Former Gamecocks Rave About New Stadium

The new USC baseball stadium has been a long time coming. Landon Powell joked about when he was being recruited; he was told he would hit the first home run ever in the park. Powell graduated in 2004, but he and other Gamecock alumni are still excited about the new park and what it means to the program. Read inside to catch their excitement about the dream becoming a reality for Carolina baseball.

The new South Carolina baseball stadium will finally open on 02/20/09. Former Gamecock great Landon Powell was among the alumni players in town last weekend to see it. He said, "It's unbelievable. It is something Gamecock fans have been waiting for a long time. As an alumni, I'm excited to see it. I just wish I had been able to play in it. Coach Toman told me I would hit the first home run ever in the new stadium. I know he told my buddy Dave Marchbanks that he would throw the first pitch ever. And we graduated in '04. I know that stuff takes longer than they always plan, but they got it going now, and these players are going to enjoy it."

Powell was waiting in line for batting practice at the place he did play for the Gamecocks – Sarge Frye Field. The last official game has been played here, so the chairs are gone, moved to the soccer stadium or the softball stadium, but the sounds of metal bats were pinging once again at The Sarge, as Powell and other former Gamecock baseball players from six decades gathered for the Carolina Alumni baseball game. It was a fun day for everyone who returned to this field where so many lasting memories were made.

The youngest player here was Steven Reinholt, who completed his career in 2007. The oldest player in attendance was Johnny Gramling, who played in 1951 and 1952.

So the chairs were gone at Sarge Frye Field. No one seemed to mind on this beautiful fall day. In some cases, so were the hairlines and waistlines of the players there, but no one cared about that either. This day was about family – the Gamecock family. Only half of the 80+ alumni players there chose to play in the game, but the Yardcock fans in attendance were able to see some of their all-time favorite players one more time in a Carolina uniform.

As the players were introduced, the young sons of Art Finley, Eddie Lendenski, and Jeff Churchich stood between the dugout and the first base baseline where the boys lined up to greet each and every player with a high five or knuckle bump as they ran out. The three youngsters represented what this game was all about – a lasting love for the game, the team, and the Gamecock family the players were all a part of. The score didn't matter with both sides wearing identical uniforms and everyone being Gamecocks, but the fire clearly still burns in some of those who played, as they may have smiled more than when they played for real, but they still fought for every out, and swung for the fences. Tripp Cromer, who hit so many key hits here during his time as a Gamecock, hit what may be the final home run of any kind at Sarge Frye Field.

Kip Bouknight is the only South Carolina male player named SEC athlete of the year. The former Gamecock hurler was also enthusiastic about the new stadium: "It's first class. It's well deserved." he said. "Certainly hate that it took this long to happen for the university and the baseball program, but it's an outstanding facility. It will be great for the fans, and great for recruiting. I can't say enough how happy I am for Coach Tanner and the program."

Bouknight talked about the impact of the new facility on recruiting: "It's huge," he said. "I can remember going to Florida State and North Carolina, and a lot of other great facilities across the country, and it was a step down coming to South Carolina's facilities here. Recruits are going to have a good time on their recruiting visits here, and it is certainly going to be a recruiting advantage for the Gamecocks." Like many of the former Gamecocks now in the pros, Bouknight has seen stadiums all over the country at the college level, in the minor leagues, and the major league parks. Comparing it to all the parks he has seen, he said, "It's a first class Triple A baseball stadium, hands down. Everything I've seen from the ground up, it's just outstanding. The weight room is the nicest I have ever seen other than a big league stadium."

Kevin Melillo also raved about the impact of the new stadium on recruiting for the Gamecocks. "It looks amazing. I can only think that's going to be a ridiculous recruitment tool for all those guys who are coming out to look at the new stadium." He said. "How could you not want to play in that place? It's a pro ball park. It's going to dominate any other ball park in the Southeastern Conference, and any park that we've been to as long as we played college ball. It's going to be the nicest place anyone is going to come to. It's a state-of-the-art Double A, Triple A stadium. It's legit. When a recruit comes to see it, he's going to be committing right away."

Bouknight is currently a free agent, and hoping to be with a new team come spring training. Powell is now a catcher with the Oakland A's organization, and Melillo just got traded this past June to the Toronto Blue Jays organization. Powell caught us up on his pro career. "I'm still playing, that's a good thing," he said. "I've had some knee injuries that set me back a little bit, but I was in Triple A all year, had a little knee injury that kept me from getting a September call up (to the major league team). I'm looking forward to getting back to spring training healthy and making the team if I can." Some things never change, as Powell was crushing the balls in BP before the game. This might be the year Powell makes it to "The Show". He hopes so. "I've been on the cusp the last two years."

Melillo is excited about the opportunities with is new club, and is also hoping 2009 is the year he makes it to "The Show." He said of his professional career, "It's going well. Got drafted in 2004, got traded to the Blue Jays this past June and finished out the season with them with their Triple A affiliate in Syracuse NY. I'll be reporting to spring training in February, and it looks kind of promising right now. The Triple A team has just moved out to Las Vegas." As far as making The Show this year, he said, "I'm hoping. Getting traded to a new organization may open some doors. We'll see."

Other former players in attendance were Fox Beyer (1998-02); Chad Blackwell (2004); Joe Cardwell (1988-89); Garrett Carter (1984-88); Jeff Churchich (1985-86); Stephen T. Cook (1974-76); Tripp Cromer (1987-89); Andrew Cruse (2004-06); Cliff Donald (2002-05); Trey Dyson (1999-02); Art Finley (1981-83); Pete Fisher (1982-84); Jason Fletcher (2004-05); Garris Gonce (2001-02); John Gregory (2003-06); Billy Heckle (1971-72); Bryon Jeffcoat (1998-01); Tripp Kelly (1998-01); Kurt Korinek (1982); Andy Lambert (2005-06); Bill Landrum (1978-80); Eddie Lendenski (1985-86); Keith Lewis (1984-87); Will Lewis (1987-91); Rocky Lewis (1981-84); Randy Martz (1977); Zac McCamie (2004-05); Bobby Miller (84-85); Tommy Moody (1970-72); Mark Nelson (1985-88); Hank Parks (2003-04); Riley Polk (1985-86); Jamie Poston (1997-2000); Patrick Sexton (1996-98); Bob Smith Jr. (1961-62); Tyler Speer (1997); Chris Spigner (1998-02); Stacy Stokes (1991-94); Blake Taylor (2001-02); Skeets Thomas (1987-90); Bryan Triplett (2003-04); Darryl Tucker (1996-97); Derick Urquhart (1995-98); Mike Werner (1982-83); Derek White (1982-85); Chris Boyle (1981-84); Brian Buscher (2002-03); Bill Cash (1965-69); Donald Coker (1955); Michael Cromer (1974-75); Jon Dudley (1998-01); Robert Ellenburg (1959-61); Roger W. Elliott (1963-65); Billy Frierson (1953-56); Jeff Grantz (1973-76); Lee Gronkiewicz (1999-01); Harvey Heise (1981-84); Chad Hoshour (1996-97); Wally Jones (1967-69); John Hinkel (1974-77); Larry Jewell (1955-57); Keith Killian (1982-85); Joe Kucharski (1980-82); Ray Lavigne (1974-75); David Marchbanks (2001-03); Jack McCathern (1962-64); Donnie Myers (1964-65); Buddy Nidiffer (1956-58); Billy Pridgen (1951-52); Jimmy Roof (1956-59); Laney Ruff (1960-63); Ken Rosefield (1956-59); Ken Shull (1972-74); Pete Stokes (1956-58); Jerry Stone (1960-61); John Sullivan (1980-85); Keith Taylor (1979-80); Jeff Twitty (1978-79); Robin Wilkes (1964-65); Tommy Williams (1977-81).

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories