Clemson, Central residents pitch in for baseball
By Anna Simon
CLEMSON BUREAU - The Greenville News
CENTRAL — Like many area residents, Shane Maxwell, of Six Mile, loves baseball but never heard of the Carolina Chaos, a summer collegiate team based in Central the past two summers.
The Chaos plays about 20 home games at Southern Wesleyan University's ball field during June and July.
Plans to build a small stadium that seats 300-400 people at the ball field could bring an audience to the team and could bring scores of other baseball players and visitors to the area.
"I'd love to have the baseball down here," said Maxwell, whose son plays baseball for D.W. Daniel High.
A casual conversation led to a plan to raise $51,000 and build seating and then market the small stadium to attract other tournaments as well.
"It's an opportunity to put baseball players — and more importantly baseball players' moms and dads — in motel rooms," said Larry Abernathy, Clemson's mayor.
Abernathy, a former baseball dad, knows first hand how much money moms and dads spend at local eateries and shops when they travel.
Clemson's city administrator Rick Cotton and Mike Gillespie, head baseball coach at Southern Wesleyan, were talking baseball when discussion turned to the limited spectator seating at the school's ball field.
The conversation started a chain of events that, like a series of single base hits, could set up a home run.
The stadium would help support Southern Wesleyan and Carolina Chaos baseball and open doors for summer American Legion and AAU tournaments — possibly even high school tournaments, Cotton and Gillespie said.
Andy Blondeau, who heads the marketing effort for the Clemson Area Sports Council, was interested. The Sports Council brings in visitors for sports events from biking to rowing but has no baseball facility to promote because Clemson University ball fields are used for summer camps.
Neil Workman, of Trehel Construction, was interested, too. When asked to draw up plans for the seating, he volunteered free labor to build it.
The city of Central was interested and wanted something to mark Southern Wesleyan's 100th anniversary this year. Central and Clemson city councils pitched in hospitality tax revenue toward construction materials, as did the university and team.
Now all that's needed for a home run is four advertising partners at $5,000 each.
It seems that the Clemson-Central area, like nearby Easley, which hosts the Big League World Series every summer, loves baseball. There's already a link. Big League series players stay at Southern Wesleyan and practice on its field.
The first phase of the project — stadium seating, construction of a new press box and installation of a scoreboard — could be complete by mid to late summer, Cotton said.
Future plans include a new restroom and concession building and other improvements.