TIFFIN – Apparently, the Frann's Field magic only covers softball and does not extend into the meteorological realm. A light rain forced the postponement of Saturday's Heidelberg University softball games, but did not dampen the excitement at the official dedication for the new facility. More than 100 people gathered at Peaceful Valley for the ceremony.
"Today is a very special day for Heidelberg, especially our women's softball program," said athletic director Matt Palm. "We are looking forward to creating more memories today, tomorrow, and in the future."
After Palm's welcome, major donors Frann Zverina '74 and Elizabeth Cooper Smith '57 both addressed the crowd, which included current and former players, parents and community members.
"It is an honor and a privilege to donate this field to the Heidelberg women's softball program," said Zverina, the facility's namesake. Zverina, who hails from Shaker Heights, has attended one of the first five doubleheaders – all sweeps -- at the field.
Zverina and Cooper Smith, who met with the team during Friday's practice, saw a need to help Heidelberg softball find a home.
"When I first came to Heidelberg, there were no sports for women," said Cooper Smith, a native of Irondequoit, New York. "We would play on a field behind France Hall."
Junior pitcher Paige Atterholt spoke on behalf of her teammates, thanking all of the donors for their generosity.
"We are excited to come home to play at Frann's Field," said Atterholt, currently 10-2 on the year. "With four walk-off wins already, we call it 'Frann's Magic.' I love Frann's Field and I'm sure there's a lot more magic that's going to happen here."
Sunday's doubleheader with Otterbein could be an excellent opportunity for the magic to be on display. With one win, they Student Princes clinch at least a share of the Ohio Athletic Conference regular season title. A sweep would give them the title outright and they would be guaranteed the right to host next weekend's OAC tournament.
President Rob Huntington talked about the project's timeline – from the decision to displace the team from Mayer Field, through the early gifts that enabled the team to have a practice field, then through the gifts that turned the facility into a game-ready jewel.
Huntington said that 113 donors – mostly women – have given more than $430,000 for the project.
"That is a home run," said Huntington.
The event concluded with a ceremonial first pitch, from Zverina to Cooper Smith. Frann toed the rubber, emphatically wound up, then jogged toward the plate and flipped the ball to Liz.
After presenting the donors with signed softballs, the team quickly scampered down the first base line and rolled out the tarp in preparation for Sunday's game with Otterbein. The doubleheader is slated for a 1 p.m. start.