DETROIT – When Wayne State University opens the 2023 baseball season – the 83rd campaign in school history – it will do so on a new turf infield.
In June, the WSU Board of Governors approved a $1.1 million construction project to replace Harwell Field’s grass infield with synthetic field turf. The new infield, which was fully funded through philanthropic sources, is expected to be completed this month.
The clay and grass infield, used by WSU’s baseball teams for years, was in decent shape but required regular maintenance, particularly in-season, when Michigan’s spring weather often raises havoc on field conditions. The new field turf will cut maintenance costs while preventing postponement of games and cancellation of practices. The synthetic playing surface will also help reduce the number of injuries related to poor field conditions and give the Warriors a competitive advantage by allowing the team to use the field much sooner in the spring season due to a robust drainage system underneath the new turf.
“Our geographical region presents weather challenges across the full-time academic year, especially with the NCAA baseball season of competition during the winter semester,” Baseball Coach Ryan Kelley said. “Compared to a natural surface, this synthetic turf installment will help combat weather cancellations, delays and significant field maintenance. Beyond the weather environment, synthetic turf will allow for detailed player development, practice repetitions and competitive experiences.”
In 2017, the baseball field was rededicated to honor Ernie Harwell, the legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster who died in 2010. Then, renovations to Harwell Field carried a $2.3 million price tag, which was also paid for with private funding.
The building behind home plate is a likeness of Ebbets Field’s main entrance, with a fabric awning and metal rail and screen replicating the old Brooklyn ballpark where Harwell began his broadcasting career with the Dodgers in 1948. Even the Harwell Field sign atop the facility is based on the signage at Ebbets from 1913-57.
In left field, WSU paid tribute to two other iconic American baseball cathedrals – Tiger Stadium and Boston’s Fenway Park.
Through an arrangement with the Detroit Historical Society, the functional scoreboard that once adorned Tiger Stadium’s left field fence is attached to the base of Harwell Field’s outfield wall. A replica Fenway Park outfield wall was also installed, matching Boston’s 37-foot-high Green Monster configuration.
“A sincere thank you to our athletic department administration and supportive network leaders to help us achieve these enhancements through privately raised funds,” Kelley said. “The installment of the new infield turf will significantly assist with overall student-athlete development and programming.”
In addition to being the home for Warrior baseball, Wayne State has also hosted the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Division 1 baseball quarterfinals for years.
“We look forward to marketing our terrific campus to the community,” Kelley said, “by allowing opportunities for K-12 programming at Harwell Field.”