Baseball team’s new AstroTurf field ready

New astro-turf was installed over the summer at Nick Denes Field. Matt Lunsford/HERALD

Sam Porter

After beginning a new era with Head Coach John Pawlowski just one year ago, the WKU baseball program will begin another era in the 2017 season.

Athletic Director Todd Stewart announced in May that an AstroTurf-designed playing surface will be installed at Nick Denes Field.

WKU joins Louisiana Tech University as the only two schools in Conference-USA to possess a turf field. The $1.3 million project is 100 percent privately funded.

“When I came to WKU our facilities were already great,” junior outfielder Kaleb Duckworth told the BG Daily News. “The new field is definitely exciting. It’s awesome that people are investing in our program. Now we need to go win some games for them.”

AstroTurf is a company that has designed turf fields for major league teams such as the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays and top other college programs such as the University of Louisville and Vanderbilt University.

“I think from a player developmental standpoint it’s going to benefit our club and our team,” Pawlowski told the BG Daily News. “You see more and more programs that are going to turf. I think that it’s better for our team because we play a good part of the season in the winter months. The players are excited but there’s a learning curve to be had. We don’t know exactly how it’s going to play. It has to break in and our players have to learn it.”

Now entering their third year in the very competitive C-USA, the Hilltoppers continue to make the transition from the Sun Belt Conference.

Since making the move to C-USA, the Hilltopper baseball team has gone a combined 20-39 in conference play and has missed the Conference tournament in both seasons.

Pawlowski hopes the AstroTurf field will help with recruiting as well.

“The field is one piece, but as we move forward there are a lot of pieces we have to put in place. We have a lot of ground to make up,” Pawlowski said.

“I mentioned last year that I thought there was a significant gap between the top three or four teams and the rest of the league. How do you make up that gap? You have to recruit. The field certainly helps. If we can get certain recruits on campus we feel like we have a great shot to get them to come to Western.”

The new turf field will also help with keeping Nick Denes Field in condition when the Hilltoppers welcome other teams to Bowling Green.

Over the past two seasons, 11 of the 15 home series at Nick Denes Field have been altered due to the weather. Managing to play all those series has also required time and money spent on field maintenance.

“From a weather standpoint, we know we can get out here and get our work done. If it rains, we’ve got tremendous drain,” Pawlowski said. “When the games come around during the season I think that is going to be a great piece of it all: The ability to play on turf.”

The AstroTurf field broke ground in early June and was recently completed. The Hilltoppers recently began workouts on the new field and will use the new playing surface during their Fall competitions.

Reporter Sam Porter can be reached at 270-745-6291 and at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @SammyP14.