Practice Like a Pro: IUS Athletics makes marketing, facility and safety upgrades

Joel Stinnett, Editor in Chief

Baseballs crash into glass backboards. An outfielder stretches over the scorer’s table to make a catch. Base runners slide over a hardwood floor into home plate. Baseball was not meant to be played on a basketball court, but that is exactly where IU Southeast’s softball and baseball teams had practiced inside during cold weather in past years, inside the Activities Building.
This winter, thanks to a deal with the city of New Albany, the teams have moved to a new indoor facility in Silver Street Park, off of Charlestown Road New Albany. The complex is 50 yards by 50 yards with high ceilings and is carpeted with sports turf, much softer than hardwood.
“Wiley [men’s basketball coach Wiley Brown] and I have a great relationship,” baseball coach Ben Reel said. “But I told him I couldn’t imagine his basketball team practicing outside on a baseball field.”

The dugouts at the Koetter Sports Baseball Complex were extended and the rails were padded for player protection.
The dugouts at the Koetter Sports Baseball Complex were extended and the rails were padded for player protection.

The baseball and softball teams’ move to Silver Street Park is just one of the many marketing, safety and facility upgrades that the IUS athletic department has made this school year.
The Koetter Sports Baseball Complex has new bleachers and the dugouts are extended to better protect players. A new irrigation system in the outfield will better water the turf in summer months.
There are shorter backboards in the Activities Building to prevent players from hitting their heads when attempting to dunk or grab a rebound, as well as new breakaway rims.
The athletic department purchased a new state-of-the-art scorer’s table for basketball and volleyball that are backlit and padded for improved safety.
Finally, new backdrops, signage and marketing displays were bought to help better brand the program.
Many of the upgrades were funded by a onetime capital expense out of the university’s budget. The rest were paid for through private fund raising.
Athletic Director Joe Glover says that player and spectator safety were the top priorities when deciding what improvements to make.
“As an athletic director, you have to keep your finger on the pulse of the program,” Glover said. “I have a list of things in each facility that we would like to improve.”
The improvement that most students will notice, however, might in be the softball and baseball teams’ move into their new indoor practice facility, and off the basketball court.
Sports Information Director Steven Utz said that with four different teams utilizing the Activities Building for practice, it left little time for other students to use the gym.
“Our gym schedule in the past started at 5 a.m. with baseball practice,” Utz said. “There might be some time in the morning for students to shoot around, and then it was booked solid in the afternoon.”
Now, there are large segments of open gym time nearly every day, for students to play pickup games or shoot around.

he new facility has batting cages, a bullpen and is carpeted with sports turf.
The new facility has batting cages, a bullpen and is carpeted with sports turf.

As for the baseball team, Reel says his players are grateful for their new practice area, and practice times.
“To me continuity breeds consistency,” Reel said. “It is tough as a coach to expect consistent effort out of them when one day they practice at 5:30 in the morning and the next it is at 3 in the afternoon.”
Reel says that the move to Silver Street Park will allow his players to spend more time on schoolwork and allow for a healthier start to the season. The larger space also enables his players to make longer throws and run further distances, better conditioning their arms and legs. That is important to Reel, who says his pitching staff should be one of the best in the nation.
“In the gym we could throw 70 feet, but in here we can throw 150 feet,” Reel said. “I think with our arm strength early on, we will definitely notice a difference in.”
As for any future plans for additional upgrades within the athletic department, Glover says that it largely depends on funding. His wish list includes new batting cages and a bullpen area for the softball complex, a new press box for the baseball complex, and lights for the tennis courts as well as baseball field.
While the department’s improvements are meant to benefit current athletes and students, Glover says they also mean a lot to alumni.
“It is great for me to see the pride they have for the program,” Glover said, “and how they appreciate and notice the changes we have made.”