University’s Athletics Fields Continue Winning Tradition

November 27, 2017 at 10:47 am

An overhead view of the Cleveland S. Harley Baseball Park.

University of South Carolina Upstate athletes aren’t the only winners on campus; as it turns out, the campus’s own winning tradition continues this year, as the Cleveland S. Harley Baseball Park has been named the Collegiate Baseball Field of the Year.

The award from the Sports Turf Managers Association will be presented in January, during the STMA Awards Banquet, which is part of the 2018 STMA Conference and Exhibition. The 2018 conference will be held in Fort Worth, Texas.

Bruce Suddeth, director of building and landscape services at USC Upstate, said the latest honor continues a tradition of recognition for the quality of athletics fields at the University. The softball field has won similar nationwide acclaim from the STMA twice, in 2006 and 2015.

“It’s mainly just doing all the traditional cultural practices in the right way,” Suddeth said. “We don’t always do everything right, but our goal is to learn from our mistakes and make things better.”

Suddeth also credited the University administration for supporting his department’s goals for the athletics fields.

“Number one is having the resources and support from the administration to get done what we do,” he said. “We have to pick and choose our battles of what’s best for our athletics fields, and number one is safety. We want to make sure the field is safe for our athletes and anybody that steps on the field. We have camps in the summer, and some high school ball. So we need to make sure everything’s safe.”

USC Upstate head baseball coach Matt Fincher knows from experience the value of the Harley Baseball Field, both to the University and to the region it serves.

“We feel very fortunate that we play at a beautiful ballpark,” Fincher said. “Our field is used much more of the year than many people would think. We have all kinds of different groups coming in and out of there, and I’m there most all the time and I hear the comments that people make, that the playing surface is as nice as any around. They compare it to other larger institutions with more resources, and ours stands right there with them, no doubt about it.”

Fincher said the high standard to which the field is maintained isn’t lost on his players, either.

“I think it’s a neat thing for our kids and they appreciate that where they go to play and practice on a daily basis is such a nice field,” he said. “It’s a lot more enjoyable to go to work – or to go to play, in our case – in a nice place, and so every day, in my opinion, it sets the tone that we realize how fortunate we are and we’re grateful for the things that we have and the people that are supporting us. It makes life enjoyable, which is one of the goals that we set for ourselves – just to enjoy life.”

Maintenance of the athletics fields falls to the five-member Sports Turf Division of the Department of Building and Landscape Services, and Fincher was quick to note the dedication of both Suddeth and the crew he often works with. Travis Dill, a grounds maintenance technician who is part of the Sports Turf Division, described what the honor meant to himself and his coworkers.

“I think we have the best field in the [Atlantic Sun] Conference, but I just really wasn’t expecting it,” Dill said. “I’m glad we won and I’m excited about it, I just didn’t expect it. It means a lot to me. It makes me push harder and make the field that much better than it already is, and for us to get out and get the job done.”

The baseball park is named in honor of the late Cleveland S. Harley, who was a local philanthropist and businessman. Harley was a longtime supporter of USC Upstate and was an original member of the Spartanburg County Commission for Higher Education, which was responsible for founding the institution. The Harley family has been instrumental in the growth of the University and, in particular, the athletics programs.