FOWLER PARK AS MUCH OF A STAR AS PLAYERS WHO’VE PLAYED THERE
On February 2013, the University of San Diego cut the ribbon and unveiled its redesigned stadium, Fowler Park and Cunningham Field, to rave reviews, including the endorsement of a Baseball Hall of Famer and local USD rival.
The late San Diego Padres star Tony Gwynn — who in 2013 was head coach for the San Diego State baseball team that was USD’s inaugural Fowler Park opponent — weighed in at the time.
“When Rich Hill told me he was getting a new ballpark, I tried to envision what it was going to look like. I think it turned out better than even he described. It’s outstanding. I think a lot of people are going to love this place. It’s comfortable, there’s lots of room, good seats, there’s the terrace (Torero Deck). It’s a state-of-the-art facility. I’m happy for him, happy for USD baseball and happy for San Diego.”
It cost $13.8 million to renovate the former Cunningham Stadium site behind the Jenny Craig Pavilion; the lead gift was received from Ron and Alexis Fowler. Ron Fowler, who was chairman of USD’s Board of Trustees at the time of the couple’s donation, is executive chairman and co-owner of the San Diego Padres.
The immaculately manicured ballpark — which offers top-notch amenities, a major-league equivalent clubhouse, lights for the first time at USD games and seating that brings fans closer to the action than ever before — is just about everything USD Baseball Head Coach Rich Hill hoped for, both then and still today, six years later.
“I can’t believe that I get to coach here,” says Hill, who completed his 20th season as head coach and earned his 1,000th career coaching win last spring. “I love coming out onto the field. When you walk through the tunnel, you come out and it looks like a major-league ballpark. It still takes my breath away.”
That reaction seems to be justified. There’ve been many talented players who’ve been recruited to USD and the facility has proven to provide a great college experience for fans and players alike.
“Fowler Park is a piece of the puzzle,” Hill said of the facility’s presence in the recruiting process. “Everything about USD suggests ‘first class,’ and the facility is one more example of that. We’re here to help our guys realize their dream. While other students realize their dreams as an accountant, a scientist, a psychologist, a teacher or an attorney, this is in line with that when it comes to our student-athletes.”
Since 2013, Fowler Park has had many talented players on its field, including Toreros who are currently dotting Major League Baseball rosters. The second overall selection in the 2013 draft, Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant enjoyed a Golden Spikes Award-winning season, hitting a school-record 31 home runs for the West Coast Conference champion Toreros in 2013.
Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Covey played on the 2013 team, and New York Mets pitcher P.J. Conlon played with USD through 2015.
A number of other high-round USD draftees who’ve played since Fowler Park opened and are currently in the minor leagues includes shortstop Kyle Holder (New York Yankees), pitcher David Hill (Colorado Rockies), infielder Connor Joe (drafted by Pittsburgh, now with Los Angeles Dodgers), shortstop Bryson Brigman (Seattle Mariners), catcher Riley Adams (Toronto Blue Jays) and this year’s second-round selection, Paul Richan (Chicago Cubs).
Fowler Park also hosted two MLB spring training games in March 2014 between the San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians. The facility got a ringing endorsement from then-Padres Manager Bud Black. “It’s a great ballpark, a first-rate facility,” he said. “It’s wonderful, I think the sightlines are great, the fans are right on top of the action and it plays fair.” — Ryan T. Blystone