Matthew Mister

Yale Field has been a part of the University’s storied athletic tradition since it opened in 1928. Dozens of famous baseball players including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Yale first baseman and captain George H.W. Bush ’48, and MLB executive and former Yale President A. Bartlett Giamatti ’60 GRD ’64 have all made appearances at the ballpark located in West Haven.

But changes to Yale Field came this past winter, when the University completed a $2 million renovation to lay artificial turf on the historic surface, an improvement that has numerous benefits over the original grass surface. On Saturday, Yale President Peter Salovey and University officials commemorated Yale’s new state-of-the-art turf field and honored Bill DeWitt ’63 and Stephen Greenberg ’70, both of whom funded the renovations.

“Since 1860, student-athletes have been a great source of pride for our community and through their performance on this baseball field, whether they win or lose,” Salovey said in his speech before the opening pitch. “This new field will help bring our community together, will help us celebrate our common identity, will allow us to cheer on our student-athletes and will help us all enjoy the national pastime just as Yale alumni, parents, faculty, students and staff have done for 150 years.”

Joined by Yale baseball head coach John Stuper and Yale Director of Athletics Tom Beckett, Salovey welcomed and thanked the donors for their contributions to the new turf field. Dewitt and Greenberg both threw the first pitches before the Bulldogs took on Dartmouth. Handsome Dan also made an appearance to demonstrate his gratitude for the new facility.

In addition to building a synthetic turf field, the upgrade also created new perimeter fencing, new benches in the dugouts and improvements to the home and away bullpens, among other renovations.

Yale is now the fifth Ivy League team to install turf baseball fields, and, the renovation has given Yale the best baseball facilities in the Ivy League, according to baseball captain Tom Ruddy ’18.

“We can start practicing on our field later into the fall and earlier in the months after break because snow can be plowed from it, and it drains rain almost immediately,” Ruddy said, “The surface will aid our already stellar defense as errors will no longer be blamed on bad hops. The new field makes attending Yale the most ideal place to matriculate, as an aspiring student-athlete baseball player.”

According to the description of the project on the “Giving to Yale” website, installing artificial turf on both the baseball field and DeWitt Field — the home of Yale softball, which underwent a $1 million renovation this past winter — has numerous benefits. The new surface provides both teams with greater flexibility for practice schedules, earlier access to the field in the winter, the “virtual elimination” of rain-outs and more opportunities for home games.

The description also notes that turfing the field will allow Yale to host an NCAA regional series in the future.

“This is an unbelievably special day for our program,” Stuper said. “There are no words to thank [Dewitt and Greenberg] for [their] generosity. Just look around, Yale baseball is entering a new era thanks to you.”

Stuper helped bring in the new era of Yale baseball last spring, when he led the Bulldogs to their first Ivy League title since 1994. As Yale looks to build its program, the field will allow the team to practice outside more in the offseason, when grass fields in New England are often unusable due to intermittent weather. Catcher Cal Christofori ’21 said the team is excited for next fall when more outdoor practices “will translate into us being readier to go when the season comes around.”

The Yale baseball team went on to defeat Dartmouth in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader 10–3 and sits in sole possession of the first place in the 2018 Ivy League standings.

Caroline Moore | caroline.moore@yale.edu