The earsplitting sounds of drills, trucks and construction workers can’t take the grin off Brian O’Connor’s face as he gazes down Davenport Field’s right-field line. Standing on a concourse outside a makeshift office, the UVA baseball coach is giddy. “This is going to be awesome,” he says.
In June, work commenced on a nearly $18 million upgrade aimed at making Davenport one of the best-outfitted college ballparks in the country.
The additions, which will be ready in time for the Cavaliers’ first game of the season against Virginia Military Institute on Feb. 20, include 1,000 more seats; a 5,000-square-foot development center with batting cages and pitching mounds; new offices for O’Connor and his staff; a new grand entry in right field; an expanded concourse down the right-field line; a field-level club area on the first-base side; and new concessions, merchandise and restroom facilities.
“It’s for the fans,” O’Connor says. “Our fans have totally supported this program, and that’s what’s taken it to the level that it’s at. This is a reward for all those years of sitting in wooden bleachers and supporting these players—whether it be February games or Super Regional games. Their support has driven this program.”
Virginia has made four trips to the College World Series since 2009—winning a national championship in 2015—and is one of four programs in the nation to have appeared in 14 straight NCAA Tournaments.
But in a recent survey of the best baseball stadiums in the country done by D1Baseball.com, Davenport Field—despite having undergone six previous expansions since its opening in 2002—ranked 24th. Last season, Virginia averaged 3,248 fans per game, ranking 16th nationally in crowd size.
Private donations are paying for the upgrades, with more than 150 former Virginia baseball players—including current major leaguers Ryan Zimmerman (Col ’06) and Brandon Guyer (Col ’08)—having given roughly $2 million to the project. “We’ve made great strides, but it’s going to be ongoing through the start of the season,” O’Connor says of the fundraising efforts.
Guyer, an outfielder for the Cleveland Indians, says giving back was a no-brainer.
“That program helped get me to where I am today,” Guyer says. “I feel like I owe them a lot. The three years I was there, I grew so much as a man. Any way I can give back, I’m all for it—especially getting the stadium to where it’s one of the best in the nation.”