Koch Diamond, under construction last fall.
Saturday is Alumni Day at the baseball game against St. John’s
Saturday will be Alumni Day for the St. Thomas baseball team when it hosts rival St. John’s in two seven-inning games (1 p.m.) at Koch Diamond. The 10th-ranked Tommies, 20-6 overall, 8-2 MIAC) share the conference lead with 9-3 Hamline and have a one-game lead over No. 27-ranked St. Olaf.
Between games, a ceremony will honor baseball alumnus David Koch, whose major gift covered the cost of the $300,000 project, which includes 150 new bleacher seats and a state-of-the-art Fieldturf infield.
Koch, a 1952 St. Thomas graduate in business administration, is the former CEO of Graco Industries of Minneapolis, a worldwide industry specializing in fluid handling systems and components.
A member of the university’s Board of Trustees since 1978, Koch and his wife, Barbara, have been among the university’s top benefactors and have made gifts over the last 20 years to establish two endowed chairs – the Koch Chair in Business Ethics (held by Dr. Ken Goodpaster) and the Koch Chair in Catholic Studies (held by Dr. Don Briel) – and established a scholarship fund for Catholic Studies majors.
The Koches also supported the construction of Koch Commons, which links Brady and Dowling residence halls on the St. Paul campus, and the founding of the Minneapolis campus with the 1992 construction of what now is Terrence Murphy Hall.
Koch was named Distinguished Alumnus in 1981 and chaired the university’s Century II Capital campaign in the 1980s. The campaign raised $83 million after starting with a goal of $35 million.
Among Koch’s other honors: He is a knight of the order of St. Gregory the Great, as named in 1992 by Pope John Paul II.
Koch, a standout pitcher with the Tommies, was a tremendous all-around athlete who received a football scholarship to Notre Dame. He played on the Irish’s 1949 national championship team that finished 10-0. One of his close friends was teammate Leon Hart, who won the Heisman Trophy that season. Koch returned to Minnesota and finished his college degree at St. Thomas.
New chain link fencing was also put up across the outfield. The field is now flanked by two residence halls constructed in the last seven years – Morrison Hall, opened in 1998, and Selby Hall, opened in 2005.
“Now we have the best field in the conference, thanks to David Koch’s generosity,” said Coach Dennis Denning, the 2001 NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year.
The turf allows for more flexibility in March and early April when snow and rain have often postponed games and practices. And Denning noted that the turf will save time and money on maintenance. “Most days I was dragging the infield dirt three and four times before and during varsity and junior varsity practices,” Denning said, “so the FieldTurf will be a plus every day.”
There are only two cutouts in the artificial turf – for the pitching mound and home plate. Denning said that it makes for a surer, faster and safer surface for fielders and baserunners.
A long-term goal is to turf the outfield, which would further enhance the facility for campus-wide use by St. Thomas intramurals, PE classes and recreation.
St. Thomas is 30-4 on its home diamond over the last four seasons. The Tommies swept the conference regular-season and postseason baseball titles in 2004 and 2005, and have reached the NCAA playoffs in 10 the first 11 seasons under Denning, who recently won his 400th game with St. Thomas.