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          New softball stadium opens

          Joe Amick

          Issue date: 4/9/10 Section: Sports
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          Things get normal fast, especially in a sport like softball, where there are so many games to be played in a season.

          When the university started the softball program in 1996, it was normal for the team's field to become a swamp after just a little rain.

          Years later, when they played in Little Italy, it was normal for softball players to pick little pieces of glass up from the field before games.

          Wednesday, in a ceremony that featured alumnae, softball players, and administrators, the university officially opened the renovated softball stadium, Mather Park. Things there don't feel quite normal yet - a bit of opening day pomp still hangs in the air.

          But after the pomp settles, the Spartans' new normal will be one of the best softball facilities in Division III.

          "It's one of the nicest stadiums at the Division III level in the country," said softball coach Erin O'Neill. "It's definitely really exciting to play in such a wonderful facility and have the support for the rebuilding of this program. It'll help bring in really great student-athletes, who'll step on campus and say, 'this is a place I want to play softball'."

          "This sets the bar for facilities at the university," said athletic director Dave Diles. "I think this facility would be welcomed at any campus across the country."

          Located just north of Clarke Tower, Mather Park now features stadium seating, bleachers and a press box. The new features were built around the existing softball field, the team's home since The Village was built.

          The upgrades, which cost over a quarter-million dollars, were largely enabled by a 2008 donation from the Flora Stone Mather Alumnae Association.

          The Mather contribution was essential. Softball became a varsity sport relatively recently, so it lacks the alumnae base to support an expensive facility.
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