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Diamond in the rough due fix-up

May 24, 2005

Michael Miller

Matt Cline, the shortstop on the Orange Coast College baseball team,

will graduate next week, but that won't stop him from returning in

the fall to test the new campus field.

As an infielder, Cline has struggled the last two years with the

aged dirt on his school's baseball diamond. Over the decades, it has

hardened to the point where even a weak grounder can take

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unpredictable hops. By the end of this year, however, Orange Coast

College will sport a completely renovated diamond -- and, possibly, a

few more easy outs.

"It's going to be pretty sweet," Cline said during practice

Thursday. "I'll come back and field a few ground balls."

This year, in association with Rossetti Architects, Orange Coast

College is starting a project to overhaul the campus' baseball field

and to erect a new fitness complex nearby. The athletic improvements

are part of the campus' master plan, a renovation project that began

when a $370-million bond measure passed in November 2002.

"We're excited about having some new facilities to service

students and meet their needs," said Barbara Bond, Orange Coast

College dean of physical education and athletics.

The two halves of the project will start at different times. Tim

Lambert, a principal with Rossetti Architects, said bids would open

next week on the baseball diamond construction, and that construction

would likely begin in June. The fitness center project, which Lambert

presented at the district's board of trustees meeting Wednesday, is

expected to enter the bidding phase in November.

Bond said that under the Master Plan, the campus had $13.9 million

to spend on all athletic renovations. After the current projects

conclude, the college plans to move the softball field across campus

and to erect a multipurpose building in its place.

The plan for the two-story fitness center, which will be directly

north of the football stadium, includes strength and cardio labs, a

fitness studio, training rooms and home and visiting lockers. Many of

these services are currently offered in smaller buildings that will

be demolished to make room for new facilities.

"It's going to be able to give students the feel of 24 Hour

Fitness and some of those other places," said Doug Bennett, the

campus' director of institutional advancement. "It'll put everything

in one area. The other facilities don't really have the square

footage and equipment they need."

Lambert estimated that construction on the fitness center would

take about one year. Both the fitness center and the baseball field

renovations must first pass inspection by the Division of the State

Architect.

John Altobelli, the coach of the Orange Coast College baseball

team, called the improvements on his field "long overdue," adding

that the uneven, hardened soil on the diamond frequently led to

irrigation problems.

"When the sprinklers come on or we get heavy rains, our dugout

gets completely flooded out," Altobelli said. "The soil's gotten so

hardened over the years, the water just runs off."

Bond and Altobelli said the college plans to revamp nearly the

entire baseball field by the end of this year, adding new soil and

grass and installing new dugouts and a backstop. If the field is not

ready for play this fall, the baseball team will likely practice at

Costa Mesa High School's diamond and play all of its games on the

road.

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