Wayne State names ballpark after Harwell

Wayne State names ballpark after Harwell

Wayne State names ballpark after Harwell

DETROIT -- Wayne State University will name its renovated baseball stadium after legendary Detroit Tigers radio broadcaster Ernie Harwell, the university announced Thursday.

An estimated 200 people, including Ernie's wife, Lula "Lulu" Harwell, gathered at home plate of the park -- to be named Harwell Field -- for the announcement. The two-phase project is expected to cost a combined $1.25 million, with the first phase expected to be completed by summer 2014.

That first phase will include construction of bleachers down both base lines and a 2,800-square-foot complex behind home plate, including a press box and foyer to recognize the achievements and charitable works of the Harwells, and to display some of Ernie's baseball memorabilia.

The Harwell Field Project is part of an outreach to build a baseball stadium in recognition of the Harwell family and its commitment to the Detroit community, according to the university.

"The Harwells were compassionate, caring and certainly very giving," said Wayne State University director of athletics Rob Fournier. "We want this field to be a testament to one of Detroit's finest couples."

Fournier said he and long-time Harwell friend and confidant Gary Spicer formed a "committee of two" that had been planning this effort for the past three years.

"I'm always pleased to hear people talk about my wonderful husband," Mrs. Harwell, the special guest for the evening, said. "I miss him so much."

Ernie Harwell passed away in May 2010.

The first phase would cost about $500,000, and Wayne State has already raised nearly $210,000 without a public effort, Fournier said. Phase two of the Harwell Field Project would include a baseball clubhouse and other facilities that would cost around $750,000. That phase should be completed in the next two to three years, Fournier said.

The new stadium would seat between 500 and 1,000 fans, including grassy space down the outfield foul lines.

Harwell Field is located almost halfway between Comerica Park and the old Tiger Stadium site, two locations where Harwell spent 42 of his 55 years in his broadcasting career calling Tigers games.

"With this opportunity comes tremendous responsibility with the Harwell name [on our field]," said Wayne State head baseball coach Ryan Kelley, who has led his team to a 32-18 record in 2013. "Our current and future student athletes will do everything to represent the Harwell name in the right way on and off the field."

The Warriors' program and the Tigers have long had a close working relationship. The former Tiger Stadium scoreboard has been on the left-field outfield wall at Wayne State since 2010. Former Tigers Lance Parrish and Alan Trammell have hosted baseball camps at Wayne State for the past three Decembers.

The left-field wall at Wayne State also has similar dimensions to the Green Monster in Fenway Park, measuring 37 feet high with exact dimensions to left-center (379 feet) and center field (420 feet) as Boston's legendary home park. Harwell Field has many other historical baseball remnants significant to Ernie, which includes amenities that mirror the façade of old Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the team for which Harwell began his professional baseball broadcasting career in 1948.

Harwell retired in 2002, having called more Major League Baseball games than any other announcer in history. He was the first active broadcaster to be honored with the Ford C. Frick Award by the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Mike Scott is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.