Delta State Baseball enjoys one of the finest collegiate facilities in the Gulf South Conference -- Tim & Nancy Harvey Stadium at Dave “Boo” Ferriss Field.
Originally a bean patch, Ferriss Field was transformed into one of collegiate baseball’s finest ballparks. The construction on the original stadium was completed in 1964 under the watchful eye of former head coach and Red Sox legend Dave “Boo” Ferriss, who oversaw the transformation of the 6.63-acre parcel of land into DSU’s present day field of dreams.
It was no easy task, though. A big ditch used to be behind the infield. “We had to fill that in, and then it was nothing but just a big area of beans out here, so I got a farmer friend of mine to bring his tractor, and we cut down the beans and went to work trying to carve out a baseball field,” Ferriss said.
In 1964, the Statesmen played their first ballgame at the new field. Although there was a small backstop behind home plate with some bleachers behind it, the stadium looked nothing like it does today. There were no dugouts; players sat on benches. There was a small fence around the outfield, and the field remained unchanged until the early 1970s.
In 1971, the State Building Commission authorized the expense of $85,000 to add lights to the field, so games could be played at night. “That was kind of becoming a trend in college baseball,” Ferriss added.
Ferriss and other DSU administrators made the decision to build a covered grandstand, dugouts, a press box, concession stand and restrooms. The early renovations still provided the Statesmen fans with the comfort, convenience and true baseball atmosphere that Ferriss had envisioned during his coaching tenure. Prior to the 1999 season the bleachers were renovated and a new press box was built.
Although many improvements were made, there was still one key item missing.
“We didn't have that background wall,” Ferriss said pointing to the black canvas-covered wall surrounding the outfield. “There was a fence all around but those trees, when they came out like they are right now, that made for a good background and our hitters picked up the ball good coming from the pitcher with those trees there and all the way around, and they made a pretty good background.”
Well, that changed in 1978 when Ferriss convinced former Red Sox teammate and Hall of Famer Ted Williams to come to Delta State and conduct a hitting clinic. Before Williams had to leave, Ferriss drove him by the baseball field. When they came around the curve, Williams looked over at the field. “Just like a pitcher,” Williams said to Ferriss. “No background wall for the hitters.”
The outfield is bordered by a row of pine trees. They hadn’t blossomed yet, so all Williams saw were tree limbs. Williams told Ferriss, he would have a better hitting team, if he would build a background wall.
A couple of years later, Ferriss had a player on the team, Rusty Otts, who was good at building things. He knew Otts might be the one to help him get a background wall built. So with Ferriss sometimes handing him the boards, Otts built the background wall. Ferriss said Delta State graduate Bryce Griffis (who the indoor facility is named after) was in the lumber business at Sturgis, Miss., and provided the lumber free of charge. After the wall was completed, it was painted green. Black canvas covers the background wall, now, but the trees are still there today. The only difference is hitters don’t have to rely on them as much for a background.
The field was named in honor of Ferriss upon his retirement on June 18, 1988.
Prior to the 1999 season the bleachers were renovated and a new press box was built.
Following the 1999 season Kinnison and his staff painted a yellow home run line on the top of the outfield fence and a red-brick backstop with netting was added in January of 2000. Chairback seats were also added behind the backstop at field level in 2001.
Since 2003, the Statesmen have enjoyed the highest level of attendance of any NCAA Division II program in the nation. Delta State’s all-time record at Ferriss Field is 935-270-4, and the Statesmen have posted a 397-78 mark under current head coach Mike Kinnison at the facility. During the “Boo” Ferriss era, DSU was 349-137-1 (.715). Under head coach Don Ward, the Statesmen were 36-17 (.679); and under Bill Marchant DSU was 131-34-1 (.789). Last season, the Statesmen posted an 11-3 record at Ferriss Field.
After Ferriss retired, he had pushed for a new service building to replace the old one, which was outdated and deteriorated. Ferriss went to one of his former players, John Crawford, from Starkville, Miss. The Crawfords provided a six figure gift that made possible the service building that is located at the park today.
The Robert L. Crawford Center was completed in 2007 and serves as the main entrance and exit for the ballpark. The Crawford Center features an expanded concession stand, memorabilia stand and large restrooms. It also houses the “Dave ‘Boo’ Ferriss Museum.” The Ferriss Museum is open before each home baseball game and by appointment.
On Dec. 15, 2014, Delta State University Athletics officially announced plans to renovate Ferriss Field following the 2015 baseball season. The goal for the project was $1 million, but the project was funded entirely by private donations.
In the summer of 2015, thanks to a charitable gift by former All-American Tim Harvey and his wife, Nancy, Delta State officially broke ground on a new all-brick grandstand, featuring chairback seats. The Harveys provided a lead gift of $525,000 to help make the renovations possible.
Replacing the current covered grandstand is a new elevated seating area with 500 chair-back seats. The new stadium features improved handicap access and seating, and the upper level features a new press box and two guest suites. A brick wall surrounds the outside of the new stadium seating area. The old dugouts have been replaced by ground level dugouts that feature restrooms and storage areas.
The stadium was designed by Larry Singleton of Singleton Architects of Jackson, Mississippi. Roy Collins Construction was chosen to build the venue under the direction of lead supervisor Steve Davis. Southern Bleacher of Dallas, Texas, was selected to install the new chairback seats.
DSU officially dedicated Tim & Nancy Harvey Stadium at Dave “Boo” Ferriss Field on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.
Standing in front of the new stadium greeting onlookers is a bronze statue of the man who put Delta State baseball on the map—Coach Ferriss.
Legendary Mississippi artist Kim Sessums of Brookhaven, who designed the C-Spire Ferriss Trophy for the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, was commissioned to create the Ferriss statue. Sessums is renowned for his sculpture work, including legendary University of Mississippi head football coach John Vaught, evangelist Billy Graham, and storyteller Eudora Welty.
“We have much to be proud of,” Ferriss said. “A lot of people have helped to make it what it is today. We’ve come a long way from that bean patch.”