Home sweet home (05-01-14)
Written by KEVIN GORDON Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor
Thursday, 01 May 2014 08:46
Bowling Green's baseball team finally has its own home.
|A view of Bowling Green State University's renovated baseball locker room. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
The Falcons moved into the program's first permanent locker room earlier this season.
The locker room is located in the Ice Arena, across the street from Steller Field where the baseball team plays.
The Falcons had dressed in the same room for years, but the room had no amenities. The metal lockers were similar to those found at most high schools and most of them were aging.
The team often had to move its belongings out of the room when scheduling conflicts arose.
But the room was renovated during the winter and now features professional-style wood lockers for 35 players.
"It's phenomenal," BG red-shirt senior Mike Frank said. "It's really brought the team morale up. It's somewhere we can hang out, kind of enjoy ourselves, enjoy each other's company and just have fun."
Each locker also has a USB port/eletctrical outlet, and a custom stool with a Falcon logo on it for each player.
Several reclining chairs sit in the middle of the room, along with a television, stereo and surround sound. A trophy case also is in the final stages of being completed. The locker room has photos of past players and panels showing previous Falcon accomplishments.
The coaches also have their own new locker room across the hall from their players.
The money for the project was donated by David Barkholz, Jon Treece, Jack Kieffer and Scot Bressler of Black Swamp Sports; and former Falcon J.R. Jarvis.
"It's great to finally get recognized and it's nice to have a facility that is comparable to the best in the country, Falcon senior T.J. Losby said.
Before the locker room was renovated, the lockers were divided into three sections - making it impossible for all of the players to see other. And players had to yell over lockers just to talk to each other.
With the new locker room, the players are arriving earlier and staying later just to hang out with their teammates, study, watch TV or listen to music.
Before the renovation, players often were heading home after practice even before head coach Danny Schmitz and his staff finished their cleanup duties at Steller Field and headed to their cars in the arena parking it.
Previously, the players headed home immediately after practice.
"It's meant a lot more team time. It's really brought the team camaraderie up," Frank said. "The team chemistry is better. Being here more often, the new layout, before practice, after practice, there's a lot more interaction between the guys. "I like the family feel of it. We're enjoying the nice space we have. The locker room just adds to the whole experience.
The renovated locker room will help BG's recruiting. BG was the only school in the Mid-American Conference and one of only a few teams nationally without its own locker room.
Opposing schools often used the lack of a locker room against BG in recruiting.
"When I coached at Central Michigan, I used to tell our common recruits to make sure you asked BG to show you their locker room because I knew we were going to win on the other side of it," said Barkholz, who played at BG from 2001-04.
The Falcons sometimes tried not to show their locker room to recruits before the renovation.
"The locker room is a big deal," Barkholz said. "Kids and people, in general, want to see themselves playing in these higher level stadiums and dressing in these high quality locker rooms because that's what they see at the big-time level. Kids today are exposed to high level things and it's only natural they want that. If we want high level recruits, it's our job to provide that. The locker room situation is no longer a negative."
The Falcons had longed for their own locker room for years, but it finally became a reality after Barkholz met with first-year Falcon athletics director Chris Kingston last fall.
After the meeting, the two toured the old locker room and Kingston eventually approved the baseball team taking over the room full-time.
"All of the excuses from the past were no longer excuses because (Kingston) asked questions of all of the people involved," Barkholz said. "If we're going to call ourselves a first-class program, we need a locker room that looks like what we have now. We have a first-class facility."
Despite the previous locker room situation, the Falcons have won four MAC regular-season titles, seven MAC East Division titles and three MAC tournament championships during Schmitz's 24 seasons. BG won the MAC tournament last season.
"Our new home is for both our present players and our past players, who helped build our tradition," Schmitz said. "We can show off the tradition. We can show off the pride. The kids now want the bells and whistles, and now we can give them that. This is definitely going to help our recruiting.
"What we have now is up to par or even above average against the other schools that are recruiting them," Losby said.