New facility gives Tigers advantages in recruiting and players a place to relax

Photos and story by Philip Joens

Missouri's baseball team practices on Thursday March 6, 2014, in front of the newly built McArtor Baseball Facility, part of a $4.5 million renovation to Taylor Stadium.

Missouri’s baseball team practices on Thursday March 6, 2014, in front of the newly built McArtor Baseball Facility, part of a $4.5 million renovation to Taylor Stadium.

COLUMBIA— On a warm and bright Thursday before their home opener, Missouri’s baseball team practiced at Taylor Stadium. Though the team was just 4-6 on the young season, excitement was in the air.

Over the past 10 months Taylor Stadium has been undergoing $4.5 million in improvements as part of a series of renovations the University of Missouri is completing in its move to the Southeastern Conference. The new McArtor Baseball Facility will be the center of those renovations, and by Thursday, the project had become almost a reality.

The facility was designed to give the team a place to hang out and call home, and once complete, the Tigers will be able to spend an entire day at Taylor Stadium if they choose.

“More than anything else, it’s just going to make their day to day lives easier,” coach Tim Jamieson said.

Plus, players will no longer need to walk across the outfield to their old locker room in the Mizzou Athletic Training Complex. Assistant coach Kerrick Jackson said the walk may not seem far to most fans, but it never gave the team a home to relax in.

“Granted, it’s only about 150 yards away but they still have to walk across (the outfield) to be able to do those things,” Jackson said. When referring to the current locker room setup Jackson said it does the job, but it’s not a place where the players hang out.

A month ago the walls of the facility were covered in wet paint. Sawdust, sheet rock and tarps covered the concrete floor. When finished the new facility will be a shrine to Missouri Baseball.

In the players’ lounge a bracket from Missouri’s 1954 NCAA Baseball Tournament championship team is painted on part of a wall.  The tournament’s bracket is painted over a backdrop of a College World Series game at Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park. Another wall features a statue outside TD Ameritrade Park that reads on the bottom “The Road to Omaha.”

In another part of the complex, gold carpet glows in a lobby near the coaches’ offices. Trash bags full of his stuff cover the floor in the office of volunteer coach Dan Pietroburgo, who hasn’t yet fully moved into his office. Jamieson’s office is a little more organized, with a bat rack, desk and computer set up. Soon the days when he couldn’t fit recruits in his office will be a distant memory.

Construction is still feverishly under way at Taylor Stadium though. In a new area of reserved seating down the left field line, seat posts are laid where they will soon be installed. Boxes of chair backs sit unopened in the top row of the new grandstand.

On top of the McArtor facility, where one day Jamieson imagines fans will drink alcohol and watch games from a club, there’s a fresh new concrete floor.

The crown jewel of the facility will be the football shaped locker room. It’s no accident there are no corners in the room. Jackson said staff wanted each player to see everyone in the room.

A month ago the ceiling had a massive hole in it. Now a black tiger head looms over a backlit yellow backdrop. In the locker room, the floor is still bare; lockers barely under construction. Still, there are signs the Tigers will be moving in soon. Six TVs covered in plastic and six speakers circle the ceiling of the locker room.

Shawn Davis, MU assistant director of strategic communications, says the team hopes the interior of the complex will be complete within the next week.

The addition will not beat the glitz and glam of South Carolina’s 8,242 seat Carolina Stadium, which was built in 2009.  Nor will it make Taylor Stadium fancier than Arkansas’ 10,737 seat Baum Stadium. But it will bring Missouri’s baseball facilities up to par with other SEC schools Jackson says.

“Our goal was to say hey, ‘we’re going to have the nicest facilities on the inside that we can control,’ and I think we’ve accomplished that,” Jackson said.

The bottom line according to Jamieson is that the new facility shows players how committed Missouri is to baseball.

“Anybody that’s played here, they’ve (seen) the differences between what we’ve had and what our opponents have had, “ Jamieson said.

Now Taylor Stadium feels like a minor league park. According to Jackson, it has that “big time” feel that players want.

“The whole thing with kids these days is how can we feel as big time as possible?” Jackson said. Now you’re going to walk into a big league facility and say, ‘Ok, this is something I’m proud of’.”

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