Anasthasia Shilov, Illustrations Editor, and Zully Arias, Production and Design Editor

“Behind the Venue” is a series of feature-form articles that dives into the history, character and most memorable moments of Yale’s various athletic forums — from stadiums and fields to pools and boathouses. While not all articles in the series will resemble one another, all attempt to take a deeper look into how these places came to be and how they have fared over time. This article is the eighth in the series.

On April 13, 2001, Yale softball played its first game with a new host: the William O. DeWitt Jr. ’63 Family Stadium.

Captain Monica Lebron ’01 and head coach Andy Van Etten led the Bulldogs at the time, while Yale’s current head coach, Jen Goodwin, coached at Simmons College. The old softball field, according to coach Goodwin, is “one of the rec fields now, so it still exists down there.” Seventeen years later, the DeWitt Family Stadium playing surface, which is called 5K Corral Field, underwent an upgrade. Through the company FieldTurf, Yale replaced the grass field at DeWitt Stadium with “state-of-the-art” artificial turf. The softball team welcomed Harvard for a doubleheader to break in the new renovations.

Twenty years after its opening, Goodwin, who is in her ninth year as a Yale head coach, and alumnae of the softball program reflected on the state of the venue and its recent history.

“I got to have my senior year on the new field at the time,” Alice Liu ’01 told the News. “That was just really exciting and also really special. … It made me feel like Yale cared about softball and that the softball program had a bright future.”

An aerial shot of 5K Corral Field at DeWitt Family Stadium after turf was installed in 2018. (Photo: Courtesy of Yale Athletics)

2001 opening and the stadium’s namesake: William O. DeWitt Jr. ’63

Named for William O. DeWitt Jr. ’63 and his family, the original stadium was designed by Brian A. Ameche ARC ’75, a New Haven architect who passed away in January 2020 and played football during his time with the Bulldogs. Clark Construction Company concluded construction on DeWitt Stadium in 2001. The New York-based firm specializes in athletic stadiums and helped build other softball stadiums in the Ivy League, including those at Cornell, Dartmouth and Princeton.

When DeWitt Stadium first opened in 2001, it represented a significant change for the Bulldogs. The new stadium pushed the centerfield wall back 20 feet.

“If anything, the larger outfield will be an asset,” then-head coach Van Etten told the News in February 2001. “We’re a fast team that can cover the gaps. If our pitchers can keep it in the ballpark, we’ll be in good shape.”

The construction also added a batting cage, expanded the size of the bullpen and changed the positioning of the field. Yale also became the first Ivy League school to have dugouts at their softball field.

“[The new field] is going to be really nice,” catcher Kristen Maturo ’01 told the News at the time. “As a catcher, the sun used to set in your face. Now it sets on the right.”

Liu thought the new stadium helped draw her friends to games: “It was exciting that we had a new stadium with copper stands for [people] to sit in,” she said with a laugh. “I remember being able to convince a lot more of my friends to watch.”

DeWitt, who has been the chairman and CEO of the St. Louis Cardinals since 1996, graduated from Yale in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. DeWitt’s family grew up in St. Louis, where his family has now been involved with Cardinals baseball for over 100 years. His father, William O. DeWitt Sr., worked for the Cardinals in numerous positions over his career, while William O. DeWitt III ’90, DeWitt Jr.’s son, currently serves as president of the team.

DeWitt Jr. also has a close relationship with George W. Bush ’68. While the two did not overlap at Yale, their families developed a strong relationship afterwards, according to the St. Louis Dispatch. DeWitt Jr. was named to the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board by Bush, his wife was selected to join the National Council on the Arts and his son served as an “aide to the director” of the Environmental Protection Agency. DeWitt subsequently helped raise over $200,000 for Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004.

DeWitt Family Stadium seats 350 people and includes a press box located behind home plate. (Photo: Courtesy of Yale Athletics)

2018 renovations: Turf at 5K Corral Field and an upgrade to DeWitt Stadium

In 2018, Yale received donations from Karen Yarasavage ’87 and Kevin Genda ’87 to help renovate DeWitt Family Stadium. Yarasavage played a key role on the Yale softball team in the 1980s. She earned All-Ivy honors for all four years she played.

Prior to the renovations, the Bulldogs faced challenges with weather, coach Goodwin said. “[In the past], when we would come back from spring break … we might not be able to get on the field from [it] being still frozen or still too muddy from the frost coming up underneath,” she said.

Goodwin said she had previously preferred grass but experiencing weather conditions in the Northeast persuaded her to embrace artificial turf.

“Last year, we only practiced indoors once or twice,” Goodwin said. “Most of the time, we were out on the field. If you’re going to play games in 30 degrees, you need to be able to practice in it anyway.”

Alumni remembered the unveiling fondly: “The turf was the big transition,” Shelby Kennedy ’19 said. “I remember the first day we came out to the field after the unveiling and we all just laid [down] in the turf … [and said] ‘We’re home!’”

Yale softball players celebrated the renovations at a 2018 turf reveal and ceremony. (Photo: Courtesy of Yale Athletics)

Outside of the turf addition, the renovations included upgrades to the bullpen, batting cages, outfield fence and dugouts. The outfield upgrade was significant: The fence’s height increased from 5 feet to 6, matching the NCAA’s requirement for softball fields renovated after the 2016 season.

A home off the field: Carol Roberts Field House

DeWitt Stadium physically sits beside Carol Roberts Field House and Johnson Field, home of Yale field hockey. The Carol Roberts Field House opened in 2018 as Yale’s first athletic facility “dedicated solely to women’s teams” — it has locker rooms for softball and field hockey, visitor locker rooms, an umpire changing room and an alumni space.

“We do typically call it ‘The Carol Roberts Field House’ or ‘The Pitt’ because that was Carol’s nickname,” Goodwin told the News. “The reason we call it ‘Carol Roberts’ as opposed to ‘Roberts’ is because we want recruits to know that the lead donor was a female; that’s important for visitors to know.”

Carol Roberts ’81 played both softball and field hockey at Yale and dedicated the field house in 2018 to her former teams. Yale began admitting women to Yale College fewer than 10 years before Roberts started her first year.

“Yale softball takes a lot of pride in who has come through our program and who will be the future of our program,” Kennedy said. “And a part of that is recognizing the legacy of the women who have come before us.”

Carol Roberts Field House overlooks the outfield at DeWitt Family Stadium. (Photo: Courtesy of Yale Athletics)

Upon her retirement, Roberts dedicated her final year working as chief financial officer of International Paper to Yale’s female athletes and donated her salary from that year to the project. “I thought, ‘I can work another year for these girls. They deserve that,’” she told Yale Athletics in 2018.

“[Roberts] is setting a … really good example for us of all the things that we can accomplish being student-athletes, women and graduating with a Yale degree,” outfielder Giovy Webb ’20 told the News when “The Pitt” opened.

Goodwin said that players used to walk six or seven minutes with gear from the old facility to the practice spaces but now have their locker rooms in a facility just beyond the outfield fence. She added that the team uses the alumni space the most outside of the locker room for team dinners, scouting and other meetings.

DeWitt Family Stadium seats 350 people and includes a press box located behind home plate.

Nader Granmayeh | nader.granmayeh@yale.edu

Correction, Apr. 6: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Karen Yarasavage earned Ivy League Player of the Year honors. The article has been updated to more accurately reflect her athletic accolades.

NADER GRANMAYEH
Nader Granmayeh is a staff writer covering football and softball for the Yale Daily News. He is originally from New York City and majoring in political science.