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ETSU has groundbreaking for Thomas Stadium indoor facility | Sports

ETSU has groundbreaking for Thomas Stadium indoor facility | Sports

East Tennessee State announced plans Friday morning for a new 8,000-square foot facility at Thomas Stadium that will feature a turfed indoor training facility, three hitting cages and pitching areas.

There will also be a team locker room, coaches’ offices, a conference room and a sports medicine office inside the complex.

Dignitaries from ETSU, the city of Johnson City and donors were on hand for a groundbreaking ceremony on the $2 million-plus project. Many of the funds have already been raised with ETSU asking donors for another $600,000 to complete the project.

Both ETSU athletic director Scott Carter and baseball coach Joe Pennucci talked about the commitment of those involved and how this should take the program to the next level. It gives the team a first-class facility in which to work out — even in the worst weather conditions — and a center location to conduct business.

“The biggest thing is development from a hitting side and a pitching side,” Pennucci said. “From the meeting side when you want to communicate with guys, there’s a place to go. They have a place to hit on their own, pitch on their own. It takes you to the next level. I can’t thank the donors and administration enough to not only have the vision, but to follow through.”

The 1,000-seat Thomas Stadium opened in 2013. These upgrades, adjacent to right field, feature both the new clubhouse and a viewing deck for fans. Carter said it will put Thomas Stadium at the top of Southern Conference facilities and be a valuable recruiting tool.

Pennucci added, “It helps in all aspects. On the recruiting side, it’s critical to see the guys come in here and enjoy the experience.

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“With everything on-site, it makes everything more efficient. With rain delays, there is some place to go. It’s going to be great to walk off the turf and into your office.”

For current players like freshman Tommy Barth, it shows a major commitment to the program. The Bucs sported a 28-20 record heading into Friday’s game against The Citadel, managed by former ETSU coach Tony Skole.

“People are going to want to come play here with top-notch facilities,” Barth said. “I think the program is going uphill and everyone is buying into what we’re trying to do. The facility is a great help with everything.”

Carter pointed out the main fundraiser on the project is Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Operations Matt McGahey and the head of construction is Tricon Builders President Raymond McBride, a pair of ETSU baseball alumni.

McBride, who played for Ken Campbell in 1998 and later for Skole as a pitcher and outfielder, talked about being able to oversee such a project.

“We’re so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this,” McBride said. “It’s especially meaningful for me to be a part of this project. It’s almost 24 years ago that I came to play baseball at ETSU for Coach Ken Campbell. You can see the recruiting tool it’s going to be and a place for the coaches and university to develop championship teams.”

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