Rutgers breaks ground on indoor facility
Just past the left field wall of the baseball field named after him, Ron Bainton reflected on how far Rutgers Athletics has come in the past decade.
Bainton contributed the largest single cash gift from a living donor in Rutgers Athletics history in a $1.25 million donation with his wife, Pat, to the Rutgers baseball program for its FieldTurf installation in 2007.
Now on a late October afternoon in 2015, he stood at the podium with chancellor Richard Edwards, head baseball coach Joe Litterio and athletic director Julie Hermann to his right.
Sporting a Rutgers baseball windbreaker with the scarlet noticeably faded, Bainton promised he would wear the throwback jacket until plans to build an indoor facility were finally put into motion.
Saturday afternoon, he could hang it up on his coat rack for good.
Rutgers took the first step in its construction of the first major athletics facility in seven years with a groundbreaking ceremony for the Fred Hill Indoor Training Facility.
“It’s a big day, especially because this was a Rutgers all-in," Hermann told reporters after the ceremony. "Our donors stepped up and under-roped thing and that’s an important message based on everything we need to get done in the next 5-10 years.”
All funds contributed to the $3.3 million facility were privately raised. The state-of-the-art facility expects to measure up at 22,500 square-feet with pitching machines, batting cages, bullpen mounds and a full turf infield.
Rutgers does not have a set timeline for the construction of the facility. Hermann said a hard deadline could possibly alter the cost.
But when it does finish, Litterio expects it to be a game-changer in recruiting.
“That’s the biggest thing," Litterio said after the ceremony. "I’ve been talking to recruits and (I) say, ‘The facility, we’re hoping to have this next year.' This is something, now it’s here. You can be playing, practicing. This is a part of us now. So it makes a huge difference to say it’s here instead of, ‘We might have this.’”
Rutgers head softball coach Jay Nelson has been waiting eight years — before Hermann and even previous athletic director Tim Pernetti — for the facility plans to come to fruition.
The 10-year head coach commended Hermann for delivering on the blueprint that was presented to him in his early years at the helm with former athletic director Robert Mulcahy.
“(Hermann) put in a tremendous amount of effort into this. It was a focus for her to raise the money to get this done," Nelson told the Targum. "I mean, from the start of this, we had meetings once a week, once a month and depending on the season, (saying), 'This is where we are, this is where we’re going.' And the focus on that is really what made it go … Eight years ago, I was given a picture of it. It didn’t happen until she got here.”
The facility was named after former head baseball coach Fred Hill (1984-2014). During his 30-year tenure, Hill won 941 games and led the Scarlet Knights to 11 NCAA regional appearances on top of 12 regular-season conference titles and eight conference tournament titles.
Hill attended the ceremony, appreciating an honor that he called "incredible." He echoed Litterio's sentiments regarding the impact it could have on recruiting knowing that the plan is finally in motion.
“When we recruited a young man, we sold the academics and we sold the potential of the baseball program," Hill said after the ceremony. "... These kids that are walking into these facilities, their eyes will pop ... Now we can sell those academics and can also sell the preparation of the baseball — a quality baseball program.”
The following is a full transcription of interviews with athletic director Julie Hermann, Rutgers head baseball coach Joe Litterio, former Rutgers head baseball coach Fred Hill and Rutgers