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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)
CHARLOTTESVILLE - Virginia's new athletic director surveyed the Cavaliers' renovated baseball stadium and liked what she saw.
"(Former A.D.) Craig Littlepage and his team had this vision, along with (baseball coach Brian) O'Connor," Carla Williams said. "As it turns out today, looking at it and being here on opening day, it's pretty remarkable. I've walked throughout the facility. It's got to be the best in the country."
The No. 15 Cavaliers' home opener against VMI drew a crowd of 3,709 at the now-5,500 seat stadium, a Virginia record for a home opener, eclipsing the 3,105 it drew, also against the Keydets, two years ago. Tuesday, that crowd saw VMI kill some of the excitement, striking for six runs in the first inning on its way to a 9-4 win.
Juniors Matt Pita and Justin Huggins, both former Cosby standouts, combined to go 5 for 10 with three runs and two RBIs for the Keydets (2-2).
Senior Matt Dunlevy (St. Christopher's) went 1 for 2 with a run and two RBIs.
U.Va. (2-2) pushed the start time for Tuesday's game back two hours to 5 p.m., hoping to draw a larger crowd thanks to the unusually warm weather, associate athletic director for facilities Jason Bauman said.
As of Tuesday morning, dozens of workers were still buzzing around Davenport, putting the finishing touches on the renovations on the $18.76 million project.
Bauman said O'Connor helped guide the designs for the new-look venue.
"He was our leader in creating the vision for what we wanted," Bauman said. "We followed that vision and have been able to implement those things within our stadium."
The stadium will be renamed Davenport Field at Disharoon Park, a change that will become official March 2, when it's approved by the university's board of visitors.
The park is being named for Leslie Disharoon and his late wife, Ann, longtime supporters of the U.Va. baseball program following an anonymous donation to the project.
As of late January, Virginia had accumulated $16.3 million from ticket sales, suite revenue and private contributions from donors.
"None of this happens without them," Bauman said.
While many of the upgrades are designed to enhance the fan experience - including the new club area along the right-field line, the enhanced plaza at the entrance on the right-field side and improvements to concession stands, restrooms and parking lots - there have also been significant facility changes for the athletes.
A spacious new bullpen for the home team sits behind the fence in right field. There's also a new indoor hitting facility in right field, and the team's old batting cage area has been converted into a pitchers' work space.
The home locker room moved from the third-base side to the first-base side.
"In today's world of college athletics, you've got to continually look for ways to improve, ways to attract better recruits and better ways to train your current student athletes," Williams said. "That's what I think we've done with this facility."
The coaches' offices and some landscaping are the only unfinished tasks that will be completed during the season, Bauman said.
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