San Antonio – The night began with a fitting tribute to iconic V.J. Keefe Field, the venerable facility that, after 53 years of hosting St. Mary’s baseball, played home to the Rattlers for the final time in a regularly scheduled game Tuesday.
There was a history lesson read over the loudspeakers, an honorary first pitch thrown by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, and a special ceremony honoring coach Charlie Migl – who has helped write more than three decades’ worth of the venue’s history – for recently earning his 900th win.
“There are so many great memories,” said Migl, who played at St. Mary’s in the 1970s and graduated from the University in 1978. “So many of friends, former players and administrators came. That’s special.”
But on an evening when the facility’s history was at the forefront of everyone’s minds, the modern-day Rattlers were quick to remind the captive audience of something else: One of the best chapters in V.J. Keefe Field’s history might not yet be written.
Hours after moving up to No. 5 in one national poll and No. 6 in another, the Rattlers made things look easy in a 5-1 non-conference victory over a talented Incarnate Word squad, improving to 39-8 on the season.
Star catcher Ryan Morrow (Sr., Bulverde, Texas) got hot with a 3-for-3 effort that included one RBI and two runs scored, while starter Skye Severns (Jr., Claremont, Calif.) – the fourth man in the Rattlers’ deep rotation – improved to 7-0 on the season after giving up two hits and one run in 5 2/3 innings.
Five weeks after Migl won No. 900, he’s suddenly at 918 five weeks later. The Rattlers have reeled off 10 straight wins and are 18-2 over the last 20 games.
The Rattlers, already the winner of the Heartland Conference regular-season title with a 24-3 conference record, suddenly have a shot to earn the top ranking in the South Central Region poll, which will be released tomorrow. With the Heartland Conference Tournament set to be played at V.J. Keefe Field from May 12-14, could the regional tournament follow?
It’s something St. Mary’s players have squarely within sight, meaning they have plenty to play for even as seemingly so much has already been achieved.
“These guys have really worked hard,” said Migl, whose team’s three conference defeats all came by one run. “They’ve been a joy to coach. Our chemistry is pretty good, and I’ve got a really good coaching staff with Chris (Ermis), Ryan (Femath), Carlos (Guevara) and Mike (Brzezinski). I appreciate all that they do.”
The original St. Mary’s baseball field has existed since the 1930s, when it was just a pasture with chicken wire and telephone poles for a backstop. The diamond was relocated to its present location in the 1940s, and in 1958 the field was dedicated in the honor of V.J. Keefe, one of the city’s early sports pioneers who helped fund renovations that helped make the stadium what it is today.
Over that time, the Rattlers have garnered 31 conference titles, produced 36 NAIA and NCAA All-Americans and, in 2001, won the NCAA Division II National Championship.
Soon, baseball at St. Mary’s will take on an entirely new look. In 2012, the Rattlers will begin playing in a state-of-the art facility at this site as part of the new Outdoor Sports Complex, an ambitious project made possible through a partnership between St. Mary’s and Bexar County, that will also bring beautiful new facilities for the softball, soccer and tennis teams. Groundbreaking for the new venue will be held Friday, September 9th.
Hundreds of St. Mary’s fans turned out for Tuesday’s final regular-season game at V.J. Keefe Field, long considered one of the jewels in all of college baseball. There was St. Mary’s University President Charles L. Cotrell, Ph.D., who helped Wolff honor Migl prior to the game, in addition to countless other dignitaries, administrators, staff and alumni.
But as they all came out to bid farewell to the iconic field, the players on the field made one thing very clear.
Don’t close the book on this facility just yet. You risk missing one of the best parts.