With the home opener only days away (Friday at 3:05), its as good as time as any to give those of you who haven’t been to Ray Fisher Stadium, a little history of Michigan’s home field.
The original baseball teams of 1866-1920 – why yes, baseball is the oldest sport on campus – played in the open field currently occupied by Yost, known as Regents Field. When construction began in 1921, the baseball team moved down the block, all of 150 feet or so, to the current site. Originally, the new park was called Ferry Field, the same as the football field, and required a 9-year old locker room to be demolished to fit the new field. Coach Ray Fisher took over the team the year or the move, a role he wouldn’t relinquish until 1958.
Ferry Field remained unchanged until 1948 when grandstands were installed. Previous to this, bleachers were occasionally brought over from the football field. The next major change came in 1967 when the field added an outfield fence. Previously the field was open and balls could roll on forever. Then current coach Moby Benedict chose the dimensions of 330 feet down each line, 375 to the power alleys, and 400 to straight away center, in the traditional symmetric style. The school also took the chance to rename the stadium, dedicating it to Coach Ray Fisher. With the inclusion of the fence, the capacity for games dropped from 30,000 to 3,000.
Ray Fisher Stadium saw few major updates over the next 40 years. The wooden bleachers were replaced by steel bleachers, wooden bleachers were added then subtracted from the outfield lines, and the outfield fence was replaced once. A scoreboard was added in the 80s, and the 90s saw the inclusion of coaches offices and training rooms added to the stadium press box. The stadium capacity increased to 4,000 in 1986, and has stayed at this level since.
The first major renovation since the steel bleachers just finished in time to start last season. With a hefty donation from alumnus and former owner of the Mets Fred Wilpon, both the baseball and softball fields received massive upgrades. [update: Wilpon is still the Mets’ owner, my mistake] The $9 million donation lead to a brand new press box, new indoor batting cages, updated offices and training rooms, and brand new seating. The right field line has also been shortened to 325 feet with a 26 foot brick wall acting as a “Blue Monster.” The most important addition has to be the new and improved public restrooms.
Sources who care to read what I summarized:
Opening day is Friday. Excitement.