Texas Longhorns baseball will soon catch up with the rest of the Big 12 conference thanks to a $1 million donation from Roger and Debbie Clemens will support the program and help fund an indoor baseball training facility, the school announced on Tuesday.
As the only Big 12 school without an indoor baseball training area, Texas has fallen behind in the facilities arms race, as in other sports. Athletics director Chris Del Conte is currently working on raising the rest of the $9 million for the project, which has been in the works for several years.
“On my way to a 24-year career in the major leagues, I can say for me it all started right here at The University of Texas. I have fantastic memories that I carry with me now and forever from The University and our city of Austin,” Clemens said. “Those fond memories continue as I have watched all four of my boys have ties to UT — and in the case of Kacy and Kody large ties with both excelling in the classroom and at Disch-Falk Field. When I was at Texas, we had the best facility in the nation. Now with the addition of the indoor complex and training facility, it will once again be the best place to play, workout and take your game to the next level. I hope all of you will be proud of it!”
Two years ago, the school released the University of Texas Master Plan, which called for on-site and off-site player development areas. Before the season opener last year, former bullpen catcher James “Butters” Barton tweeted out a rendering of the proposed facility:
Future lookin pretttty bright at the Disch pic.twitter.com/ZpB7WeaWRV— James Barton (@jamesbarton10) February 17, 2017
According to the Master Plan, the on-site player development facility will feature an air-conditioned training space with four mounds, six batting cages, and storage, in addition to serving baseball operations.
An off-site player development facility will require the purchase of additional land and provide an indoor practice area with full baseball and softball infield and club areas for pre-game meals. The development would provide the added benefit of centralizing athletic training with sports medicine and strength and conditioning.
The player development facility will be the biggest change at UFCU Disch-Falk Field — other improvements include the recently-completed installation of new turf and moving in the outfield fences. Longer-term plans feature family-friendly kid zones behind the plaza on the third-base side among a host of other upgrades.
The plans also include temporary seating for big games, converting the grass area in left field to allow more concessions and sponsors, adding branding, signage, statistics, and memorabilia to the concourse, a ribbon board on the top of the outfield wall, and a new, interactive video board.
A completion date of 2019 is the target for the on-site player development, but it’s not clear what the plans are for the other proposed upgrades at Disch-Falk Field and for the off-site player development.
Still, the donation from the Clemens family and the plans to move forward with the on-site facility are good news for Longhorns baseball.