August 15, 2009 11:02:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State baseball coach John Cohen knew poor field conditions were going to prevent the Bulldogs from playing games last season.
The lack of adequate drainage at Dudy Noble Field after inclement weather led to the cancellation of the final game of the Nicholls State series March 1, the Mississippi Valley State game March 31, and the middle game of the Alabama series May 2.
Cohen believes the renovations to the baseball field will help improve the team''s chances of playing all its home games every year.
"This was something we desperately needed to do," Cohen said. "We didn''t get to play some games this year because of field conditions, and I don''t think that''s going to be a factor anymore."
MSU has hired Aaron McWhorter and his crew at Georgia-based Sportsturf to improve the drainage at the baseball and softball fields. The cost is $460,000, which is part of the $2.1 million efforts to enhance the school''s athletic facilities.
The surface improvement is the first at Dudy Noble Field since its creation in the mid 1970s.
"It''s a major renovation," McWhorter said. "It had accumulated a lot of organic material naturally over the years."
McWhorter and his staff are removing the organic material and replacing it with more sandy material. They also are installing a new irrigation and under drainage system in a 20-foot spacing across all grass areas of the field.
Artificial turf also is being installed in the more heavily traveled areas in front of the dugouts, behind home plate, and the warning track.
"It will take more wear and tear when people are standing around and taking batting practice," McWhorter said.
This is the 24th year of business for Sportsturf. Some of the company''s projects include the renovation of the University of Alabama''s football facilities 10 years ago, putting an artificial field for Alabama five years ago, constructing the Atlanta Falcons'' outdoor facilities, and building the Olympic softball facility in Columbus, Ga.
The company also has done work at Auburn''s baseball, football, and the softball fields.
"We''ve been excited about the opportunity to work at prestigious university like Mississippi State for a long time," McWhorter said.
The deadline for the completion of the project is early in October, which would give the Bulldogs time to hold fall workouts.
The weather will determine how close Sportsturf will come to hitting its deadline.
MSU Associate Athletic Directors Mike Nemeth, the administrator for baseball, and Duncan McKenzie said the project started slowly because of rain.
McWhorter said the company is in pretty good shape to meet the deadline if "we can continue to dodge the showers."
Cohen has been pleased with the progress, and knows it will take time to break in the new surface.
"It will be a change, and (there) will be some things we have to work out," Cohen said. "Usually when you put in a new surface, it really doesn''t play the way you want it to until the second year."
While the work on the field is taking place, the team''s locker rooms also are being renovated.
Nemeth, who works with MSU Coordinator of Game Operations Brent Frey, is helping oversee the project.
"With the baseball locker room, they have got a couple of things going on at the same time," Nemeth said. "I think they are moving forward at the right pace."
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