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By Randy York
When 14 players returned to Lincoln this weekend to celebrate the 50-year reunion of the 1962 Nebraska baseball team, they had to be struck by two things: 1) the excellence of Nebraska's baseball facilities; and 2) how much more specialized the game is today than it was when they played half a century ago. No wonder Ron Douglas and Steve Smith, an All-Big Eight Conference outfielder, were awestruck by Hawks Field at Haymarket Park when they were interviewed on Nebraska Educational Television during NU's first game of Saturday's doubleheader against Cal State-Bakersfield.
Nebraska's 10-year-old stadium is one of college baseball's best ballparks, and right next door is Bowlin Stadium, the site of NU's Saturday doubleheader sweep of Michigan State in softball. Imagine the head-shaking when multi-sport athletes from yesteryear see two elite stadiums side-by-side on 32 acres of land half a mile west of campus - a baseball park that seats 8,500 with plenty of room for more on the berms and a softball stadium that seats 2,500, with a new indoor practice facility that both Husker teams use just beyond right field.
Haymarket Park was Nebraska's first venture that combined private and public entities to give the University of Nebraska and the City of Lincoln a one-of-a-kind facility for the Huskers and the minor league Lincoln Saltdogs. In the on-deck circle - within range of a few Nebraska discus throws - is Pinnacle Bank Arena, which will open as one of the nation's premier college basketball facilities in 18 months.
The tours of current facilities and the vision of future homes had to impress a baseball team that finished 15-11 overall and 10-10 in the Big Eight Conference 50 years ago. Joining Douglas and Smith at this weekend's 50-year reunion were teammates Larry Bornschlegl, Tom Ernst, Dick Havecost, Ron Havekost, Ed Johnson, George Landgren, Dave McClatchey, Dave Myers, Pat Salerno, Rex Swett, Jan Wall and Fred Youngscap.
At least five of those athletes also played basketball at Nebraska - Bornschlegl, Ernst, Johnson, Swett and Wall. Salerno was a two-year letterman in football. Yes, college baseball was a dramatically different sport 50 years ago, especially on the plains and in the northern tier of the Big Ten, Nebraska's new conference. Time, however, transcends everything, and four familiar Huskers from half a century ago - Nebraska AD Tom Osborne, sports information director emeritus Don Bryant, trainer George Sullivan and groundskeeper Bill Shepard - welcomed the 1962 team back home, proving once again that relationships are still the most important part of college athletics.
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