This spring, for the second time in the past four years, the Johnnie baseball team won the MIAC tournament and conference championship over archrival St. Thomas. That earned them an automatic bid to the NCAA midwest regional, and I had the pleasure of joining a great group of parents and alumni fans for the opener against Coe College, in La Crosse, WI.
It was a beautiful morning for baseball, and as I enjoyed a great ball game I couldn't stop thinking about our own new baseball park we were about to finish, and about the extraordinary opportunity we now have to host the NCAA regionals at Saint John's someday. When I returned to campus a few days later I had the chance to see the completion of the installation of the lights for the park. Those lights are a requirement for a bid to host an NCAA regional. But there's still more to come. This summer we plan to complete the adjacent athletic plaza and concessions, and they in turn will provide the beautiful gathering space where we will showcase our exceptional hospitality.
At Saint John's we are blessed with a natural setting that has no rival in all of NCAA Division III, and perhaps even in Divisions I and II. Today we have a stunning complex, and those who drove the project had the vision and the imagination to dream big. Much like in the movie Field of Dreams, they believed that if we built it, great things would happen at Saint John's.
Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of our leadership benefactors, we now have a facility that gives us a significant competitive advantage in the recruitment of talented student athletes. Following in the great Johnnie tradition of hosting summer camps and other athletic events, we will maximize the use of the ball park for decades to come. We plan to aggressively compete to host Babe Ruth, VFW, Legion and high school baseball games and tournaments. That will give us the opportunity to bring to campus thousands of prospective Johnnies, along with their parents and siblings. Who knows whether they'll all be good enough to ever crack the Johnnie varsity roster, but it doesn't matter. Whether on or off the field they could make great Johnnies someday.
We all have our own story about who first introduced us to Saint John's, and most of us remember the first visit we ever made to campus. Arguably Saint John's is more beautiful today than ever, but in the summer it makes a stunning first impression. That's the context for appreciating the new baseball park. Certainly it's about Johnnie baseball and positioning us to compete for an NCAA Division III national championship each and every year. But it's also about much more. It's about ensuring that we continue to attract the exceptional young men who will fill our classes in the years to come. And it's about the future generations of young men whose lives will be changed forever by the uniqueness of the Johnnie experience.
About four years ago a small group of leadership donors envisioned a new baseball park at Saint John's, and they quoted actor James Earl Jones: "If you build it, they will come." Indeed.