April 29, 2005

Broncos Christen New Stadium On Saturday

April 29, 2005

By David Bush
San Francisco Chronicle

If it continues to have problems this season, at least the Santa Clara baseball team will be comfortable.

The Broncos host Gonzaga tonight in the last game at multipurpose Buck Shaw Stadium, and Saturday the two teams will play the first game in Stephen Schott Stadium.

"It's the equivalent of hitting the lottery,'' Santa Clara coach Mark O'Brien said of the $8.6 million facility made possible by a $4 million contribution from Schott, the former owner of the A's and a Bronco alum. "It's humbling to know that Steve Schott would do something like that for us, that Father Locatelli (SCU president) would do something like that for the program. If you could see the look on the 19- to 22-year-old faces, that would do it right there. Our players think we are going to play at SBC Park on Saturday.''

The stadium, which will seat 1,500, also includes training, practice and equipment facilities. Saturday's sold-out opening will feature much hoopla, including Schott throwing out the first pitch.

The new ballyard takes the sting out of what has been somewhat of a down year for the Broncos. Their overall record is 19-22, but they are just 5-13 in the WCC. A rash of injuries contributed to a spiral of 11 losses in 12 games that tore the heart out of the season.

The Broncos' injury list includes two regular outfielders, two starting pitchers and their shortstop. "We're really missing some key players, there's no two ways about it,'' O'Brien said. "But that is not an excuse, because it happens to everybody. ... We ran into some hot teams and didn't play very well. ''

Things have improved slightly of late, with five wins in eight games, including Tuesday night's 7-5 victory over 18th-ranked Stanford. "We showed a lot of life in that game, and there's a lot of baseball left,'' O'Brien said.

One Bronco showing a lot of life has been walk-on Kevin Drever, a switch- hitter who has taken over at shortstop for the injured Michael Lange and leads the team with a .389 average.

"Kevin Drever is the hardest working player in our program,'' O'Brien said. "If you watched him take batting practice and you watched him run around ... you would say he doesn't belong on a Division I field. He's about 5-foot-7, 150-something pounds. But he's got an unbelievable passion and enthusiasm for the game. You wish every player had his energy, his passion and desire to succeed.

"I said before the season that Kevin Drever is the type of guy who is going to find his way in there somehow.''