WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — During Saturday’s ceremonial groundbreaking for the $9.5M initial phase of Wake Forest baseball’s new Player Development Center, Wake Forest Athletics announced that the Wake Forest baseball park has been named David F. Couch Ballpark in honor of former baseball player David Couch (’84).
Couch, a longtime supporter of Wake Forest Athletics and the baseball program, made the lead gift toward the new Player Development Center, which is currently under construction along the third-base line. When complete, the state-of-the-art, 41,000 square foot facility will include a team locker room, team lounge, training room, equipment room, video conference room, team meeting room, a full kitchen, coaches offices, professional players locker space, a Wake Forest baseball heritage area and an indoor batting facility. Plans for the project also include renovation and relocation of the home dugout and bullpen and construction of a pitching laboratory. Construction of the initial phase is expected to be complete in January 2017.
A small group of Couch’s family and close friends were in attendance Saturday for the ceremonial groundbreaking and the official unveiling of the new ballpark signage bearing Couch’s name.
“As we break ground on the David F. Couch Ballpark,” said Wake Forest University President Nathan Hatch, “we renew our commitment to giving our athletes and coaches what they need to be successful on the field and in their lives after their days on the diamond are done. Today, we celebrate and offer our deep gratitude to David Couch. David is a wonderful model of what we hope for in our graduates.”
Director of Athletics Ron Wellman reflected on how the ballpark has transformed since it was first purchased by Wake Forest in 2008 and went on to recall a pivotal moment two years ago when Couch came to him and said, “How do we make this a championship ballpark? How do we make this a championship program? How do we win the ACC, and how do we get to Omaha?”
“After many discussions about the next steps that would ultimately lead us to Omaha, we presented David with the concept for the Player Development Center,” explained Wellman. “He stepped up and committed himself to what we think is going to be the very best Player Development Center in America and in college baseball. This is a wonderful day, and it’s a wonderful day because of David Couch and his commitment to excellence in our athletic program and specifically in our baseball program.”
Head coach Tom Walter elaborated on the discussions with Couch and recalled a conversation in which they talked about the key components to putting together a championship program. The first component they discussed was the coaching staff, and Walter credited Couch for helping him put together what Walter considers to be the finest college coaching staff in the country. The second component they talked about was the players — how to attract top recruits.
“Part of the answer is facilities, and the other part is player development,” explained Walter. “Wake Forest is a unique place. I tell recruits all the time that there are three key pieces to their college lives, there’s the athletic piece, the academic piece and the personal piece. At Wake Forest, it’s not good enough to be good at two of those. You’ve got to be good at all three pieces of your life. David and I started talking about facilities and how we put all those pieces together. Then he stepped forward to make it happen. He stepped forward to make that lead gift and make this new facility a reality, and you can already see some of the results on the field right now. We have a special club this year, and we’re really excited about our future. When you put great players together with great coaches and a great facility, it’s a pretty easy recipe for success. That’s where this train is headed, and this train ends in Omaha.”
Walter concluded his remarks with a message to Couch.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled that your name is on our stadium. It has nothing to do with the financial gift – it has everything to do with the man that you are. We talk with our players all the time about setting the bar for yourself and holding yourself to the highest standard of excellence, and you do that. You do that with your passion; you do that with your family; you do that with integrity and character every single day of your life, and that’s why I’m honored to have your name on our stadium. On behalf of our staff and our club and all the future Deacs, thank you for your amazing gift, and welcome to the David F. Couch Ballpark.”
Couch took the opportunity to speak directly to the baseball players in attendance about the importance of personal development and remarked about the game of baseball being about the interplay between failure and success and the importance of learning to deal with both failures and successes.
Couch also spoke of his experience as a high school baseball coach and shared with the crowd a mission statement for coaching developed by Joe Ehrmann and adopted by Couch.
“I coach to help boys become men of empathy and integrity who will lead, be responsible and change the world for good.”
Couch went on to say, “So I come here, and I hear us talk about athletics and academics, and I think about my days at Wake Forest, and I think about the institution that Wake Forest is, and I think about what motivated my gift. It was Tom’s gift — the gift of an organ to save a kid’s life, before that kid had ever played the first game for him or had his first at bat, and I thought, there’s a guy that gets the big picture, and Wake Forest is an institution that gets the big picture every single day.”
In closing, Couch once again directed his message to the players and coaches.
“You guys are so fortunate to have around you a group of coaches, staff and the institution of Wake Forest who actually care more about your personal development and how you turn out as fathers, leaders, husbands, and community members than anything else. We all want to win championships, and the good news about our team and our character and integrity as Wake Foresters is that we will do that as a byproduct of doing things the right way. So I want to challenge each and every one of you to think about what your role is as a teammate and to think about what your role is in the bigger picture of the dynasty and institution of Wake Forest. Think about the fact that you’re the best lineup that we’ve ever put on the field at Wake Forest, and never delay gratitude — something I learned from Skip Prosser — never delay that gratitude to your parents, to your coaches or to the leaders of this fine institution. I just want to take a moment to reiterate how proud I am to be a member of the Wake Forest community, and how proud I am to be a member of the Diamond Deacs, and how proud I am of each and every one of you, and we look forward to seeing you in Omaha.”
More photographs of the ceremony will be made available this week.