The City of Durant and Southeastern Oklahoma State University are involved in a dirty deal that also includes Rustin Concrete and former Savage All-America outfielder Brett Butler.
If you’ve driven by the Southeastern baseball field in the last few days, you know everything you need to know about it.
The field has received many loads of dirt and equipment operators have been hard at work leveling the playing surface from one end to the other.
Durant City Manager Jim Dunegan said, “It’s a joint working agreement between the city and the University. It’s one of several things we’ve been able to do together. “Southeastern baseball is always a national contender and that brings positive attention to our city. Mike Metheny has done a tremendous job coaching baseball at the University for more than 30 years and his team won the national championship in 2000.
“Our joint project is bringing in fill dirt to level the baseball field, which has always had a big dropoff in left field. It’s just a matter of finding the right opportunity to work together.
“Keith Baxter, Southeastern’s Athletic Director, and president Larry Minks are just top of the line gentlemen. They are always willing to work with the city in any way possible. Some Southeastern athletes have helped us in cleaning city streets and in other ways. Everybody comes out ahead when people can work together. “We have lots of people here in Durant with college degrees because we’ve had a four-year school like Southeastern to make that possible.”
“The University is most appreciative of the support of the city of Durant and its leadership,” said Southeastern Oklahoma State University president Larry Minks. “This project is just one example of the spirit of cooperation that exists between Southeastern and the community, and all of us enjoy the benefits.”
Baxter said, “I just want to give a huge ‘thank you’ to the City of Durant. The city manager and mayor are always gracious and willing to help whenever possible.
“This project is long overdue. We have a great baseball program with tremendous history and success. These improvements will enable us to continue to recruit student-athletes who can be competitive on the national level.
“Many people have worked countless hours to get this accomplished. It takes time to get everything lined up. It took two or three years on this, but now we’re getting it done. We’re also grateful for tremendous cooperation from Rustin Concrete and Brett Butler. This is truly a team effort. Coach Metheny has been in the middle of this from the first day.
“It’s a win-win for the city and for Southeastern. It will help us bring new students to Durant and it just shows what can be done when people work together. This will bring in students, players, parents and fans. It will help the Durant economy and the University.
“Again, I want to say ‘thank you’ to Jim Dunegan and Jerry Tomlinson and everyone else involved in this project.”
Efforts have been made over the years to alleviate the problem with the field, but it was never enough. There were times when left fielders were throwing to home plate from memory since they couldn’t see it.
Durant Mayor Jerry Tomlinson said, “Southeastern is a great partner with the city and our citizens. Any time we have the opportunity for a project like this, it’s a win-win for the Southeastern and the city.
“Our city council was in favor of this project. Opportunities like this don’t come along often and it’s good to have people in place to make these things happen. We’re just pleased to be a part of it.”
Mike Metheny has been a part of Southeastern baseball since batters were out if outfielders caught a fly ball on the first bounce.
The feisty redhead has coached numerous All-America and professional players, along with two NAIA National Players of the Year in Alan Cartwright and Cary Ammons.
Metheny’s 2000 club claimed the NCAA Division II national championship for the only national title in the Southeastern showcase.
In 32 years as SE’s head coach, Metheny has compiled an unreal cumulative record of 1,214-559-2. That’s not a typo. Metheny’s teams have won one-thousand-twelve-hundred-fourteen baseball games while setting the standard in Oklahoma and across the nation.
His 1,200th win was a 3-1 decision over Northeastern on March 31 at the Ballpark in Durant.
Metheny is one of only 26 baseball coaches at any level to have 1,200 wins. He is one of just three Division II coaches and one of only two active coaches in D-II with at least 1,200 victories.
Metheny said, “Last Wednesday was the seventh day of work on the park. You can’t believe how exciting it was for a week, seeing the field transformed like it has been.
“It’s still rough, but you can see what it’s going to be. We had a 12-foot drop from the right-field corner to the left-field corner. The University was built on a hill and people usually don’t notice the difference in the levels.
“College baseball has exploded over the last 15-20 years and facilities are out of sight. When we first got our clubhouse built, we were at the top of the list. We’ve been passed by many, many programs now and this will help us get back on track.
“This should give us a tremendous boost in recruiting, which brings more people to our community and that’s a plus for the city and Southeastern.
“I won’t try to name everyone who is helping on this because I would overlook someone. I would like to express my gratitude to the city and campus leaders who have put this together.
“I have to mention Keach Ballard (Durant City Parks Director). He and his crew are outstanding. Keach has been on the bulldozer 8-12 hours a day. The great thing about Keach is that he has knowledge of the equipment and as a former baseball coach, he also knows about baseball fields.
“We’re hoping to get the dirt work done by the end of (last) week and get the irrigation in this week. When we get the grass down, maybe we can catch our breath and look at any other improvements we can make.
“We’ve needed this done for over 40 years and things finally came together. I’m excited and indebted to the people who made it happen. Our city and campus leaders and all of the city workers deserve a great round of applause.
“Everybody who could has put forth a great effort to get this job done and I think we will all benefit from it.”