Almost from the day he arrived on campus as Charleston Southern baseball coach, Stuart Lake’s goal has been to have his team play home games under the lights.
Tonight’s gameWho: CSU vs. PresbyterianWhat: First night game at CSU BallparkWhen: 7 p.m.Festivities: Block party for students and fans begins at 5 p.m. Barbeque available. Children’s activities include jump castle and face painting. Fireworks show after game.
Tonight, that dream becomes reality as Charleston Southern plays its first night baseball game at CSU Ballpark. The Buccaneers host Presbyterian College in the opening game of a three-game Big South Conference series at 7 p.m.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s finally happening,” said Lake, a former CSU player. “This is happening due to a tremendous effort and level of commitment from a lot of people who shared the same dream of night baseball on this campus.
“I don’t think people on the outside can fully comprehend how big this is for our university and our program. Had I not played here, I probably would not understand it as I do. It’s a very special time and as a graduate of this school and now the head coach, I am very proud.”
A little more than two years ago, Lake rallied together a group of former players and supporters of the program and expressed his desire to do whatever it took to secure lights for the baseball CSU Ballpark. The coach already had made significant improvements to the baseball facility, adding a new scoreboard and reserved seating.
Former players Matt Brownlee, Hardy Ferguson and Kevin Futrell spearheaded a campaign to raise the necessary funds for lights. The original cost was thought to be in the $200,000 range, but the final price tag will likely exceed $350,000. Lake and his group have raised about $175,000 so far and the effort will continue until the lights are paid off. The City of North Charleston also made a significant donation to the cause and will reap the benefits of having CSU’s stadium for use during some of its events, including the Dixie Majors World Series in July.
“The City of North Charleston was huge in this effort and we are excited about forming a partnership that will benefit us both in the coming years,” said Lake. “In addition, the efforts of our alumni and the unwavering support of Dr. Rick Brewer helped make this dream a reality.”
Brewer, vice-president for student affairs and athletics, said tonight’s game will be one of the biggest moments in CSU’s athletic history.
“I think this is a testament to the spirit of our alumni and former players, and it is an indication of the respect that the CSU community has for coach Lake,” said Brewer.
“Coach Lake came in and revived and inspired a group of former players and has shown to be a tremendous leader. Being able to play night baseball games against some of the top ACC and SEC programs will be very exciting for our students and the community.”
Brewer also indicated that CSU’s softball stadium will be lighted in the near future and says long-range plans call for lights at the soccer and football stadiums.
Lake anticipates drawing in programs such as Clemson, South Carolina and Georgia to play night games. Those programs have been hesitant in the past to play mid-afternoon games during the middle of the week.
Lake said he envisions CSU’s ballpark being available for high school tournaments and playoff games, and having lights also will attract national showcase summer tournaments to the school.
“We have an opportunity to showcase our entire campus to people who would not otherwise have stepped foot on this campus,” Lake said. “This is going to enhance our student life, the academic success of our players, and it gives our local community something to rally around and something they can be a part of.”
Several CSU players took part in batting practice under the new lights Tuesday night and the team held a night practice Thursday.
“This is great for the 11 seniors on our club, guys that I recruited here and told them they would play night games at CSU before they graduated,” Lake said.
Today’s activities include a block party for CSU students and fans, complete with jump castles and face painting activities for children, as well as barbeque dinners. There will be a first-pitch ceremony involving several current and past players, as well as school and area officials. A post-game fireworks show is also planned.