HOUSTON, TX - Earlier today, in a field dedication ceremony at the University of Central Missouri, Astros Owner and Chairman Jim Crane had his jersey number 24 retired by his alma mater. Crane becomes the first Central Missouri baseball player to have his number retired in program history.
During his time at Central Missouri, Crane was a standout baseball player throughout his collegiate career. He played for the Mules from 1973-76, posting a 21-8 record with a career 2.42 ERA. Crane still ranks atop the Central Missouri career leaderboards in complete games (23) and shutouts (7) and ranks third in strikeouts (215). He also holds the Mules single-game strikeout record of 18, which is also a DII College World Series record. In 1997, Crane was inducted into the University of Central Missouri Athletic Hall of Fame.
Today's jersey retirement came as a surprise to Crane, who was back in Warrensburg, Mo., as Central Missouri officially dedicated the new artificial playing surface at Crane Stadium/Tompkins Field in a pregame ceremony prior to their home opener against Pittsburg State. The new synthetic playing surface was made possible by a gift from Crane.
The new synthetic playing surface ensures the field remains playable through inclement weather, which was a challenge historically. It will also reduce the amount of maintenance needed to keep the field playable and will reduce the amount of time that student-athletes have to work on the field.
Crane committed this gift on his visit to the Warrensburg campus last October while the area during the Astros American League Division Series vs. the Kansas City Royals.
Originally opened during the 1976 season and called Mules' Field, James R. Crane Stadium at Robert N. Tompkins Field was renovated in the spring of 1998 thanks primarily to funding from Crane. The project included a locker room and coaches' offices for the Mules, an umpire's dressing room, new dugouts, permanent seats, a concession stand, a press box, and lights. In the fall of 2004, a new indoor batting cage and weight room facility was added, again funded by Crane.
Every spring, the Astros host the Houston Winter Invitational, which features six NCAA Division II universities, including UCM.