If Steve Harrick or Dale Ramsburg were alive today and came back to Morgantown to visit the West Virginia University baseball program there wouldn’t be much in place they could recognize or remember.
The old Southern Conference that Harrick’s teams did so well in is long gone. The old Atlantic 10, East Coast Athletic Conference, Eastern Eight, and Big East conferences that Ramsburg’s teams often had success against are now in the past.
The bumpy field with the wooden bleachers where Harrick’s teams had enough wins to reach the NCAA Tournament many times was plowed under and had the basketball Coliseum built on the same grounds. And now Hawley Field, whose lights were all it had to brag about, is going to eventually be replaced.
West Virginia is in the Big 12.
And the Big 12 takes its baseball a lot more seriously than did Georgetown, Cincinnati, and Villanova of the Big East.
Texas won’t be coming to Morgantown. But it will be coming to Charleston, Princeton, or Bluefield to play the Mountaineers of just-named Coach Randy Mazey.
West Virginia won’t be playing any Big 12 Conference home games at Hawley Field. New-coach Mazey will be presiding over conference games within the state . . . but because the school’s athletic administration doesn’t want to become a pariah in its first year in the Big 12 no league baseball games will be played at Hawley Field.
Instead of ceding all its home-field conference games, the Mountaineers will be using the minor league ball park of the Princeton Rays . . . and Bowen Field, the home of the Bluefield Jays of the same Appalachian League where Princeton plays . . . and in Charleston at the stadium where the Charleston Power has its home games. Appalachian Power Park in Charleston is by far the nicest of the three minor league ball yards with its roomy dugouts, spacious clubhouses and a quality playing surface.
Bluefield, once the home of a Baltimore Orioles Rookie League team, has very small dugouts and none of the player amenities college players have become used to now days.
Like Bluefield, Princeton is another small-town franchise that uses its wits and a variety of promotions in trying to remain solvent. The Rays don’t spend much on adding to player comforts.
Each of the three home-away-from-home facilities the Mountaineers will be using for Big 12 games has a clubhouse, something Hawley Field doesn’t have.
The 2012 traveling show is designed to be a stop-gap measure that will last only one year.
A stadium to be shared by WVU and a so-far unnamed minor league franchise is to be built near a shopping mall just off I-79 in Morgantown. The plans are for the facility to be ready for the 2014 college baseball season. And Princeton, Bluefield, and Charleston can go back to being the homes of professional baseball minor league teams.
Coach Mazey, the successor to just-deposed Greg Van Zant, comes to Morgantown from a six-year stint as an assistant at TCU, a school that received bids to NCAA Regionals in all of his seasons in Fort Worth.
The 46-year-old Mazey was the head coach for three years at East Carolina, where his overall record was 120-63-1 and the Pirates played in an NCAA Regional all three seasons he was in Greenville.
He had been the head coach at Charleston Southern for three seasons, compiling an overall record of 66-84-1 and once reaching the NCAA Tournament.
The new WVU coach began his college coaching career in 1990 as an assistant at Clemson. He has both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Clemson.
Mazey was assured he will have the maximum number of baseball scholarships allowed by the NCAA to do his recruiting against Big 12 powers Baylor, Texas Christian, Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. The NCAA allows 11.67 scholarships for baseball. Every school in the Big 12 has the alloted 11.67 allowable scholarships.
Before Mazey was hired to elevate the quality of Mountaineer baseball, the school had about nine scholarships to offer.
Moving from the often baseball-poor Big East to the mostly baseball-rich Big 12 will test Mazey’s recruiting abilities. Even though St. John’s has won its way to an NCAA Super Regional this year the Red Storm don’t usually find such success. And Louisville, Seton Hall, and Connecticut have found sporadic NCAA tournament berths.
But the Big 12 has many-times national champion Texas, modern-day World Series challenger Texas Christian, recent giant Baylor, and old-line national powers Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Mazey will begin his career in Morgantown with a year of touring the state’s minor league ball parks. When the 2014 season comes along, the new coach will have his first recruiting class in place and should be able to have the public watch them perform in a new stadium alongside I-79.