The Paper photo by Lori Poteet 
Wabash will play its final two games ever at Mud Hollow Field on Saturday against North Coast Athletic Conference rival Wittenberg.
The Paper photo by Lori Poteet
Wabash will play its final two games ever at Mud Hollow Field on Saturday against North Coast Athletic Conference rival Wittenberg.
Unlike most of his predecessors and former players, Cory Stevens is actually a little sad to say goodbye to Mud Hollow Field.
After four years of serving as Wabash College's baseball coach, he's developed a fondness for the five-decade-old stadium.
The 50-year-old field with its rising outfield hill, its bright red wooden backstop, its clay-dirt infield with those infamous "Mud Hollow hops" still holds a special place in his heart.
"We know to expect anything with this field. I think that's half the advantage right there. It's to our advantage when teams come here," Stevens said. "It's got a lot of character and a tremendous amount of history. I will miss it. For what everyone has said about Mud Hollow, we put a lot of work into it and keep pride into it and keep it in the best possible shape we can."
The Little Giants hope they can close down the field with a celebration.
Wittenberg (13-18, 8-6 NCAC West) travels to Wabash (16-20, 8-6 NCAC West) for the final two games ever at Mud Hollow Field, starting at noon Saturday. It's only fitting that they'll have significant importance to the Little Giants' season.
If Wabash wins one of the two games, the Little Giants advance to the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament for the second straight season.
Conference rival Denison (9-5 NCAC West) leads the division by a game, while Wabash and Wittenberg are tied for second-place. The top two teams from each division advance to the NCAC Tournament.
Wabash has already beaten Wittenberg twice this season - allowing the Tigers to score just one run in the two seven-inning games.
Now, they'll try to finish them off at home.
Fifty years of
baseball
For five decades, Wabash has played baseball at Mud Hollow Field.
According to Wabash's Web site, Mud Hollow originally served as a veteran's village to accommodate Little Giants students and their families. It also served home to young and new faculty members during that time period.
Before a field was built there, Wabash played its games at Milligan Park Field in Crawfordsville - the same field that's still there today.
Wabash played its final game at Milligan Park on May 17, 1960 - recording a 3-2 win over Indiana Central (now the University of Indianapolis).
The next year, the school christened a new field - called the baseball park at Wabash its first season. It wasn't named Mud Hollow Field until its second year.
Wabash had its first games there on Apr. 29, 1961 - splitting a doubleheader with Wheaton College (Ill.). The Little Giants lost the first game 5-1 and won the second game 6-5. They were supposed to open with Indiana University there the day before but the games were rained out.
After this season ends, Wabash will start work on a $6.2 million athleticfacilities initiative in the coming months, which includes a construction of a new baseball stadium with permanent seating for fans; batting cages; bullpens; a press box; a concession and restroom complex; and a new scoreboard. Meanwhile, Mud Hollow Field will become the new home for the Wabash soccer team.
Stevens said Wabash will likely play its fall season at Crawfordsville High School before Wabash's new field is completed in 2011.
But over the past 50 years, there have been plenty of memories.
There's the time Wabash rallied from a seven-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat in-state rival DePauw 8-7 in the early 1990s.
There are even more recent magical moments - like how Wabash clinched its first North Coast Athletic Conference berth there last season with a win over Wittenberg last year.
There have also been plenty of "Mud Hollow hops". Just ask former Wabash shortstop John Panozzo (1986-89). He fielded tons of those evil ground balls.
"A Mud Hollow hop is a ball that takes about four hops ankle high," Panozzo said. "Then, on the fifth hop, the next one about four feet high, and its about to take your head off."
Then, there are those hundreds, if not thousands, of foul balls lost among the trees behind home plate and the first base/right field line. Wabash senior outfielder Nathan Schrader won't miss the freshmen bonding experience of finding them.
"I'll never forget, as a freshman, and not playing too much and always going into the weeds to find balls. The trees just eat them up," Schrader said. "I don't think anybody else will miss that either."
Then, there's Scott Boone - who has a unique bond with the field.
He played for and coached the Little Giants, working as an outfielder for them from 1977-1981 before taking over as coach from 1983-1997.
Boone has a few fond memories. But he takes more gratification in how they helped improve the field over the past 20 years.
"From the time I played there until the time I left as a head coach, the field changed dramatically," Boone said. "It was primarily used as a football practice field. The offensive linemen did drills in front of the visitor's dugout and it was chopped up. While I was coaching, we put more of an emphasis on the field, the dugouts, the scoreboard . . . It took on a lot of character. They're going from a practice football field to a dedicated facility to a more dedicated facility."
Panozzo agreed. He's extremely happy Wabash will upgrade its facility next year.
"You need a grandstand these days. You need to have concessions and bathrooms and speakers and a p.a. system and a scoreboard. All those things you need to be part of the structure," Panozzo said. "That's what's important for recruiting and establishing what a program really is - not a piece of grass that has little bit of history but shared space with soccer and football when I was there."