Bulldogs christen new Foley Field with 18-3 win

A full year ahead of schedule, the Georgia Bulldogs christened their newly-renovated baseball stadium on a night that was dubbed “the Foley Field Revival.” And they did it in resounding fashion with a 15-3 drubbing of Eastern Illinois.

The Bulldogs hit five home runs in their new digs, the most since hitting seven in a 24-8 win over Ohio State in 2009. Georgia hit 13 all of last season.

Second-year coach Scott Stricklin insisted the $12 million renovation didn’t have anything to do with new power display.

“We didn’t have any jets blowing the balls out,” he joked. “I think you saw a little bit of the new baseball. The ball’s going to carry further, no doubt about it. We saw it in intrasquad. … But I didn’t see that coming.”

Sophomore Mike Bell hit two home runs, twice as many as he hit all of last season, and finished with 5 RBI. Keegan McGovern, Daniel Nichols and Zack Bowers also hit balls over Foley’s newly-padded outfield walls.

“I turned my swing around this summer and I’ve been hot every since,” said Bell, a second baseman who moved into the three-hole in the lineup. “I was just trying to put good contact on the ball. Whatever happens after that just happens.

But the real story of the night was the building in which the Bulldogs. Foley Field, which was originally a bunch of wooden bleacher around a dusty field when it was first built in 1966, underwent its second renovation. The fact that the extensive re-do was completed before Friday’s season-opening series was a story in itself.

“It was a year ahead of time because we thought it would take a while longer to raise the $5 million we needed to get it started,” said Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity, who joined President Jere Morehead for the pregame ribbon-cutting ceremony. “But our donors and particularly our lettermen all contributed and it sped up the process. So we were in better shape than we thought. A lot of people did a lot of great work to expedite this and make it happen.”

The final cost came in about $2 million more than UGA originally planned to spend. Half was raised via donations, including major gifts from the Foley and Sands families and one anonymous donor.

The changes are impressive. Among the amenities that have been added is a new premium seating area known as the Dugout Level. The seats are literally on the same level as the home and visiting dugouts and are directly behind home plate and there is a lounge area and dedicated restrooms right behind it.

Other premium seats have been added on the press-box level, there is a new scoreboard, a new plaza entry area, the concourses have been widened, elevators have been added and there are new seats throughout. But much of the improvements are unseen by fans.

Georgia players have a brand new and significantly-expanded locker room and batting cages and other training areas have been added underneath the stands behind the visitor’s dugout. They’ve also added FieldTurf in foul territory and padded the outfield walls, among numerous other improvements.

“It is nice to come in here with all the renovations and getting all the new stuff,” the freshman McGovern said. “We all feel good about it and are just ready to get the season rolling.”

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