There are no cornfields in West Philadelphia. That much is apparent when surveying Penn's brand new baseball diamond. Unlike the fictional Field of Dreams that Kevin Costner built, the Penn Baseball Field at Murphy Field is flanked not by maize but by the Schuylkill Expressway and a gigantic water cooling plant. In a way, though, the new addition to Murphy Field is Penn's own field of dreams -- despite the absence of corn and ghosts. Tucked away near the intersection of the Expressway and University Avenue, Murphy Field is a veritable urban oasis, dwarfed by the concrete landscape that nearly engulfs it. Towering above the outfield is the Expressway, smugly inviting some poor batter to try to swat a Ruthian shot over the net that surrounds the field and protects passing vehicles. The water cooling plant stands equally as imposing and smug on the first-base line, waiting for its chance to blot out the setting sun in the waning hours of daylight and shroud Murphy Field in shadows. The plant will also serve as a temporary clubhouse for the Quakers, and Penn hopes that it can be used as a true locker room when funds to convert the building into one become available. Nowhere near as garish as that which surrounds it, the ballpark at Murphy Field is a snug little facility that will be able to seat 850 in its green, stadium-style seats when the Quakers open their home schedule on March 23 against St. Joseph's. What those in attendance that day might see is saliva dripping from the mouths of right-handed hitters as the left-field foul pole 289 feet away provides them with an inviting target. On the other side of the ballpark's asymmetrical outfield, the right field foul pole is 317 feet away from home plate, and it would take a blast of 385 feet to hit the outfield wall in dead center field. Penn coach Bob Seddon said that the fences at Murphy are 12 feet high, and that if the five-foot high fences at Bower Field -- the Quakers' previous home -- were moved to the front of its warning track, the dimensions would be what they are now at Murphy Field. "It's a hitter's park," Seddon said. "I'd like to play there. You jerk the ball down the left field line, you're going to make collegiate baseball. You're going to hit some homeruns." The thing that impresses Seddon the most about the Quakers' new home, however, is how Murphy Field makes things easier than in past years. "There are a lot of amenities we haven't had before," Seddon said. "For a lot of years, I had to get down to [Bower] at 8:30 in the morning and carry out of my trunk the scoreboard box, hook it into the dugout, walk out and hook it into [the] left field [scoreboard], turn on the switch. I had to go through my routine. But, you know, a lot of that stuff now is going to be where you push a button up in the press box. There's going to be a lot of pluses there, and we never had that." Such luxuries would not have been possible without an anonymous donation to the Penn Athletic Department in 1998. The money accounted for most of the funds required to build the new ballpark at Murphy Field. Most of the other monies were acquired during a silent auction of sports memorabilia at a banquet in November held to honor the 30 years that Seddon has manned the Quakers' helm. Now, with two weeks remaining until Penn's home opener, Murphy Field is raw. Construction materials are strewn about the diamond as workers install the fences of the right field bullpen. In the late afternoon, the diminishing light of the sun makes Murphy Field look more like a forgotten relic than a baseball diamond that has yet to see its first game. The luxury-press box behind home plate is but an empty concrete shell, as are the dugouts. There is yet work to do, but not much. "You could play right now, if you really had to," Seddon said. "[But] it has to be rolled [smooth]?. They could get it ready in two days if we had a game this weekend." One word, barely readable under the dust from building materials, is painted in blue on the red concrete that borders the home place circle in foul territory. "PENNSYLVANIA," it reads. Slowly but surely, a ballpark nears its day in the West Philly sun.Comments powered by Disqus
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