TOLEDO—Students athletes lined the diamond and supporters filled the stands for the March 14 dedication and blessing of Mercy Field, a new facility to be used by baseball and softball teams from Toledo Central Catholic High School and Lourdes University.
Located adjacent to the Msgr. Schmit CYO Athletic Complex in Toledo, the $2.8 million facility represents a collaborative partnership between four major Catholic institutions in the metro-Toledo area, including Central, Lourdes, Mercy and the diocese.
Baseball players from Lourdes University bow their heads during a blessing of Mercy Field. (Chronicle photo by Laurie Stevens Bertke)
Construction began in 2011 thanks to a generous donation from Central Catholic alumnus Cleves Delp, who will also operate the facility under a new corporation he funded.
Mr. Delp, a former baseball and football athlete for Central, said discussions surrounding the project began two and a half years ago when Central Catholic baseball coach Jeff Mielcarek gathered 12 stakeholders together to ask, “How can we take this program to the next level?”
“Here we are, a few hundreds of thousands of dollars later,” said Mr. Delp. “It's been an awesome and wonderful journey.”
He noted that the project was something that none of the four sponsoring institutions could have done alone. “This made no sense for just Lourdes University, it made no sense for just Central Catholic, it couldn't have happened without the diocese, and we couldn't make it happen without Mercy as our naming rights sponsor,” said Mr. Delp.
Father Monte Hoyles, chancellor of the Diocese of Toledo, thanked Mr. Delp and the sponsors “for their commitment and for their support for this worthy project.”
Noting that St. Paul often demonstrated in Scripture that sports are “a good analogy for the spiritual life,” Fr. Hoyles said the beautiful, modern stadium is much more than a place to play ball.
“The goal of the competition that will take place here, the reward of this stadium, will be seen in people,” he said. “The virtue they develop from good sportsmanship; the education they receive when they work as a team; the healthy life and practices that will serve them long after they walk off this field. This place is one more way that we encourage life, and life well-lived.”
Kevin Cook, president and CEO of Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, said Mercy is “truly honored for the field to carry our name.
“We understand that for a community to care about a health system, our health system must demonstrate its care for the community in many diverse ways,” said Mr. Cook. “This field, Mercy Field, stands for those things that we hold most dear – the promotion of wellness and the mindset to encourage camaraderie.”
Father Dennis Hartigan, president of Central Catholic, noted the stadium “is probably one of the premier facilities in northwest Ohio for high school students and college students.”
Features include professional grade lighting, covered stadium seating for 400 fans and state-of-the-art turf technology that allows teams to compete without concern for rain-outs. The stadium also offers a hospitality suite, full-service concession stands, a student study room and a fully-equipped indoor practice facility, complete with batting cages.
Baseball and softball teams from Central and Lourdes began playing on the field in March. The stadium is also to be offered to Central Catholic boys and girls soccer teams for fall practices, summer baseball league play and tournament rentals, and is to be the site for the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament.