By Sarah Catherine Baker, Staff Writer
Former National Champions, UTC’s club baseball team is currently 15-4 in its league this season, so then why don’t they have their own field to play on?
Finley Stadium and McKenzie arena are both home to UTC Athletics, but the university owns one other major playing field that they aren’t utilizing. Located right off the edge of campus, Engel Stadium is owned by UTC, yet isn’t being used to its fullest potential.
Engel Stadium was built in 1930 and was the original home of the Chattanooga Lookouts, formerly affiliated with the Los Angeles Dodgers, now a part of the Minnesota Twin’s organization. The stadium underwent renovations in 2014. It is currently in great condition and only requires new dirt in the infield to be playable. This is a task UTC’s club baseball team is more than willing to try and undertake.
The field’s sole purpose now is to hold some events on the outfield, and sit there as a historic memoir. It is kept to historic standards by the Engel foundation and is almost perfect except for one problem, no one plays baseball on it.
The Mocs’ club baseball team isn’t allowed to play on the field. They practice and play all their home games at Red Bank High School, located approximately 20 minutes away from campus.
In order for the Mocs’ baseball team to get access to the field, they first must generate interest in the community and among UTC students. Essentially, they must prove to the school that by using the field for its original purpose, baseball games, it will generate money. They must determine that by making it usable, people will regularly attend it, said Nathaniel Ortiz, former player for the Mocs and now the team’s president.
The school proved the baseball team with a budget each season, just like other club sports at UTC. This budget doesn’t cover all the team’s expenses, though. The men have held fundraisers in the past to pay for these other expenses. The field that the team currently plays on is one of these expenses that is a necessity. It would save the school money in the long run if Engel Stadium was an alternative option to play on.
Ortiz said that having access to Engel would not only be good for their team, but the other club sports as well.
“I think that if we had our own field, we could generate our own [money] and we wouldn’t need to use that club sport budget so that other teams could use it for themselves,” said Ortiz. “We could sustain ourselves.”
The Mocs currently practice four nights a week at the Red Bank field. Although, it would be much more convenient for the team to practice right off campus at Engel. The stadium doesn’t have working lights, but Ortiz said this isn’t a problem considering the team would be more than willing to switch practice time and game time to during the day, if it meant having access to the field.
Ortiz said there are several things that need to happen in order for the program to progress. They need to generate money to pay for the field. They need to get advertisements as well as get people to pay for ad space on the field. This would be best for their budget and help the team tremendously for the time being.
The school has plans to renovate the field and to make it completely playable, but that will be in the years to come as the school builds a new intramural complex. There is no current physical progress on the project though.