ODU introduces Finwood, dreams of new baseball stadium

NORFOLK —

In his office, Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig has blueprints for a $9-million, 4,000-seat baseball stadium to be built at the Monarchs' current home.

In his mind, Selig has visions of a ballpark, also on campus-owned land, but along the Elizabeth River. A mini Harbor Park, if you will.

Chances are, neither version transpires. But as Selig introduced new coach Chris Finwood on Wednesday, it was clear ODU needs to upgrade or replace the Bud Metheny Complex.

The joint doesn't cry for explosives and a wrecking ball. In fact, $400,000 in recent improvements — a video board and some brick work — have served the Bud well.

But the Monarchs lack an indoor hitting facility, and the coaches' offices are cinder block, complete with exposed pipes and ducts.

ODU's digs almost kept Finwood, a Hampton High graduate, from coming home. He worked the past six seasons at Western Kentucky, where he and Selig, the Hilltoppers' AD from 1999-2010, raised nearly $3 million to renovate Nick Denes Field.

In fact, as he mulled ODU's offer, Finwood emailed Selig from his WKU office and told him he couldn't believe he was considering swapping venues.

"I don't want to let him down," Selig said. "He's leaving a great situation for one that has great promise. That puts a lot of pressure on me to provide him the facilities and resources he needs."

During Finwood's tenure, WKU's attendance ballooned from less than 100 per game to more than 1,000. Season-ticket sales went from less than 50 to more than 700 as the Hilltoppers earned two NCAA tournament bids.

"We plan on doing the exact same thing here," Finwood said to a group of well-wishers who braved Wednesday's searing heat for an al fresco reception. "We will do a great job in the community, I guarantee that."

Finwood craves a family atmosphere at the park and has huddled with Henry and Hank Morgan, who bring that vibe to Hampton's War Memorial Stadium during the Coastal Plain League's summer season. Finwood's ability to connect with fans, donors and area businesses was invaluable at WKU, according to Selig.

"A lot of people wanted to give to support Chris Finwood and all he stands for," Selig said. "He made fund-raising overall much easier by the way he interacted with the donors and community leaders. He's very approachable, down-to-earth, grounded."

Selig and Finwood are unsure of the finished product. If ODU adds softball in a nod to Title IX, could softball take over Bud Metheny and make a riverfront baseball park viable? Or if softball doesn't happen, what about replacing the Bud with a 2,000-seat stadium and a new clubhouse/hitting facility beyond the center-field fence?

Selig and Finwood have pondered those, and other, possibilities.

"I could not promise him anything concrete," Selig said. "But I could promise him that I will do everything in my power to invest in renovating or replacing our baseball facility."

Meanwhile, Finwood already has started doing everything in his power to improve the talent within a program that hasn't reached the NCAA tournament since 2000 but did finish second this season in the Colonial Athletic Association under interim coach Nate Goulet.

Finwood retained Goulet's pitching coach, Tim LaVigne, a former closer and All-ACC shortstop at Virginia, and hired Monmouth University assistant coach Karl Nonemaker, a former All-America outfielder at Vanderbilt. Nonemaker and Finwood were assistants together at Auburn in 2005.

Unlike at Western Kentucky, top-flight prospects reside nearby. Finwood knows from his playing days and recruiting efforts — at Auburn he courted Hickory High's David Wright, who bypassed college and became an all-star third baseman for the New York Mets.

ODU can't hope to keep every Kyle Crockett, Will Lamb, Chris Taylor and Ryan Zimmerman at home. But can Finwood and his staff land the occasional local big fish?

"I don't see why not," Finwood said. "We should. Some of that starts when they're younger, getting them to camp and to games."

The region's talent, ODU's commitment and Finwood's credentials create undeniable potential.

"We're not as far away," Selig said, "as some people think."

http://bio.tribune.com/davidteel can be reached at 247-4636 or by email at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/ teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
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