Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Two years ago, Vice President and Director of Athletics Ed McLaughlin called coach Shawn Stiffler explaining his vision of an elite performance center. On Thursday afternoon the Baseball Performance Center opened its doors, the first of its kind for the baseball program.
Baseball trained at Franklin Street Gym prior to the construction of the new facility on the bottom level of the Bowe Street parking deck. It cost $1.9 million to repurpose the bottom of the parking structure.
The facility is a step up from the Rams’ training facility in Franklin Street Gym, which was built in _ and is scheduled to be torn down this spring.
“It’s like driving a really beat up car and walking up and sitting in a Cadillac,” McLaughlin said. “They’ve deserved it. They’ve earned it. I’m a big believer in if you do a great job and you win … you should be rewarded with stuff”
Franklin Street Gym is a half mile walk from the new facility, which is connected to the players’ locker room. Now, they have their locker room, weight room and dorms all within the same city block with the addition of the Baseball Performance Center.
The team saw the facility for the first time Wednesday night, and coach Shawn Stiffler said they were excited and wanted to get to work immediately. They’ll have to wait, because it will take a week to move into the facility.
“It’s like when you buy a new house, you’ve got to figure out who’s bedroom’s which, where you want things to go,” Stiffler said.
A new addition to the Rams’ batting cages is the addition of Rapsoto and Trackman technology on site, so the players can look at their swings on the spot. Franklin Street Gym did not have the analytic tools.
“The bricks and mortar only get you but so far,” McLaughlin said. “But our coaches’ ability to teach, and technology, and for our guys to get better in that way — it’s hugely important.”
The facility’s cages can be manipulated easily, and Stiffler said that was a big part of the design of the center. It will allow the team to have up to three long cages, or they can move the nets to work on defensive drills.
Glass windows line almost the entire length of the wall facing West Marshall Street, and that was another feature Stiffler wanted to include.
“I wanted people walking to basketball games to be able to see inside this facility,” Stiffler said. “I want to show it off.”
The facility will also serve as another recruiting tool for baseball.
“Just from the recruing perspective, walking them in here, it makes them say, ‘wow,’” McLaughlin said. “ You walk in here and think ‘this is a high-level program.’”
“When you bring a family and a young man onto this campus and between The Diamond and this facility and the education he’s going to get here, I don’t know what else you could want,” Stiffler said.
The facility has a full hydration station, a permanent place for bats and batting helmets as well as a training room.