“We should be able to recruit the best players in the country. Obviously, this will help because it shows the level of commitment Kansas State has in baseball.” - Pete Hughes, head baseball coach
Their reactions said it all.
As K-State baseball’s 35 players poured into their newly renovated Tointon Family Stadium locker room for the first time last Friday, their excitement was impossible to hide. A few verbal reactions, after a collective “ohhhh!” at the start, included the following:
“This is crazy.”
“This is unbelievable.”
“This is just the start.”
Some were at a loss for words. Still, their reaction was easy to see
. Jaws dropped, eyes widened, and hands instinctively clapped at the first sight of the state-of-the-art facility. For those who helped make it happen, watching the Wildcats take in their new home was more enjoyable than seeing the actual facility.
Bob Tointon, who with his wife, Betty, were the principle benefactors of the original $3.1 million stadium opened in 2001, was one of those people.
“I was surprised. Josh (McCowan) had told me what we might expect, and I thought he was overselling it, but I think they were genuinely kind of overwhelmed,” Tointon said, referring to K-State Athletics’ Senior Associate Athletics Director of Development. “It was fun to watch.”
John and Anna Allen, another pair of donors for this project, were also on hand for the unveiling.
“It was really special. It was amazing. I’m so glad they let us be involved in that. To see the look on their faces, you could tell they really appreciated it,” John Allen, a K-State graduate who worked in Major League Baseball for 25 years, said. “It was a very sincere reaction, I felt. That makes it really worthwhile when we see that.”
Donors John and Anna Allen met with some of the K-State baseball players at the facility unveiling.
Part of a $15 million project with soccer, K-State baseball’s new facility more than tripled the square footage from its previous version. It includes a brand-new locker room, with purple lights in the ceiling emulating the seams of a baseball, that also has a team theater/meeting room connected to it; a spacious lounge with three couches, three large TVs and a study area; a much bigger sports medicine area; a large fueling station and more.
Like the Tointon and Allen families, K-State’s Executive Associate AD for Internal Operations and Event Management Casey Scott relished the opportunity to see the players take in the facility. Over his 19 years at K-State, Scott has also watched the program’s facilities climb to a point where they are on par with just about any team across the country.
“I’m so excited for K-State. I think we have as good of a facility here as many of the places that I’ve ever been to, in terms of what our player and coach amenities are and what they need to function,” Scott, the primary sport administrator for baseball, men’s basketball, and men’s and women’s golf, said. “We all but gutted the old Tointon Stadium. We basically have a new stadium. It was great to see the kids’ reaction. That was fun. It’s very gratifying to see it turn out the way it has. I’m just looking forward to the team enjoying it and it helping our recruiting and getting our program to a championship level that we want to play at. That’s the ultimate goal.”
Second-year head coach Pete Hughes shared the same feeling. He called the unveiling experience “a highlight” of his career. He said it’s a game-changer in the recruiting world, too.
“We should be able to recruit the best players in the country. Obviously, this will help because it shows the level of commitment Kansas State has in baseball,” Hughes said, before complimenting K-State Athletics Director Gene Taylor and Scott for their work in making this facility a reality. “You have an AD in Gene Taylor and Casey Scott representing our program that understand the big picture and the landscape of college baseball. They take a vision and it turns into cranes and bulldozers, it turns into a state-of-the-art facility.
“I sit across from families all year and (when) they walk through a facility like this, they know they can send their son to a department that cares about the same things their son cares about.”
The Wildcats, whose season starts in less than a month at UTRGV on February 14, expressed a similar appreciation for the space they now get to call home.
“We can’t thank them enough. There are so many things they do for us that allow us to be able to go out there and compete for a championship every day. We’re so grateful and appreciative of everything they do for us,” senior pitcher Kasey Ford said of all the people who made this project happen. “This facility is going to absolutely grow this program as a whole. Being able to have this in our back pocket makes us want to come to work every day even more. From a recruiting standpoint, who wouldn’t want to come here, basically live here and play for this program with this type of facilities?”
“It says that the coaches and administration are committed to having a good program here,” added fellow senior Caleb Littlejim. “It just really gives us confidence as a team. Also, it’s a statement moving forward that this is going to be a good program.”
How good is not an open-ended question, either.
The Wildcats, under Hughes’ leadership, have embraced what they call an “Omaha standard.” You’ll even hear the word “Omahattan” from players and coaches. The mantra covers everything from academics to the weight room to practicing and nutrition, in a collective effort to reach the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. As the Wildcats enter their new facility, the first wall they see is covered with a picture of TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, home of the CWS.
“That’s why we’re all here, to be in a building like this and be part of that vision and to get to the highest level of college baseball. It’s an Omaha standard,” Hughes said. “It’s been exciting. Working out of a trailer has been exciting with this group of guys. I just love our talent level, I love the depth in our program, but I really love the culture we have. It’s that corny team-building thing, but these guys genuinely like to be around each other and work like crazy.
“To be able to kick off the season with a presentation for a facility that these guys can start using immediately, it just gives them a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of energy that they had already, but it gets us to different level.”