Catawba College has raised $2.5 million in a fund-raising campaign to make improvements to Newman Park, the home of Catawba Baseball, the Rowan County American Legion baseball team, and numerous tournaments over its long history. Construction is expected to begin in June, at the end of the Catawba Baseball spring program.
Catawba raised $2,504,250 in Phase 1 of its Newman Park project, opening the way for a new synthetic turf field with enhanced field drainage, new dugouts at the field level, and possibly other amenities, according to Meg K. Dees, Vice President of Development at Catawba.
The completion of Newman Park Phase 1 was announced to the Catawba College Board of Trustees on Friday by Dr. David P. Nelson, President of the College. “We are thrilled to commence the renovation of historic Newman Park,” Nelson said. “These improvements will benefit our nationally ranked Catawba Baseball team, the many American Legion players who take the field at Newman each summer and will be enjoyed by those in the Salisbury-Rowan community for years to come.”
In June, the campaign received a $1 million challenge match from an anonymous donor. The challenge included an additional gift of $250,000, if the Campaign Steering Committee could raise an additional $1 million by Oct. 31. “I am happy to report that as of Saturday, Oct. 31, we raised $1,254,250, giving us a total of $2,504,250,” Dees said.
Jim Gantt, Head Baseball Coach of Catawba and the Rowan County American Legion, said that the Catawba program and the community are one in the same. “The Newman Park renovations will allow the past and current players, fans, and families to continue to come home to the rich baseball tradition of Newman Park,” he said. “Renovated Newman Park will also help build a stronger baseball community. More interaction and the potential for more play is exciting for an already rich baseball tradition. The fan experience will be amplified, and new amenities will draw more interest for players and fans alike.”
Overall, the College plans to raise a total of $10 million for the baseball park, with Phase 2 set at $4 million. Newman Park has been part of the Catawba athletic program since 1926. Other improvements include new bull pens, new locker rooms, new batting cages, a new backstop and netting configuration, new bleachers, a new picnic deck, a new press box, stadium graphics and painting. The grandstand was built in 1934.
The improvements will be a recruiting advantage for the Catawba Baseball program, as well as for students in general. The improved facility will allow the opportunity to host local, state, and national events, such as tournaments, wooden bat league, and conference tournaments. Renovations to the grandstand will offer adequate, safe seating. The improved field drainage will allow games to resume quickly after rain.
The ballpark, located at 498 Summit Ave., seats approximately 2,500 fans and is the third oldest in the state. It is named for a well-known Salisburian, Dr. Harold Hastings Newman, who came to Salisbury in 1914 to assist Dr. John Whitfield and Dr. J.E. Stokes at the Salisbury hospital. Newman played baseball at Johns Hopkins University and began coaching high school baseball in Salisbury shortly after his arrival. When Catawba relocated to Salisbury in 1926, Newman became one of the coaches for the college team and the team doctor. In 1932, he began fund-raising and donation efforts to build the grandstand.
Newman Park has been home to thousands of pro, college, American Legion, and high school games. A total of 48 former Catawba baseball team members have gone on to play professionally, including five who are currently playing pro ball. Rowan County’s successful American Legion program was host to the 2002 North Carolina State Tournament at Newman Park. The team is competitive on the state and national levels, including a state championship in 2002 and several World Series appearances. The team was a national runner-up in 2016.
Members of the fund-raising group, the Newman Park Steering Committee, include Marty Brennaman, Bob Costas, and Bob Ryan, Honorary Campaign Chairs, and Voight Basinger, Todd Blake, Heath Bost, Coe Brier, Mike Bauk, Bill Butts, Dusty Dellinger, Brad Esarey, Steve Flood, Shari Graham, Bill Hall, Jackie Taylor, Jerry Maye, Sandy Moore, Zack Queen, Bob Rathbun, Mike Reynolds, Jerry Sands, Bob Setzer, Mark Smith, Matt Smith, David Thomas, Cecil Whitley, Heath Mitchem, Spencer Southard, and Todd Smith.