Sac State baseball is ready to shine under the lights


Chris Lewis swings at the ball against Fresno State at Raley Field, Wednesday, April 27. Lewis went two for six at the plate and scored two runs.

Jerod Moreno

All the way back to when Sacramento State first started fielding a baseball team in 1947, the Hornets have relied on Mother Nature to supply the light the team needed to play ball.

After two long years of awaiting various processes and regulations, the construction of lights at the Hornet baseball field has finally begun. There is no timetable for exactly when the lights will be ready to use, but the team is hopeful they will be completed in time for use during the final home stretch of the 2016 season.

The budget for the construction of overhead lights at John Smith Field, home of the Sac State Hornet baseball team, was cleared by former Sac State President Alexander Gonzalez two years ago after the team won the Western Athletic Conference in 2014.

Putting up lights at the field creates many more opportunities for the team other than just lighting up the field at night.

The night games at college stadiums are known to draw bigger crowds for a couple of reasons. More students tend to have morning and afternoon classes, which doesn’t give them time to attend weekday games that start between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Many parents are also not be able to attend day games, because many of them work the standard 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work schedule.

The addition of the lights will give the coaches the opportunity to push games back to the evening, which gives more parents enough time to attend the game after work and gives students the chance to stop by after class.

“With the lights, more people within the community will now have a better opportunity to get out and watch us play. I think that’s good for baseball and good for recruiting as well,” Sac State head coach Reggie Christiansen said.

Very few high schools within the nation have lights at their home field. One big selling point for future recruits of Sac State is the ability to be able to envision themselves playing a big game under the lights for a winning team, which Sac State will soon be able to promote.

The lights will allow coaches to hold practices later in the day, which gives students more freedom as to when they can take their classes. As of now, players have to take all of their classes before noon in order to have a free schedule during the middle of the day to be ready for practices as well as games.

Having lights at John Smith Field will also potentially enable Sacramento State to host a NCAA regional game. If Sac State reached that point within their season without lights, they wouldn’t be able have a home game at John Smith Field because field lights are one of the requirements set by the NCAA.

According to Christiansen, over the past eight years or so, the Hornets’ record is below .500, and he thinks not having lights in the past to practice and play home games is certainly a disadvantage they face. The ability to be able to practice under the lights and gain some games of experience under these lights will level the playing field for the Hornets in the years to come.

Sac State is also one of the last teams within the Division I Western Athletic Conference to receive lights for their field. Even Sac State’s local junior college, Sacramento City College, has lights.

Although the budget was approved at the end of the 2014 season, there was still a lot that needed to be done before actually raising the poles and shedding light on the field.

Initially, the lights on the field were supposed to be up and running before the 2016 baseball season had started, but the project was ultimately slowed down by a few hurdles.

The almost two-year long process first had to start with the budget being appointed and approved by the school. Contractors bid on the job, which then had to be approved by the CSU Board of Regents. The budget also had to be approved by the chancellor’s office before construction could finally start.

“We got a lot of rain in the winter time that slowed it down a little bit, but the company we have now has been really good about it,” Assistant Athletic Director and Media Relations Director Brian Berger said. “They’re actually going to finish about a week ahead of what they originally thought they were going to finish.”

Even after the light poles are all finished, the school still has to go through a few more procedures.

“The lights have to approved by electrical, by the fire marshal–there are several things that need to be done before they can be used in a public event,” Berger said. “There is no firm date that we can say right now. The goal is to have them up and functioning by the end of the year.”

The Sac State baseball team has its last eight home games of the season on a to-be-announced basis, in hopes of playing a few night games at John Smith Field during the last home stretch of the 2016 season.

“I think this is a huge step in the right direction for our program, and it will help a lot,” junior catcher Gunner Pollman said. “There is just something about playing under the lights that is electrifying.”