Florida A&M baseball coaches and players hope renovations to their field can help lift school spirit in light of negative press that has recently plagued the university.
Since September, on a $4,000 budget, FAMU baseball head coach Willie Brown and his players have been working alongside the maintenance department to revive the Moore-Kittles Baseball Complex, which sits on the corner of West Osceola Street and Wahnish Way.
According to Brown, refurbishing the field could bolster the university’s character, which was suffered from hazing allegations after the death of Marching ‘100′ drum major Robert Champion Jr. State medical examiners ruled the 26-year-old’s Nov. 19 death a homicide after an autopsy revealed that he died from soft-tissue hemorrhaging and shock after blunt force trauma.
“Right now, we’re getting a lot of bad press for things that are out of our control,” said Brown, a FAMU graduate and former outfielder for the Florida Marlins’ minor league club. “There are 12,000 students who are working their butts off every day, and the media thinks FAMU is this place that is out of control.
“Everybody focuses on the things that aren’t being done right at FAMU, and I don’t think there’s enough attention toward feel-good stories. The baseball field is a feel-good story, and that’s what they’re missing out on.”
So far, renovations have included the following: cutting the field’s grass, uprooting plants from the infield clay, leveling the infield to a manageable height, painting the dugouts, adding dugout walls and rearranging the bleachers. Next, Brown said, is to convert the field’s equipment room into a concession area, something the 28-year-old complex has never had.
Alongside positive coverage for the university, Brown said he hopes these changes will lead to program recognition and community support.
“I’m hoping the efforts put into this by me, the players and the university will provide a spark that will create a baseball-enthusiast inferno,” Brown said.
Scott Sheplak, a third basemen from Tallahassee, Fla., said the changes made to the complex are something the community should be proud of and that they represent what the program’s new generation is all about.
“We knew there was going to be change,” Sheplak said. “When we first met coach Brown, we knew he had the heart and could tell just by his first speech how much he really wanted it. We’ve gone way beyond what was expected. We’ve done more to FAMU’s field in four months than all that’s been done in the last some-odd 30 years.”
David Duncan, a third basemen and pitcher from Starke, Fla., said the renovations will be appealing to the eye and will deliver positive attention Brown is seeking.
The complex was built in 1983 and was named in honor of former coaches the late Dr. Oscar A. Moore and Costa “Pop” Kittles. Known as the “Fathers of Rattler Baseball,” their combined records include over 500 wins and 14 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles.