ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - If you’ve ever played organized baseball at legendary Newman Park on the campus of Catawba College in Salisbury, you’re invited to return to the park this Saturday to reminisce as the park closes for renovations.
Catawba College has raised $2.5 million in a fund-raising campaign to make improvements to Newman Park, the home of Catawba baseball, the Rowan County American Legion baseball team, and numerous tournaments over its long history. Construction is expected to begin in June, at the end of the Catawba baseball spring program.
On Saturday from 12:00 pm until 2:00 pm, organizers are inviting former players and fans to come back to the park. There will be hot dogs served in the parking lot, and Memories Radio, 103.3 FM with Buddy Poole, will be broadcasting live. Poole said he’d love to interview former players, coaches, and fans to get their memories of the famed ballpark.
Jim Gantt, Head Baseball Coach of Catawba and the Rowan County American Legion, said that the Catawba program and the community are one in the same. “The Newman Park renovations will allow the past and current players, fans, and families to continue to come home to the rich baseball tradition of Newman Park,” he said. “Renovated Newman Park will also help build a stronger baseball community. More interaction and the potential for more play is exciting for an already rich baseball tradition. The fan experience will be amplified, and new amenities will draw more interest for players and fans alike.”
The ballpark, located at 498 Summit Ave., seats approximately 2,500 fans and is the third oldest in the state. It is named for a well-known Salisburian, Dr. Harold Hastings Newman, who came to Salisbury in 1914 to assist Dr. John Whitfield and Dr. J.E. Stokes at the Salisbury hospital. Newman played baseball at Johns Hopkins University and began coaching high school baseball in Salisbury shortly after his arrival.
When Catawba relocated to Salisbury in 1926, Newman became one of the coaches for the college team and the team doctor. In 1932, he began fund-raising and donation efforts to build the grandstand.
Newman Park has been home to thousands of pro, college, American Legion, and high school games. A total of 48 former Catawba baseball team members have gone on to play professionally, including five who are currently playing pro ball. Rowan County’s successful American Legion program was host to the 2002 North Carolina State Tournament at Newman Park. The team is competitive on the state and national levels, including a state championship in 2002 and several World Series appearances. The team was a national runner-up in 2016.