UofL gets $3 million Kroger gift for indoor baseball facility

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- Already one of the top college baseball programs in the country, Louisville took another step to solidify that status with the announcement Monday afternoon that Kroger Louisville Division, has provided a $3 million gift toward the construction of an indoor baseball practice facility adjoining Jim Patterson Stadium.

UofL vice president/director of athletics Vince Tyra said the gift will be paid over 10 years, with $300,000 contributed each year and that the school will continue to seek additional gifts prior to breaking ground on the approximately $12 million facility. He said no timetable has been set, but that he hopes groundbreaking can take place next spring.

The facility will be erected outside of the left-field area next to Jim Patterson Stadium. The structure was first mentioned publicly at the Cardinals’ 2020 Leadoff Dinner, and renderings of the building were revealed at the 2021 Leadoff Dinner.

The building will have between 28-35,000 square feet of space, large enough to contain an entire infield. It will not only provide an indoor artificial turf surface for use during inclement weather, but the additional space allows the Shad Mason Hack Shack to become a dedicated pitching lab. Tyra said other renovations and an expansion of the stadium are also a possibility in the near future.

“This is a great day for the Louisville baseball program,” UofL Head Baseball Coach Dan McDonnell said in a statement. “Our program is all about excellence, a value that we share with Kroger. Excellence in the classroom, on the diamond, and in this great community. Obviously, great facilities are an attraction to recruits, not only the baseball stadium, but up and down our campus. We want to express our gratitude to the Kroger family for their commitment to Louisville baseball and our continued pursuit of excellence.”

Kroger operates 116 retail food stores in Kentucky, Southern Indiana and Southern Illinois, and Ann Reed, Kroger Louisville Division President, noted that Kroger's commitment to UofL and the community extends beyond athletics.

“Kroger had taken a thoughtful and purposeful approach while creating our unique partnership with the University," Reed said. "Not only is Kroger committed to UofL Athletics, but to the mission of the University."

In 2019 that included a $1.8 million partnership in Zero Hunger, Zero Waste plan that featured scholarships for students from diverse and underserved communities, monetary and in-kind donations to the Cardinal Cupboard Student Food Pantry and assistance in furthering UofL's food waste recycling efforts.

CARDS LOOK TO EXTEND STREAK

UofL (23-11, 14-6 ACC) is ranked No. 5 nationally by Baseball America and No. 7 in the DIbaseball.com poll. The Cards will take a three-game losing streak to Clemson (17-18, 11-12) Friday for a three-game series after last weekend's series against Pittsburgh was canceled due to COVID-19 issues in the Panthers' program.

UofL leads the ACC Atlantic Division over Notre Dame (18-8) and Florida State (15-12). The Cards will be seeking to earn their sixth league series win of the season, having dispatched Boston College and NC State, both 3-0, along with Wake Forest, Florida State and Virginia, all by a 2-1 count. Their series at Notre Dame ended in a 1-1 tie when the final game was canceled due to inclement weather.

The most enticing game remaining on Louisville's schedule prior to the ACC Tournament on May 25-30 in Charlotte, N.C., is a showdown with No. 2 Vanderbilt (31-7) on May 4 in Jim Patterson Stadium.

RAY SEVENTH EX-CARD IN MAJORS

On Saturday, former UofL outfielder Corey Ray became the latest Cardinal in the major leagues when he was called up by the Milwaukee Brewers from their Alternate Training Site in Appleton, Wisc. and joined the team in Chicago for a game against the Cubs.

He made his MLB debut in the fifth inning as a pinch hitter, reaching base on a walk, then scoring on two walks and an HBP. Ray was selected by the Brewers as the fifth overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft but endured a longer stay in the minors than normal for a first-round pick as he struggled to adjust to professional pitching. He batted .235 in 376 games across all levels in the minors.

During his three-year career at UofL, Ray hit .318 with 27 home runs, 133 RBI and 82 stolen bases in 172 games, including 148 starts. He earned First Team All-America honors as a junior after hitting .310 with 15 homers, 60 RBIs and 44 stolen bases.

Ray is the seventh former Cardinal currently on major league rosters, joining Adam Engel, Chicago White Sox (injured); Zack Burdi, Chicago White Sox; Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers; Chad Green, New York Yankees; Adam Duvall, Miami Marlins; and Brendan McKay, Tampa Bay Rays (injured).

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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