Chuck Landon: C-USA gives homeless Herd a reprieve

December 27, 2018

Pucker up, Power Park.


That’s the sound of Marshall University’s baseball program kissing Appalachian Power Park goodbye, after having to play all its Conference USA games in the Charleston ballpark during the last 13 years.

They were 13 very long, very tedious years.

Imagine not being able to take batting practice before games. How about not even getting to take infield before playing a conference opponent?

That happened to Marshall a lot at Power Park. But what could MU coach Jeff Waggoner say? Not a word. Beggars can’t be choosers. And make no mistake, MU was indeed the beggar in this scenario.

It showed.

Oh, how it showed.

Marshall was a C-USA team without a home. As a result, in 13 years of playing at Power Park the Herd had a winning conference record only three times.

Three times!

Marshall compiled a record of 53-87 (.379 winning percentage) during those 13 seasons.

Then, some C-USA games were switched to Linda K. Epling Field in Beckley, and it just got worse. Marshall posted a record of 8-18 (.308) at the Raleigh County field.

In the last 13 seasons, Marshall has played 166 conference “home” games in Charleston and Beckley and compiled a 61-105 record (.368 winning percentage).

Why, the diamonds might as well have been built on an incline because Marshall has been fighting an uphill battle every step, every game of the way.

Not anymore.

That’s because a combination of events occurred. Did Power Park officials kick Marshall out? No. But are they sorry the Herd is seeking pastures that are both greener and closer? No, again.

Power Park officials aren’t laying awake counting buffaloes while losing sleep over this.

It’s a win-win.

Marshall officials stepped up and are going to implement some much-needed upgrades at the Huntington YMCA Kennedy Center on W.Va. Route 2 where MU plays its non-conference home games.

Since Marshall has committed to that and also has plans for a new baseball stadium near campus, C-USA officials - as an act of faith - are allowing Marshall to host all league home games at the Kennedy Center, aka “The Deuce.”

That’s huge.

Now, at least, it gives Marshall’s baseball program a fighting chance.

“This is a huge step in the right direction,” said Waggoner. “People can come watch us now. Maybe it’s not what we want ultimately, but it’s a definite upgrade.”

One step at a time.

First, Marshall had to show C-USA it was serious about building a baseball stadium. Once C-USA officials were convinced, the next moves of upgrading “The Deuce” and being allowed to host league home games were simply the next steps in the progression.

But make no mistake, it was Marshall’s administration that made this happen.

“It was a great effort by our administration,” said Waggoner, “to show our players that this season matters. I am looking forward to the future. When we get the new field built, it will be a lot of fun.”

As it is, Marshall is going to have more fun than it has had during the last 13 seasons. No more traveling every weekend. No more being baseball gypsies. No more being home alone.

Oh, sure, Marshall still will play two games in Power Park. The Herd will take on Virginia Tech on March 20 and WVU on March 27.

But otherwise?

In baseball, there really is no place like home.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at landon@herald-dispatch.com.

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