UTSA Baseball roadrunner field

Momentum on and off the field has fans wondering “What’s Next?” for UTSA Baseball facilities

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Editor’s Note: A big thanks to Patreon Big Money Donor Ryan Squyres for his help with this piece. Ryan designed the facility renderings that you’ll see throughout the blog. Ryan is a backyard paradise designer who also does freelance designing through his own business, Ryan Squyres Designs, LLC.

After an underwhelming start to the 2024 season, the Roadrunners are playing good baseball and have momentum heading in the right direction. After dangling around .500 through the season’s first month, UTSA is sitting at an improved .600 winning percentage. While there was uncertainty heading into conference play, they have been objectively successful through the first five weekends. The Roadrunners have yet to lose a series, have not lost a Sunday conference game, and, thanks to a top-ten series victory against the #8 ECU Pirates, hold the tiebreaker in the AAC standings.

There is plenty to be excited about off the field as well.  

While there is still a way to go regarding baseball facilities, offseason improvements have cleaned the place up. Fan responses have been mixed. Some show appreciation and approval, while others still show cynicism about what is lacking. Like the team’s on-the-field performance, the upgrades have had some bumps in the road. Through my conversations with athletic department members, the feedback is always listened to and appreciated. Dr. Campos’ team wants what is best for UTSA Athletics. They are committed to working within what is available to upgrade spots that have been long overlooked. Some of these improvements are thanks in part to another welcomed change, ESPN+ coverage. 

Despite a brief “technical difficulty” on opening night, the ESPN+ streaming has been a breath of fresh air. Gone are past seasons that provided amateur-level camera angles, out-of-shot web-gem plays, and the lack of ability to review critical situations. If you’ve watched other teams this season, you know that being on ESPN+ does not always warrant a quality broadcast. This is not the case for UTSA’s product. These improvements have already paid dividends in the form of a stellar play by junior Matt King, which was good enough for Sports Center Top 10. 

Previous years’ production would not have captured that moment. Thanks to a brand-new ESPN+ control room in the RACE facility, students can get first-hand experience producing a collegiate athletics event. It has also helped fans understand how much goes into these events and how far UTSA has come from their Facebook Live streaming days. 

Sometimes, the little changes stand out more. Poured concrete has improved the ability to get around the bleachers, concessions, and restrooms. New UTSA and baseball-themed windscreens have been installed around the Bird Bath and the hitting/pitching pavilion. It certainly helps pass the eye test and stands out on the broadcast. The previous renderings had become quite tired. With these improvements, there is more to do. Fans have gone to Twitter, message boards, and more, asking what is next. Rightfully, there is a buzz around what can be done next to the beloved Bird Bath. 

When Express News’ Greg Luca broke the news that UTSA was committing $57 million to facilities over the next few years, UTSA Twitter was busting. It was an exciting day that validated the athletics department and the University’s commitment to athletics. Recognizing these updates is essential to continue the relevance various sports have seen in recent years. Others and I circled back to previous UTSA Baseball plans to see what some improvements may look like. Based on what I’ve seen elsewhere, I also throw in a few neat ideas I think the Bird Bath could build. 

There are two schools of thought with facilities improvement: fantasies of what schools that have been in place for over one hundred years have and what is realistic for where UTSA is at. 

There should be no reason to think that UTSA cannot meet or even exceed what other mid-majors have done for baseball facilities. At the same time, I appreciate that the current administration wants to do things the right way. 

The new home plate seating indicates a plan to build around the upgrades. They are not focused on quick-fix band-aids that must be demolished and rebuilt when the next phase comes. The table below paints an honest picture of how much more needs to be done. It provides hope that a championship, regional/super-regional host-worthy ballpark with appropriate facilities may be closer than just a few months ago. 

The press release mentioned existing facility improvements and player development centers, two key phrases pertaining to baseball. This tells me that fans can expect to see a continued improvement in both the viewing experience and the players’ experience. It seems to point to an actual grandstand, increased and improved amenities, and a comfortable space off the field for the players to prepare and unwind. Below is the order of events in which I would build these updates. 

Combined Practice Facility and Club House

The current hitting/pitching facility looks more like the pavilion that hosted your family member’s last birthday party than a Division I practice facility. The current clubhouse does not comfortably hold what is now an increased roster and coaching staff. The ground space and area are suitable and have room for more extensive facilities. Charlotte has a top-of-the-line performance center that hugs the right-field baseline. Doing something like this could combine the locker room/performance center and provide a suitable option for the visiting team in the event of an extended rain delay. 

In my spare time, I channel my inner College Baseball Sicko side and watch facility tours. Coastal Carolina had a locker room solely dedicated to their alumni to use. It also doubles for the managers during the season. This does two things. It gives extra space for the guys who want to come back and ramp up at their alma mater, and it provides a spot for guys who come back to throw BP, train, and keep clothes or gear at the field. 

Dug Out, Dugouts

The offseason improvements to both dugouts have helped aesthetically. In addition to the safety netting, it is starting to look more like an actual dugout. Now, the next step needs to be taken to eradicate any remaining eye soars. Dugouts with steps can provide a more protected area when preparing for an at-bat. A private bathroom for UTSA and the visiting team may reduce the player’s fitness step count but will save time and give easier access between innings.  

A Restaurant/Beer Garden on the Berm

If you have been to Reckling Park at Rice University, you have likely seen The Roost. This is a fan-centered building that offers food and drinks with a patio that allows fans to enjoy baseball outside in a relaxed manner. I put this above the grandstand in my priority rankings for two reasons. It is potentially an easier and quicker build. There is also something romantic about the Berm at the Bird Bath. It is a congregating spot for youth teams, families, and former players. Students could have access to it in the afternoon during the week. They could also stroll over to midweek games, grab a bite, watch some baseball, and complete homework. Like the Convocation Center, I would have the upstairs area be a VIP area for donors and alums. Imagine Coach Traylor perched atop “The Bird Bath” typing #TriangleOfToughness tweets as UTSA Baseball players send home runs beyond the Bad Birds student section in left field, clearing Chaparral Hall. 

Complete Grandstand/Press Box 

The new seating is a big step in the right direction. The next step is wrapping it around the home plate/dugout area. And please, some overhead coverage. Most Saturday and Sunday games start in the early afternoon, with the sun beating down as it moves to its highest point in the day. The more extensive seating area would provide the space and support for a wrap-around press box. In the corners, you could have a suite/luxury area. Like the current outfield wall sponsors, this allows more sponsorship opportunities. There is also space behind the current seating with enough room for permanent concessions, upgraded restrooms, and a team shop. 

It took approximately one day for fans to be seen sporting the alternate team cap and baseball jersey at the Bird Bath. To modify a line from my favorite baseball movie, if you sell it, they will buy it. Imagine not needing to pay for parking or shipping to get your latest UTSA Baseball merch but rather having an opportunity to buy it on the spot between innings. 

The Bad Birds Porch 

Not for the faint of heart. The Bird Bath needs a student section-focused area to create a hostile environment. East Carolina’s outfield, known famously as “The Jungle,” emulates this, and each season, they present their own M.V.P. for the year. Of course, you want to have a respectful but enjoyable experience. Having this next to the new and improved video scoreboard would be the chef’s kiss. 

Video Scoreboard 

Now that the broadcast quality has improved, a video scoreboard would be a nice improvement. Reliving diving catches, highlights from past games, and in-game stats provides an aesthetic upgrade that gives that big-time program feel. You throw that bad boy next to The Bad Birds Porch, and you have three to five hundred students clamoring for a replay or voicing their displeasure with the call on the field. 

It’s time to return to the present. Outside of a considerable donor coming into play or my lotto numbers finally hitting, these changes won’t happen overnight. Greg Luca’s article mentioned that these improvements were laid out over the next five years. Some of these improvements could happen simultaneously during the offseason.

The NCAA selection committee is living and dying by the RPI for the foreseeable future. One way to game the RPI is to increase the quality of non-conference opponents. Having a ballpark that fits the ideas and photos above helps bring in more prominent programs like the University of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and TCU to pad that RPI and create a buzz that could sell out a five thousand-capacity stadium.

I encourage you not to get discouraged with what is lacking but rather be excited for the future. The potential is there, both on the field and off. It’s an exciting time to be a Roadrunner. 

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