On a blue-sky Thursday made for playing ball, Saint Mary’s College broke ground on a $30 million Athletic and Recreation Corridor on the Moraga campus.
“When visiting teams see how close the mound is to home plate, that’s gonna wake everybody up in a hurry,” joked Bernie Orsi, alumnus and lead donor, gesturing at a ceremonial mound of dirt placed just 15 feet from the field’s home plate.
Moments later, Orsi, joined by SMC President Brother Ronald Gallagher and a phalanx of notables, wielded blue and red shovels to celebrate the start of construction. To date, the college has raised $21 million for the project and will raise the remaining amount over the next year.
When completed, the facilities will include a 50,000 square-foot recreation and aquatics center, named after Joseph Alioto, a 1937 graduate of SMC and former San Francisco mayor.
A 1,500 seat baseball stadium is expected to boost the Gaels' sporting profile and is the leadoff in the first phase of the project.
“Athletically, we’re taking it to the next level,” said Jedd Soto, men’s baseball coach. “It’s going to change our program so we can go national in our scouting.”
Gallagher, waiting calmly for a banner to unfurl in front of the crowd of about 100 people , said “Ta-da!” when the empty field behind him filled with an artist’s rendering of the soon-to-come baseball field.
Dorsey Ek, co-captain of the Gaels baseball team, said he had no doubt the recreation center would improve the experience of all students “by leaps and bounds.”
But it was Orsi who made people forget about the hot sun, the peanuts and popcorn waiting to be consumed and the highly anticipated groundbreaking photo opportunity. Telling tales about his friend, Joe Alioto, added a personal flair to the occasion and served to remind guests and donors of the life behind the face-changing project.