Scenic English Field continues to provide Virginia Tech with a first-class campus setting for college baseball, day or night. The field, which was officially dedicated during a special ceremony on April 8, 1989, is named for the late E.R. 'Red' English and his wife, Ruth, who provided financial support for construction of the field.
Located at the intersection of Southgate Drive and Duck Pond Drive, English Field features 1,033 permanent chair-back seats in its concrete stands. An anonymous donor made the seats possible through a contribution. The stands also include easy-access handicapped sections, which are located at the top of the stands on each side of the center section.
The Tech athletics department continues to make upgrades to the facility. In the spring of 2012, workers replaced the natural grass surface by installing artificial turf. The $1 million field will enable the Hokies to practice even during inclement weather, as groundskeepers can remove snow off of it quickly. Plus, it drains quickly as well, allowing for a speedy resumption of play following any rain delays. Also, as a part of this project, workers expanded the dugouts to almost twice the size, constructed a new batter’s eye and installed a new padded outfield fence.
“We are excited about having the artificial surface. It’s the state-of-the-art surface that’s out there right now,” head coach Pete Hughessaid. “The foremost reason I am excited is that it gives our kids the ability to develop on days where they couldn’t in the past. We can get out there and develop as a program on that surface any time of the year.
“And being able to double the size of our dugouts, that will be much better on a daily basis. That’s a huge improvement along with our outfield wall going to a padded wall. It will make it a safer venue to play, and the addition of our batter’s eye will provide a tremendous background for our hitters, which we didn’t have before.”
The completion of this project came on the heels of the completion of a new indoor hitting facility, which was finished in December of 2009. Located just beyond the left field foul pole at English Field, the 8,000-square foot facility serves the Hokies in a number of ways. There are four separate batting cages that can be employed for hitting purposes, but if the team wants to work on fielding and/or throwing, those cages can be raised to open up an area of turf that is nearly as big as the size of a normal infield. It also has large, garage-like doors that can be opened for an open-air atmosphere, as well as a great view of the field, if the weather permits.
The floor of the building is outfitted with field turf, which allows for a natural roll of the ball. Also included are two instructional video labs, one for pitchers and one for hitters. The facility is equipped with video cameras that can film the players from both side and front angles, and the players can then view themselves on computer monitors in the labs for immediate feedback on form and execution.
"I can't emphasize enough how important the changes to our facility and the investment in our program has been," Hughes said. "It sends a great message of commitment. We're gradually becoming a player in the ACC in every single sport, and I think that's what [Tech athletics director] Jim Weaver has in mind for us."
The two projects are just the latest in upgrades. In the summer of 2008, the terracing of the hill along the third base/left field line was completed to provide fans with a new, unique and comfortable way to take in the action. When added to the permanent seats in the grandstand, the new terracing allows for approximately 4,000 fans to be accommodated at any given time. The terracing includes a sloping, paved walkway to allow for wheelchair access and easy navigation.
The terrace looks much like one would see in an outdoor amphitheater and features a series of steps/seating areas constructed with VERSA-LOK walls and sod-type pads. There is about seven feet of space between each terrace, so there is plenty of room to put blankets down and for children to play.
"I think it's awesome – it's just what we had in mind," Hughes said of the terracing. "It caters to our clientele, which is families and the student body. Rather than going the route of 2,500 metal bleachers, we met two needs – we created more seating and we created a better venue. Very few projects come out better than what you had in mind, but that's what happened with the terracing. They did an unbelievable job. It is as unique as any other facility in college baseball."
Coinciding with the terracing project was the realignment of the left and right field foul line fences. Both were cut in tighter to the playing field, significantly reducing the foul territory in the outfield. This change not only provided a new element to the play on the field, but it also allowed the terraces to get a little closer to the action, both increasing room for attendance and giving fans a new and unique viewpoint from which to watch the game. This renovation also included the addition of new bullpens.
An eight-foot wooden outfield fence and a new net backstop behind the plate were installed in 2005. The previous spring, a new scoreboard and message center were added along with additional landscaping and a concrete patio behind the stands.
Prior to the 2004 season, a new lighting system was installed. The Hokies played their first baseball game under the lights in Blacksburg on April 28 of that year, defeating VMI, 8-0.
A permanent press box was completed in January of 1997. The two-story building located at the top of the stands behind home plate provides a working area for game operations workers and media, as well as two broadcast booths. It also houses a concession stand and restrooms, and a brand-new sound system that was installed in 2008. The press box was equipped with new windows in January of 2010.
Other features of the facility include bullpens that are located near each dugout and a practice-hitting cage along the right field line. Security fencing was added in January of 2003. The landscaping also allows for further expansion of the facilities as needed.
E.R. English, a native of Altavista, Va., played as an offensive and defensive guard on Virginia Tech football teams from 1930-33 and graduated from Virginia Tech in 1934. English contributed to Tech athletics for more than 50 years and was one of the founders of The Student Aid Association in 1949. He served as president of that organization two of its first three years. English received the most outstanding alumni award at Tech in 1984.
Through a generous gift from alumnus George Sampson, the home team dugout was named for long-time Tech baseball coach G.F. 'Red' Laird during a ceremony on April 12, 1991. Laird recruited and coached Sampson at Tech.
The Hokies opened play at their new home with a 7-2 victory against George Mason University on March 22, 1989, and went on to post a 17-7 home record during their first season in the facility. Heading into the 2012 season, Tech's 23-year mark at English Field is 381 wins, 201 losses and three ties.
Prior to the opening of English Field, Tech played its home baseball games at Tech Park, where it compiled a 431-122-1 record over 34 seasons.