Dudy Noble Field, Polk-DeMent Stadium
Dudy Noble Field, Polk-DeMent Stadium, regarded as one of nation's premier venues for college baseball, approaches a significant milestone during the 2013 campaign.
The 2013 season marks the 47th season of baseball at the current site of Mississippi State baseball's on-campus home field, Dudy Noble Field. And in the 46 seasons since MSU first settled into its current on-campus baseball home in 1967, Mississippi State has registered 998 wins, prevailing in more than 73 percent of the 1,366 contests it has hosted over the past six decades.
MSU's baseball home has evolved into the nation's largest campus facility for college baseball and what many regard as the sport's finest all-around baseball complex.
The field is named in honor of longtime MSU baseball coach, athletic director and ABCA Hall of Famer Clarke Randolph "Dudy" Noble. And on April 27, 1998 the facility was renamed Dudy Noble Field, Polk-DeMent Stadium, honoring another ABCA Hall of Famer, former Bulldog skipper Ron Polk and the late Gordon DeMent, a successful businessman and longtime fan of the Baseball Bulldogs from Indianola, Miss.
MSU has eclipsed the 200,000 mark in paid attendance at Dudy Noble Field five times in the past 10 years, including a school-record 233,015 in 2003 and a school-best average of 6,939 during MSU's run to the 2007 NCAA College World Series. Since home attendance figures were first charted in 1976, the home of the Diamond Dogs has drawn more than 4.5 million fans.
Dudy Noble Field, the home to seven Southeastern Conference championship teams, has twice hosted crowds in excess of 14,000, including an NCAA on-campus-record 14,991 that watched the Bulldogs take on SEC Eastern Division rival Florida in a Saturday twinbill in 1989. State has played in front of home crowds of 10,000 or better 25 times, including NCAA Super Regional-record draws of 13,715 and 12,620 in 2007 for nationally-televised late morning games against Clemson. The MSU-Florida State championship matchup of the 1990 NCAA South II Regional drew an NCAA regional on-campus record 11,496 to Dudy Noble Field. DNF heads the NCAA's listing of the top nine and 15 of the top 25 home attendance figures.
MSU has hosted three NCAA District III tournaments (1973, 1974 and 1975), five SEC tournaments (1979, 1981, 1983, 1988 and 1995), 11 NCAA Regional tournaments (1979, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1997, 2000 and 2003) and its first NCAA Super Regional in 2007.
From 1929 until 1964, Mississippi State played its home baseball games at the original on-campus site for Dudy Noble Field located several hundred yards to the south of Scott Field, State's football stadium. The baseball field was closed following the 1964 season to make way for the construction of Dorman Hall. And for the next two seasons, while the "new" Dudy Noble Field was being built, the Diamond Dogs played their home games in nearby Columbus, Miss., at Redbird Park, capturing SEC titles both seasons at their temporary home In Lowndes County. Meanwhile, the tin-roofed grandstand and 2,000-seat bleachers at the old field were moved to the stadium's present site, which became playable for the 1967 season.
Facility enhancements have followed a steady pace over the years ever since.
In 1971, thanks to the generosity of the late E.B. "Dutch" McCool, a former MSU baseball player and one of the founding fathers of Holiday Inns, Inc., MSU took the lead in the Southeastern Conference with the installation of a lighting system. The advent of night baseball in Starkville helped build a solid fan base. Drainage and irrigation systems and an expanded scoreboard with an animation-equipped message center, new batting ranges and an infield tarp became the stadium's next improvements.
Mississippi State hosted its first SEC Baseball Tournament and NCAA Regional in 1979, winning both and setting attendance marks while opening eyes along the way.
The crowds mushroomed further in the 1980s as future Major League stars Jeff Brantley, Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro and Bobby Thigpen helped the 1985 Bulldogs win the SEC championship, host and win another regional championship and earn MSU's highest national finish, a tie for third place at the NCAA College World Series.
It became apparent that support for baseball at State had easily out-grown its cozy Dudy Noble Field facility. Two years after that magical '85 season Mississippi State unveiled a dramatic advancement for its baseball facilities - an impressive $3.5 million project that would give MSU the biggest baseball stadium in the league.
The new facility at Dudy Noble Field, built in less than nine months, featured an impressive concrete grandstand structure with 3,700 maroon theater-style seats, a spacious elevated press box, and rest room, ticket, souvenir and concession-vending facilities. The team clubhouse included a spacious 40-locker dressing room and team area. A pair of 1,500-seat bleachers that once overlooked the end zones at Scott Field, the home of MSU's football Bulldogs, were refurbished and installed along the foul lines, raising seating capacity at Dudy Noble Field to 6,700. The facility was later chosen by Sports Illustrated as the best play to watch college baseball, and it helped ignite a drive to update baseball facilities throughout the SEC and beyond.
The expanded capacity at the stadium also triggered an increase in MSU's annual baseball season ticket base to more than 5,600, virtually assuring Mississippi State's place among national leaders in college baseball attendance every year.
A second permanent concession stand was added in 1989, and a year later, the cinder warning track at the outfield fence was extended to completely encircle the playing field. That project, along with the installation of a six-foot high padded outfield fence, was made possible by a donation by former MSU All-American and Major League standout Will Clark.
Best-selling author, MSU alumnus and avid MSU baseball fan John Grisham donated funding in 1993 for an indoor batting range under the first base grandstand, and in August 1998 construction got started on an ambitious project that added 18 sky suites and more than 600 additional chairback seats in the grandstand. When it was completed during the 2000 season, permanent seating capacity at Dudy Noble Field had eclipsed the 7,000 mark.
The aura of Mississippi State baseball at Dudy Noble Field is certainly not confined to the loyal legions in the impressive grandstand, pro-style luxury sky suites and bleachers.
In fact, some of the more highly-prized seats at Bulldog Baseball games are found beyond the outfield fence in the "Left Field Lounge". Waiting lists greet those seeking to purchase one of nearly 75 renewable season parking passes for an assigned position in one of three rows beyond the outfield fence. There, a colorful assortment of pickup trucks, motor homes, and trailers - most equipped with barbecue grills - line the outfield fence, completing a circle of humanity at Dudy Noble Field.
What began in the late 1960s as a popular gathering spot for baseball-loving MSU students now forms college baseball's largest tailgate party. A 10-foot wide boardwalk has since been added to the area between the outfield fence and the front row of outfield terrace parking.
Not surprisingly, MSU annually ranks among the nation's leaders in attendance, and each year Dudy Noble Field routinely hosts games with the Southeastern Conference's largest actual attendance. SEC weekend games typically draw the largest crowds, giving rise to huge weekend gatherings in the spring. Six of the last eight three-game Super Bulldog Weekend series have drawn more than 25,000, including an SEC series-record 29,915 fans that watched the 2006 MSU-Georgia series.
Still, the improvements continue at Dudy Noble Field: 46-foot "major league" foul poles (2003), a new state-of-the-art scoreboard/message center, courtesy of the Henry Mize Foundation and new fencing and gates surrounding the main grandstand (2004), the Palmeiro Center, a massive 68,000-square foot climate-controlled turfed indoor practice facility (2005) made possible by a generous lead gift from former MSU great Rafael Palmeiro and his wife Lynne, the baseball coaches office complex (2005), funded by contributions from former Bulldog players Jeff Brantley, Will Clark, Eric DuBose, Paul Maholm, Jay Powell and Bobby Thigpen and former MSU manager James "Bo" McKinnis.
Mississippi State's baseball complex received a boost with the addition of the Bryce Griffis Boardroom, a $1.5 million, meeting/banquet hall extension on the south end of the Palmeiro Center. The facility features banquet seating for approximately 350.
Facility upgrades totaling more than $2 million over the past four years include an expanded high definition video board and message "ribbon board", the installation of a new drainage and irrigation system along with a new carpet of natural sod and infield dirt, and expanded dugouts. Even the grandstand got a little grander with a resurfacing and repainting project topped by all-new cupholder-equipped maroon chairback seats (2011) and the latest enhancement, the installation of a new stadium-wide sound system.
These latest facility enhancements continue an on-going Mississippi State campaign to maintain the standing of Dudy Noble Field' as one of the nation's premier venues for college baseball.