Every so often something happens in sports, and the appropriate response is, “It’s about time.”
That was the feeling Friday when it was announced that Mercer got official approval to move forward with its new baseball facility. That begins this summer after the season.
The project has been a long time in the works, and it’s about time that Craig Gibson and his program have gotten approval for this next step. Just look at the program Gibson has built without all the bells and whistles that other teams have enjoyed and imagine what he can do now that he will have those things at his disposal.
Since taking over as the head coach in 2004, Gibson has won more than 400 games (he topped that milestone this season) and led the team to three NCAA Tournament berths. All three of those NCAA trips have been since 2010, and that season marked the real spark for this program’s success. The Bears have won at least 35 games in every season since 2010, and they went to the NCAA Tournament in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
Last season in its first year in the Southern Conference, Mercer made a smooth transition to its new conference by winning the regular-season and tournament titles to advance to the Tallahassee Regional of the NCAA Tournament. The Bears lost both games of the regional but gave Auburn and Florida State all they wanted in a pair of one-run games.
In short, Gibson is a terrific head coach, and he has a terrific coaching staff (Brent Shade is one of the best pitching coaches around), and the recruiting has been terrific even without facilities to match what the program has accomplished. With those facilities coming (go to macon.com for a glimpse of the stadium with a virtual tour of OrthoGeorgia Park), watch out.
Just think, the Bears landed Kyle Lewis and didn’t have any real facilities to sell to a player of that talent. Just how good is Lewis? He likely is going to be a first-round pick in the Major League Baseball draft this summer.
The junior center fielder wasn’t the first talented player to come through the program, and he won’t be the last, and that talent likely will go to the next level with the new facilities. Gibson and his staff have shown that a nice facility isn’t the only thing that matters in recruiting, and Mercer has plenty to sell to prospective student-athletes (they are student-athletes at Mercer), but facilities do matter.
They matter to the players. They matter to the players’ parents. They matter to the head coaches and the coaching staffs. They matter to the fans.
They should matter because they show a commitment from a university to a program, and it’s about time that commitment to Gibson’s program took the next step.