Utz dedication brings together past, present and future
Expect to see changes in the near future at Kelly Field, Washington University’s baseball complex, starting with a new name.
On Saturday, the University’s Department of Athletics will host a dedication celebration and baseball alumni reunion, renaming the complex Kelly Field at Irv Utz Stadium.
Utz served as the head baseball coach from 1954 until 1963, amassing an overall record of 162-66 (.711), and was inducted into the Washington University Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.
“We had an alumni baseball function about four or five years ago, and many of the players that had played for Irv Utz asked about the possibility of renaming the field,” Athletic Director John Schael said. “That’s where the idea took place, but it’s not like it hasn’t been thought about within the department of athletics as well.”
Schael will unveil a commemorative plaque honoring Utz on Saturday, officially renaming the complex, and there will be a welcome reception tonight for alumni spanning multiple eras of program history.
“We have about 150 former players coming back in honor of their former coach Irv Utz, as well as many players that played the game for Coach [Leo] Kelly (1969-81)….There will be some remarks that are made by former players in recognition of the experiences that they had with Coach Utz, and some of the memories,” Schael said. “What we want to do is honor both families.”
“We have two outstanding men who dedicated their lives to the service of the student athletes and we are recognizing both, honoring both, rightfully so. It’s a good feeling. We’ll have a new name, it’s a part of our history that will always be with us as we move forward.”
Though the complex is just now receiving Utz’s name, the baseball team once played on a field bearing his name.
“It was in 1981 when we had a baseball field named in honor of Irv Utz,” Schael said. “It was located at the site of Simon Hall…and in order to make room for the construction of the new school of business, the field was moved to a new location.
“With that move, we changed the name of the field to Kelly Field, named after a more current baseball coach, who had dedicated his life to the service of the student athletes and certainly one who provided positive leadership to all students.”
Schael said that along with the new name, the department plans to add a number of “enhancements” to the complex, including permanent seating, a new scoreboard and wind screens.
“When we take a look at all of our facilities…we always try to figure out ways to enhance their attractiveness to the students that participate, whether it be in recreation or [in] intercollegiate athletics,” Schael said, though he acknowledged that making these changes will take time.
This ceremony comes at a turning point for the program. Head coach Steve Duncan is in his first year with the Bears, and has set high expectations for his players and the program.
“[The dedication] wasn’t tied to Coach Duncan’s arrival, but it certainly binds the past with the present,” Schael said. “The former players…are going to have a chance to meet our new coach. They’ll be excited about the goals that he has and the direction that the program is going in. They’ll help us usher in this new era for Coach Duncan and the baseball Bears.”