Red Wolves find home in new FMU facility

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Photo by: H. Lyles - Photographer

Red Wolves player Lee Wilson, 7, rounds bases at FMU's newly attributed Griffin Athletic Complex.

Armand Broady, Sports Editor

The Florence Red Wolves, a local amateur baseball team that plays its games during the summer, relocated its home to the new Cormell Field at Sparrow Stadium, home of the Francis Marion University Patriots’ baseball, softball and soccer teams.

Seating more than 1,700 fans, Sparrow Stadium is one of the major features of the $11.1 million Gerald R. Griffin Athletic Complex, which opened its doors in April with an FMU upset of Division I baseball powerhouse, the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Before moving into the new stadium, the Red Wolves played its home games at 44-year-old American Legion Field; but after spending 14 years at American Legion Field, Red Wolves head coach and FMU assistant baseball coach Jared Barkdoll has no complaints about the move to the new complex.

“It’s wonderful,” Barkdoll said. “It’s a 100 percent upgrade from Legion Field.”

That upgrade, Barkdoll said, includes a better atmosphere, a better field and an overall better playing surface.

“At Legion Field, we had to worry about the baseball taking a bad hop,” Barkdoll said. “We don’t have to worry about that now.”

Red Wolves play-by-play announcer Chris Burgin echoed Barkdoll’s sentiments.

“With Sparrow Stadium just opening, the Red Wolves have gone from easily the worst stadium in the Coastal Plain League to one of the best stadiums in the span of two months,” Burgin said.

Celebrating its 16 season in 2012, the Coastal Plain League features 14 teams across both Carolinas and Virginia.

Both Burgin and Barkdoll expressed thankfulness to Athletics Director Murray Hartzler and Assistant Athletics Director Michael Hawkins for the hospitality shown to the Red Wolves during the transition.

“They were great,” Burgin said. “They were always at the ball games. Anything we needed, they were always ready to help. FMU pretty much just turned the stadium over to the Red Wolves without saying ‘here are the keys.’ It looked like the Red Wolves had been playing at Francis Marion for years.”

Burgin said that he believed that Hawkins and Hartzler saw the move as an opportunity to put FMU’s “best foot forward” and give Red Wolves fans an opportunity to see the new complex so that Red Wolves fans would be willing to show support to FMU once its baseball season begins in the winter.

The Red Wolves’ status at Sparrow Stadium for the future is not fully known, but all signs point to the Red Wolves sharing FMU’s home for years to come.

Although they missed the postseason, the Red Wolves finished over .500 at home (16-12). Overall, they were 25-30.