Bobby Moranda’s mantra nowadays is a combination of Larry the Cable Guy’s “git-r-done” and the Lowe’s home improvement company’s “let’s build something together.” Moranda, preparing for his fourth season as Western Carolina’s head baseball coach, is directing a massive renovation of Childress Field/Hennon Stadium worthy of an episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home (Plate) Edition.”
“The renovation project is critical to the future success of our proud baseball program,” Moranda said. “The appearance and functionality of the playing field and stadium are what recruits want to see first and use to gauge a program. It can be a source of pride for players, fans and the community.” Although WCU’s baseball facilities once were the envy of the Southern Conference, opposing programs have upgraded with modern, attractive places to play, he said.
“When we have brought prospects on campus in the past, we would take them to the new dining hall, Campus Recreation Center, Hinds University Center and the new residence halls – which all are gorgeous – and then the last stop would be the baseball stadium, which did not make the same type of impression as the remainder of our campus,” he said.
Moranda and his wife of 17 years, Pamela, started the renovation project when they awoke on July 10 and agreed that “something has to be done about the baseball facility.” Later that day, they began working in the dugouts, ripping out the rotting, molding carpet and adding fresh paint. Since then, the project has taken off with involvement from the corporate level to individuals who have contributed finances, materials, and time and talent, said Chip Smith, director of athletics. “Coach Moranda has done a superb job in jump-starting these much-needed improvements to our baseball facility,” said Smith. “We appreciate the financial support and leadership roles of the many people who helped make this renovation project a reality.”
Following the dugouts upgrade, the entire stadium was painted to make the old block work resemble red brick and trimmed with ivy green paint that matches the new roofing throughout the stadium. Next was new lower-level seating, as the stadium was moved 14 feet closer to home plate to accommodate two rows of new chair-back seats. A 36-inch wall now extends between the dugouts in front of new Yankee Stadium-style slatted seats. Major League-style chair-back seats will replace old chairs in the grandstand, and the metal bleachers will be covered with molded plastic seating.
In addition, a new Major League-quality backstop net stretches 156 feet in front of the grandstand seating, and the rusted grandstand roof has been replaced. The concession stand and rest rooms have been repainted and roofed in the red brick and ivy green color scheme, and the batting cage roof has been replaced. Dugout benches have been replaced, new protective netting installed, and new bins built for storage. A 48-inch brick wall will stretch from each dugout to the outfield fence down the left- and right-field lines. A “batter’s eye” has been attached to the center-field fence and the “Purple Monster” in left field has been repainted.
Moranda also has several other projects either under way, in the planning stages or on his radar. They include a courtyard behind the third-base seats that will feature a sitting wall, pavers, planters, outdoor grill and extensive landscaping; refencing of the entire facility; a brick wall around the present batting facility; a new pitcher training area; a wrought iron and red brick entrance; and an earth berm viewing area outside the right-field fence for WCU students. In addition, the chair back seats removed from the grandstand area will be repainted ivy green and placed along the right-field line. The history of WCU baseball will be depicted with a series of large mural-type posters that will adorn the grandstand entrance areas. On the wish list is a clubhouse that will house a locker room, offices, player lounge, legacy room, weight room and video room.
“There are so many who had a hand in this project by stepping up to the plate with their expertise, donation of materials, labor, cooperation and financial backing,” said Moranda, who singled out Dave Steed ’73, retired Lowe’s Inc. senior vice president for general merchandising, as a key player. “He was behind the donation of a staggering amount of building material and supplies, and got numerous vendors to supply everything from paint to bricks to roofing. I got to know everyone at the Sylva and Franklin Lowe’s stores on a first-name basis.”
The renovation project would not be possible without the contributions of many businesses and individuals, including assistant coaches, players, benefactors, WCU staff and members of the 1002 Club, the boosters organization formed to help the Catamount baseball team reach the College World Series, played 1,002 miles from Cullowhee in Omaha, Neb.
“We don’t have to have the biggest facility, but we want a first-class facility that everyone involved with WCU and its baseball program can be proud of,” Moranda said. “I think we are on our way to achieving that goal.”
Pictured above, clockwise from top left, Moranda and Mackie McKay, a contractor who helped with the project; the stadium before and after 200 gallons of brick red and ivy green paint; upgrades to the batting cage; building a wall down the first baseline; laying a walkway behind the stadium; and ticket office roofing that matches the color scheme of other new buildings on campus.
Wife Pam Moranda and assistant coaches David Haverstick, Alan Beck ’04 MAEd ‘06 and Bruce Johnson ‘09, for their labor.
Dave Steed ’73, retired senior vice president for general merchandising for Lowe’s Inc.; Curtis Church; and Lowe’s Inc., for materials, labor, cooperation and financial support.
Larry Stanberry ’68, Gaither Keener ’72, Jorge Azor, Van Stayton ’65, Jeff Murphy, Greg Parsons and the 1002 Club, which includes many former WCU baseball players, for financial contributions.
Mackie McKay, for technical and engineering support.
Lowe’s Home Improvement Center local associates David Vaughn, Matt Stephenson, Steve Allen ’74 and Travis Chamberlain in the Sylva and Franklin stores; Roger Bartlett and Don Hensley ’72 of Western Builders Inc.; Chip Hall and Brandon Hooper of the Jackson County Prison Inmates program; and brick mason John Ridley for contributions to brickwork.
Gary Ayers and Allison Outdoor Advertising for repainting the Purple Monster.
Norman West ’68, president of the Catamount Club, for transportation of the brick dust for the warning track.
Ken Holland and Travis Chappell of Triangle Brick; Grant Lambert ’98 of Valspar Paints; Eric Goza of Land Construction Co.; Billy and Johnny Burbank of Burbank Nets; Kevin Sullivan of Quikrete; Michael Ross of Prime Source; Paul Tucker of Tucker Lumber; Frank Deiulis of Trek; Bill Fox and Greg Patton of Union Corrugating; Ray Love of Cemex; Jeff Patton of Universal Forest Products; and Richard Fields ’91 of General Shale, for contributing materials.
Matt Kirsch of Kirsch Trucking, Pete Peterson of Cypress Truck Line Inc. and Jason Bodford of Epes Logistics Services, for combining to provide transportation that saved $10,000 in brick deliveries.
Chuck Wooten ’73, retired vice chancellor for administration and finance; and Division of Facilities Management staff members Galen May, Wiley Harris, Roger Turk, Joe Walker and Chris Ray, for their efforts.