Despite success, Chapman baseball still lacks on-campus field

There are a number of world-class athletics facilities on Chapman’s campus. Wilson Field is impeccably groomed for the football team; the Zee Allred Aquatics Center is an easily accessible homeground for swim and water polo; the Lastinger Athletics Complex has rooms upon rooms available for training. Yet, in all of this, there’s a figurehead of Chapman’s athletic program that’s somewhat unaccounted for. 

Chapman’s baseball team, the reigning Division III College World Series Champions, shares a field with nearby Orange Lutheran High School.

Hart Park, the Panthers’ home stomping ground, is more than just a baseball field. It also offers football fields, horseshoe pits, an outdoor pool, soccer fields, tennis courts and other amenities.

But there’s one core issue with Hart Park: its distance from the university. The field is one mile away from main campus. That may not appear like an extensive separation, but there’s a sentiment amongst the baseball team that an on-campus facility would be much more accessible.

“As one of the more prestigious programs at Chapman for sports, we should have at least a spot on campus,” said Brad Shimabuku, a sophomore outfielder. 

There are some on-campus resources for the baseball team – they have access to the athletes’ weight room next to Wilson Field and also have their own batting cage facilities behind The K Residence Hall, nicknamed “The Den” by the players. Shimabuku and junior first baseman Hank Zeisler both said that while they like the cages and weight room, a closer field could help with attendance at home games. 

“During the regular season, (the turnout) could be better; there’s not too many fans. We get a lot of parents, a lot of locals, but for students it’s not great. That’s mainly because our field is off-campus,” Zeisler said. “Without a doubt, if our field was on-campus, we’d get a little more attention.”

Shimabuku agreed and mentioned that players are more motivated when there’s a higher sense of energy radiating from the stands at the team’s games. 

“When there’s more people, you feel like you have to play for something,” Shimabuku said. “It gives you intent and purpose when you’re playing to not let them down.” 

When asked if he thought Chapman prioritized other sports over baseball, Shimabuku laughed.

“I plead the fifth,” he said.

In the past several years, Chapman has undergone some significant architectural ventures – building the Musco Center for the Arts, The Keck Center for Science and Engineering, and The K Residence Hall, as well as purchasing the Chapman Grand apartment complex. However, constructing a baseball stadium would be a slightly different undertaking.  

“There’s always discussion for a baseball or softball complex somewhere. But it’s tough finding the right land and property,” said head coach Scott Laverty. “It’s just tough to build a baseball field somewhere; you need design.”

However, ultimately, Hart Park is extremely well-maintained and players seem to be content overall with current facilities.

“The field is gorgeous, it’s beautifully kept. Our groundskeeper – one of our coaches, Dave Edwards – does a fantastic job,” Zeisler said. “It’s one of the nicest fields in SCIAC to play during the season. When it’s in its peak form, it’s hard to beat.” 

Chapman baseball has played there since 1954, according to Laverty, and ultimately that sense of tradition is hard to beat. 

“Having a place that’s been ours for so long, that’s nice,” Laverty said.