SIU breaks ground on baseball stadium renovations

Southern Illinois Athletics officially broke ground on a $4 million renovation of Abe Martin Field with a ceremony at the 49-year-old baseball stadium Tuesday afternoon. Speaking at the event were SIU Chancellor Dr. Rita Cheng, Director of Athletics Mario Moccia, Head Coach Ken Henderson and Saluki infielder/outfielder Donny Duschinsky.

Saluki Hall of Famer and former SIU coach Richard “Itchy” Jones also spoke at the ceremony. The new stadium will honor Jones, the winningest coach in program history when it reopens for the 2014 season as Abe Martin Field at Richard “Itchy” Jones Stadium. The new facility will feature a new seating bowl, press box and dugouts as well as the addition of stadium lights, a synthetic grass playing surface and a security fence around the facility.

In addition, the clubhouse, which was built largely by Jones himself, will be renamed to honor the late Dan Callahan. Callahan led the Salukis for 16 seasons and is the second-winningest coach in program history.

Jones was the final speaker of the afternoon. In 21 years as head coach at SIU, he led the Salukis to a 738-345-5 record along with 10 NCAA Tournament appearances and three College World Series.

“It is an honor for me and my family to have our name on the same stadium as Glenn “Abe” Martin and Dan Callahan,” Jones said. “This is the greatest athletic honor that I’ve ever received. I say that because our players took a great part in it.”

Well over 250 people were in attendance for the ceremony, which took place on the infield, 50 feet from the freshly demolished old stadium bleachers.

“We are celebrating an ongoing transformation of this campus,” Cheng said. “It is an investment in our students, our university and our region. The men and women of athletics deserve first class facilities.”

Moccia has overseen the construction of new football and track facilities as well as renovations to the basketball and volleyball facilities during his tenure at SIU. He thanked all of the donors whose efforts made the project possible. Moccia noted that 225 donors, including over 100 Saluki baseball alumni, have pledged to the project, which is being funded exclusively by private gifts.

“This is a great and historic day for Saluki baseball,” Moccia said. “It will be another piece of the puzzle of our sports park that is almost complete. But it is important to remember that we’re not through fund raising, and we will continue to fund raise as long as we have a need.”

Henderson spoke of the tradition of SIU baseball, which has been to five College World Series and 14 NCAA Tournaments, and how the renovation will help to recapture the success the program has experienced.

“The thing I’m most excited about today is that the people who built the tradition care so much about the future of Saluki baseball,” Henderson said. “This facility is going to allow us to recruit student-athletes that will give us a chance to win Missouri Valley Conference Championships and get back the NCAA Tournament year in and year out.”

Every baseball program in the Missouri Valley Conference has upgraded its baseball stadium in recent years while Abe Martin Field has remained largely untouched since 1964.

“Many players have come through here in recent years and watched plans for the new stadium evolve,” Duschinsky said. “Itchy Jones Stadium is for all those players and all future Salukis to come.”

Matt Baughman selected as a 2013 Edgar Fellow

Matt Baughman

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Matt Baughman, associate director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, has been chosen a 2013 Edgar Fellow.

Baughman is one of 41 Illinois elected and appointed officials, and business and community leaders to be part of an initiative to foster cooperation across regional, political and ethnic lines to address the state’s future challenges. The program is part of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois and under the stewardship of former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar.

Baughman and other fellows will gather Aug. 4-7 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to participate in an executive training program that includes scholars and practitioners in policy areas including health care and transportation.

“I am confident these emerging leaders representing the great diversity of our state will become friends. They will realize that they have much in common and appreciate differences in perspective. They will form bonds and sharpen leadership skills that should help them solve problems as they assume even more responsibility,” Edgar said in a release.

Baughman has been with the Institute since beginning as development officer in July 1998. He became assistant director in 2005, and associate director in 2009. A graduate of Illinois College, Baughman earned an MBA from SIU Carbondale in 1997. Chosen for the Dunn Fellowship Program in 1994, Baughman spent a year working in Edgar’s press office. Prior to coming to SIU Carbondale he was with the Executive Development Center at the University of Central Florida.

“It’s an honor to be selected to participate in the Edgar Fellows program. I have the highest respect for Gov. Edgar and was fortunate to have had the opportunity to start my career working for him and his outstanding staff,” Baughman said. “I believe in the mission of the governor’s initiative to bring together a diverse group of leaders to create strong personal relationships despite our partisan, ethnic and regional differences. Trust and respect are foundational to finding common ground and to solving disagreements.”

There were more than 160 Edgar Fellow nominees. The 2013 Edgar Fellows include state senators and representatives, policy analysts, local government officials, businessmen and community organization officials.