October 26, 2016
Rector renovation is a game changer for Hokie softball
Field House additions will drastically change how Tech trains in the offseason

BLACKSBURGScot Thomas has never needed nice things in his 22 seasons leading the Virginia Tech softball program. The Blacksburg native has relied on properly teaching the fundamentals of the game and a team-first mentality to guide his team to eight NCAA Regionals and the Women’s College World Series in 2008.

But don’t get him wrong. Despite the Hokies’ history of success without an indoor batting facility, Thomas would certainly welcome one. And after years of planning, a project that would significantly help the Hokies in offseason training and the dynamic of the program is on the way.

Virginia Tech soon will begin construction on a new, softball-only indoor hitting facility for the program that will be attached to Rector Field House and is adjacent to Tech Softball Park. The one-story building also will feature two coaches rooms, an equipment room, a team room, a film room, a mudroom, and team facilities.

“It’s kind of been like a ghost that’s been hanging out there,” Thomas said. “But now we’ve seen the plans and to be able to see the plans, to know that it’s finally going to happen, that’s the exciting part.”

The Hokies originally shared batting cages and other spaces with the baseball program before being granted access to use Rector in 2006. Rector served as a quality space for hitting and fielding work during times of inclement weather and extreme cold in the winter months. But during those months, the softball, baseball, and track and field programs would all be vying for practice time in Rector at the same time.

“There were always instances when weather created snafus and we had to share with track and field the throwers’ space that we also used for hitting,” Thomas said. “It’s been a good working relationship whenever the weather hit, and we all had to figure out a way to get work in together in the same space.”

Rumblings of a new batting facility first sprung up around five years ago and really turned a corner over the last couple of years. At the time, Tech was one of four teams in the ACC not to have its own indoor facility. The program and the administration came together to map out what was needed, and the leadership responded with blueprints of a high-level facility that would drastically improve the Hokies’ offseason training. The 16,000-square foot facility would be available to the program year-round for team events and game-day necessities.

Whitney Davis Showalter and Angela Tincher O’Brien, two members of the coaching staff and former Tech student-athletes who played for Thomas on some of the best teams in program history, stressed the positive improvement that the new facility will provide. The duo has seen Hokie softball rise from a modest program to reaching the pinnacle of college softball with a trip to Oklahoma City and the 2008 WCWS.

“I'm proud of our alumni and the hard work that was required to get this program to where it is today,” O’Brien said. “It's amazing to see that rewarded with a facility that will continue to benefit and grow our program as we look toward the future.”

“It’s amazing how far this program and our facilities have come from my freshmen year until now,” Showalter said. “We were fortunate enough during my playing days to see expansions to our stadium, but this facility takes it to a new level. We already have the best-field location of any school in the country, and this facility raises the bar even more. I think it speaks volumes for our ever-growing program and the faith and support that our administration has in us to receive a facility such as this.”

Thomas also stressed that the Rector improvement will not only drastically impact softball, but also other Tech programs as well. New locker rooms will be used by the soccer and lacrosse teams during contests and track and field will now have a javelin runway, a hammer cage and areas dedicated to throwing and discus.

Rector will have all of the bells and whistles that a softball program needs to compete at the ACC level. While Thomas had been forced to share space in the past, the head coach doesn’t mind sharing the facility when the renovation is finished. It will not only benefit his team, but it will benefit other Hokies as well. And that’s all that matters.

“That’s the cool part of the whole project. It doesn’t just help track or us, but it helps other sports along the way,” Thomas said. “Issues that had a band aid thrown on for so long will be solved when the renovation is complete.”

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