senior pitcher Jackson Ward, the lights are a great way to end his career as a Bison. The hope is that the lights draw a crowd for the 11 seniors’ final season wearing the black and gold uniforms.
The lights are not just a big deal for the seniors, though redshirt junior outfielder Jack Thomas and sophomore infielder Luke Vandover, both are extremely grateful and excited for the opportunities these lights will bring them not only in this season, but in the future.
“It’s going to be really special seeing the environment at games and then how it impacts recruiting. Who wouldn’t want to come here,” Thomas said. “We’ve got everything. Campus life, strong academics, the top facilities and now we’ve got an environment we can provide thats like nothing else.”
The stadium lights are going to be dedicated to Harding alumnus and former Bison catcher Tom Hull, who passed away from a heart attack at the age of 43. Hull’s family along with MaGaha and other alumni who played with Hull put together the donation. There are about 20-25 other donors varying from alumni, to parents, to supporters of the program. They are planning to dedicate the lights this spring, but they should be functioning by Sunday, Oct 1.
The Bisons will test their new lighting when they open their season against Missouri Western State University at noon on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2018, at the Jerry Moore Field.