Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama Baseball Prepares as Sewell-Thomas Stadium Undergoes Renovation

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama Baseball Prepares as Sewell-Thomas Stadium Undergoes Renovation

Article excerpt

The environment has changed every time Alabama baseball has practiced this fall.

There's always more destruction when the players take the field. The pounding of jackhammers comes at any time from a pitching drill to right about the time the coaches are trying to drop some knowledge. During batting practice each day, more and more sections of crimson seats are twisted and torn out in the backdrop.

It all means that work is well underway on the program's $42 million renovation to Sewell-Thomas Stadium, which is scheduled to open for the 2016 season. The Crimson Tide will play its 2015 home slate in Hoover while the work is completed.

But to get ready for the upcoming season, it undergoes a noisy, unpredictable, unusual predicament in the fall.

"You just deal with it and keep going, because we all know what the outcome is going to be and we're willing to adjust because of that," Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said.

The current version of the stadium is already unrecognizable. The bleachers along the left field side are completely gone and replaced by the outside walls of Alabama's new hitting facility and clubhouse. The press box has been taken out completely. The first- base dugout is unusable, covered by a temporary wall that runs the entire length of the field and hugs the left-field foul line.

"I think we were prepared for it," Gaspard said as more concrete took a beating within earshot. "We knew going in and throughout the summer months we talked about as a coaching staff that we were really going to have to keep these guys focused and we really made a point of that early on, just to stay on point with what we needed to do and they've done a really good job of that."

Preparation doesn't mean it's been easy. The team uses two makeshift hitting cages behind the center-field scoreboard. It has a cramped temporary locker room inside Coleman Coliseum.

"It's small. I mean, we get a lot of team bonding in there," infielder Kyle Overstreet said.

A big help in Alabama's transitional period has been the experience of this year's team.

"I think it helps that we've got an older team, a veteran club, and I think there's a lot of excitement about what's coming this spring," Gaspard said. …

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