Ty Cobb Ballpark officially opens
John Dudley ’95
Cutting the ribbon for the new stadium are Head Baseball Coach Jeff Kinne, Dr. John Schug ’52, Mrs. Peggy Cobb Schug, Mr. Byron Wurdeman, Board Chairman Tom Allen ’60, President Chris Howard, Tony D. Curtis (Bruce and Gladys Spencer's nephew), and Athletic Director Richard Epperson II ’79.
Baseball is officially underway at Hampden-Sydney College’s new Ty Cobb Ballpark, following a dedication ceremony before the 2012 baseball season opener against Ferrum College on February 4, 2012. The 292-seat stadium, undoubtedly the finest baseball facility in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, played host to a capacity crowd on a crisp, winter day that concluded with a solid 5-3 win.
Opening day this year included the postponed dedication, tours of the ballpark lounge, and complimentary hot dogs, Cracker Jacks, and Coca-Cola, courtesy of Dr. and Mrs. Schug. (Ty Cobb Ballpark was completed in time for the final home game of the 2011 season, but bad weather forced the cancellation of the game and scheduled dedicatory events.)
The construction of the new ballpark was made possible by generous financial contributions by many people, including Dr. John B. Schug ’52 and his wife Peggy Cobb Schug (pictured below throwing out the first pitch), the granddaughter of the ballpark’s eponym; Byron and Pam Wurdeman, the parents of Tiger outfielder Chatham Wurdeman ’13; and S. Bruce Spencer ’37, a former Tiger baseball player who, with his late wife Gladys Curtis Spencer, has been a long-time benefactor of scholarships and the baseball program.
The Schugs also gave a valuable piece of sports memorabilia, a check signed by Ty Cobb, which hangs in the ballpark lounge. The framed check has been dedicated to the 2011 team that practiced and played home games as the new ballpark was being built just steps from home plate.
Ty Cobb Ballpark is a tremendous step up for the College’s baseball facilities. Just two seasons ago, spectators either brought their own chairs or sat on aging metal bleachers. The new ballpark features full-size stadium chairs with seat backs in the center section, a covered concourse, men’s and women’s restrooms, a lounge overlooking the playing field, and a press box. In addition to the Ty Cobb memorabilia, the lounge also includes photographs from the player’s career, photographs of every Mason-Dixon Conference and ODAC championship-winning Hampden-Sydney baseball team, and a letter from Jeff Idelson, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, congratulating Hampden-Sydney College on its dedication to the sport.
Richard Epperson II ’79, director of athletics (and a former Tiger baseball player), says, “The Ty Cobb Ballpark dramatically impacts our athletic department mission and vision ‘to establish and maintain the highest quality student-athlete environment in NCAA Division III’ while enhancing student recruitment and retention objectives. We are proud to claim there is no finer DIII baseball facility in the country. On behalf of Hampden-Sydney Baseball Tigers past, present, and future, I want to share heartfelt appreciation to John and Peggy Schug, Byron and Pam Wurdeman, and Bruce Spencer for making this dream a reality.”
The drive for the new stadium came from the 2011 seniors and the Wurdemans. Byron Wurdeman says, “I remember hearing a couple of players’ parents complaining that there wasn’t a baseball stadium and that they had wanted their sons to have been able to play in a nice, new stadium. Their sons were graduating that year and they just knew Hampden-Sydney wouldn’t have a new stadium any time soon. I kind of took that as a personal challenge. I’m an eternal optimist and I hated hearing those guys being so negative. Some of the players and I met with Dr. Howard about building a stadium, and he said it sounded good but we needed some up-front capital to get the project started. I agreed to put up the initial capital if—and this was the caveat—if it was finished before the end of the  baseball season, and it was. We started moving dirt on January 31 and played the first game there, the final game of the season, on April 17.”
“The stadium is outstanding and Peggy and I were so pleased with the entire process,” says John Schug. “We had been talking with Beeler Brush [then vice president for institutional advancement] for many years about a new baseball stadium at the College. He made sure that we were involved in every aspect of the design and construction. If there were something about the building we didn’t like, we would have no one to blame but ourselves.”
He adds, “We support scholarships and athletics at Hampden-Sydney because we love it. Faust says seek pleasure and avoid pain and this is very pleasurable for us.”
Peggy Schug, the granddaughter of Ty Cobb, says of him, “He was a great fella. There’s a lot of negativity written about him, but he did a lot of great things. He built a hospital in Royston, Georgia; he cared for a lot of indigent baseball players; and he started the Ty Cobb Educational Foundation, which has given scholarships to students for decades. We’re so proud of the ballpark; it’s beautiful.”
She adds, “We just love the College so much and how it keeps the students’ best interests in mind. We are very happy to be a part of helping Hampden-Sydney grow.”
The inaugural Ty Cobb Baseball Classic was held February 17-19, with Southern Virginia University, Keystone College, and Stevenson University taking the field against the Tigers. It was a wonderful way to showcase the new stadium and the renewed excitement about baseball at Hampden-Sydney College.