Ronnie G. Childress Field at Hennon Stadium
Prior to the 1978 season, Western Carolina baseball moved approximately 200 yards from the former Haywood Field to a new venue which was spearheaded by the efforts of the late E.J. Whitmire of Franklin and former head baseball coach, Bill Haywood. The baseball facility was officially renamed Childress Field at Hennon Stadium in a dedication ceremony on April 23, 1994.
Western Carolina's baseball facilities which are located on the south end of the WCU campus include both home and visiting dugouts, a 1,500-seat grand stand seating area and working press box. Outside the main seating area on the left-hand side of the venue are covered batting cages, with restrooms, concession stands and ticket booth located at the main entrance of the facility. The venue is skirted down the right-field side by the picturesque Cullowhee Creek.
The field's dimensions are 325 feet down both the left and right field lines; 375 to the left and right field power alleys; and 390 feet to straight-away center field. The "Purple Monster" in left field is 100 feet long and is divided into two, 50-foot sections. The first and tallest level is 20 feet high and stretches from foul territory into play in left field while the second section is 14 feet tall and ranges nearly to the power alley.
Built at an initial cost of $125,000, Childress Field was dedicated on April 26, 1978.
In addition to playing host to all Western Carolina home baseball games and a variety of amateur games including local high schools and legion teams, the on-campus Childress Field at Hennon Stadium has twice hosted the Southern Conference Baseball Championship in both 1984 and '86. In addition to the competitive SoCon slate, the facility has also welcomed premier non-conference foes such as Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Ohio State, South Carolina and North Carolina State.
WCU has won well over 70-percent of its home contests since moving into Childress Field at Hennon Stadium.
Following the initial construction of what became to be known as Childress Field at Hennon Stadium in 1978, a $500,000-plus face lift over a period of nearly eight years took place in the late 1980s. Permanent bleacher seating down both base line, chair-back seats directly behind home plate and the facilities' first press box were installed prior to and during the 1990 season. The following year, a modern scoreboard, concession stands, rest rooms and a new infield were added prior to the 1991 season.
The growth of the facility continued as a part of WCU's new building projects. Lights and a new sound system were added to the ballpark in the fall of 2002. WCU played its first-ever home night game March 25, 2003 upsetting 10th-ranked Clemson, which was led by former WCU skipper, Jack Leggett, by a score of 9-5.
In the summer of 2003, Childress Field was complete refurbished with nearly $500,000 worth of improvements including new drainage and irrigation, a new Bermuda grass playing surface, new infield dirt and a new warning track which was extended in 2009 to encompass the entire playing surface.
Future plans for Catamount baseball are in the works and include new, on-site clubhouse on the first-base side which would feature team locker rooms, offices and meeting space. Plans also include expanded and updated seating designs.
Childress Field is named in honor and memory of the late Ronnie G. Childress, an avid supporter of Western Carolina athletics and a special friend of the baseball program. Childress, through his family's radio station - 680 AM WRGC in Sylva, N.C. - pioneered broadcasts of WCU's baseball games. He died in May of 1975 as the result of an electrical accident at the radio station studios.
The James B. Childress family established the Ronnie Childress Memorial Fund Scholarships in 1975 and have annually awarded a scholarship to at least one deserving Catamount baseball player ever since.
Hennon Stadium is named after Mr. Lamar Hennon, a Georgia business man who made a generous contribution that enabled stadium expansion and upgrades during an eight-year period during the late 1980s, early 1990s. Lamar's son, Rodney Hennon, played at WCU and was an Academic All-America selection and went on to become the program's eighth head coach since 1951 as he skippered the club in both 1998 and `99.