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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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30 years of magic

A young boy steps through the wrought-iron gate and peers up at the giant concrete stadium in front of him. His father leads him up the closest set of stairs onto the concourse. They pass by openings in the wall that go down to the first-deck seats. It is then that he catches his first glimpse of Olsen Field and the Texas Aggie baseball team.
The grass is so green and the sky so blue that he almost has to squint to get a clear look. The visiting team is taking infield practice and organ music is being played over the sound system. The aroma of hot dogs fills the air as they pass the concession stand behind home plate.
Up another set of stairs and he can see the whole field from the second deck. Students have started to fill the seats along the first base line and are already heckling the opposing catcher when he makes an errant throw. This is the atmosphere that every child sees when he visits Olsen for the first time. On any given game day, the 30-year-old stadium seems as vibrant as ever.
Aggie legends like Steve Scarborough, Daylan Holt, Mark Thurmond, Chuck Knoblauch, Jason Tyner, Steven Truitt, Justin Ruggiano and Cliff Pennington have all swung the bat and thrown the ball at what former public address announcer Derrick “D.D.” Grubbs used to call “the shack by the tracks.”
Field manager Leo Goertz, who has worked the playing field at Olsen since 1979, said the stadium was the Cadillac of college baseball stadiums when it was finished on March 21, 1978.
So much so that the University of Hawaii and University of Louisiana Monroe, then known as Northeast Louisiana University, sent representatives to view the stadium and design their new stadiums similar to Olsen. A quick look at Hawaii’s Les Murakami stadium, which opened in 1984, and one could mistake it for A&M’s field.
Olsen Field is named after C.E. “Pat” Olsen, a right-handed pitcher who threw for the Aggies from 1921 to 1923. Olsen signed a contract with the New York Yankees in 1923 and roomed with Lou Gehrig during the Yankees’ 1924 spring training.
He became friends with players like Babe Ruth and Earle Combs, and though he never made it to the Major leagues, Olsen had a lasting impact on everyone he met. He went on to a successful business career in Houston after he left baseball and donated $2 million to build a new stadium at Texas A&M.
However, $2 million dollars doesn’t buy what it used to. Thirty years down the road, new ballparks like Nebraska’s Haymarket Park, Baylor’s Baylor Ballpark and Texas’ renovated Disch-Falk have each cost more than $20 million. Meanwhile, A&M plays in an aging stadium that Goertz says is “outdated.”
“We need to get back to being the Cadillac,” he said. “It is time for something to be done. We haven’t changed the seating in 30 years.”
A&M Head Coach Rob Childress said the stadium has started to show its age and talked about how having an older stadium can effect recruiting.
“We bring recruits here in July when no one is here, and they see a stadium built in 1978,” Childress said. “They see bleachers with multiple shades of maroon. Of course, if a student decides not to come here based on the stadium, then maybe that’s not the kind of guy we want.”
The Athletic Department has worked with the architecture firms DLR Group, the company behind Haymarket Park and Disch-Falk’s renovations, and HKS Inc., the company behind the new Cowboys Stadium, on renovation designs for Olsen.
“The new stadiums, they’re nice and everything, but they don’t have the tradition,” said Ben Feltner, the Aggies’ left fielder. “Sometimes they’re not as fun. When I heard [about possible renovations], I didn’t think it was a great idea. It’s always nice to do something like that, but they might lose a little bit of the magic.”
A&M first baseman Luke Anders grew up in College Station and saw many games at Olsen Field as a child.
“There’s so much history here and so many great people played here that it’s just an honor to be here,” Anders said. “I love it how it is. It’s been here so long, it’s a monument.”
Pitcher Blake Rampy spent five years wearing Aggie maroon and played for two coaches. Rampy said he thinks Olsen is the best place to play in the country, but it is in need of renovations.
“I’d say renovate for sure,” Rampy said. “I’d say build on what we got. I know the bathrooms aren’t too good, maybe get some new concession stands, maybe a few suites, but I like this – the style we’ve got going on here with the two decks. I’d keep the same look at least and just renovate it.”
Meanwhile, the Athletic Department is finishing work on the Cox-McFerrin Center for basketball and the McFerrin Athletic Center for football and track. Though Olsen Field’s makeover may not be very soon, the 30-year-old stadium will continue to be a source of “Olsen Magic” long after it has changed.
“In sports, you lose icons, but at the same time you have to advance,” Goertz said. “If we do close her down, it will be tough. I hate to see the old gal go.”

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