NEWARK, Del. --  The University of Delaware celebrated the rededication of Bob Hannah Stadium in a big way Sunday, April 27, as nearly 100 former Blue Hen players returned to honor their former coach, reminisce with old teammates, and cheer on the current Hens as they defeated rival UNCW 4-3 under beautiful sunny skies.
The event culminated a $1 million year-long successful fundraising campaign for the Bob Hannah Stadium renovation project that included the addition of a new turf field, dugouts, scoreboard, fencing, batting cages, and bullpen areas. Hannah, a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame who won over 1,000 games with the Blue Hens, was honored in a pre-game ceremony where a bust of his likeness was unveiled. The bust will be permanently displayed at the entrance to the stadium.
Coach Hannah, who addressed the crowd and later threw out the ceremonial first pitch, led Delaware to 1,503 wins over a 36-year career that included 12 NCAA regional appearances, 22 conference titles, and a trip to the College World Series in 1970. He was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1991, was a charter member of the Delaware Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994, was selected to the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame in 1977, and was inducted into the UD Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003.
“I really appreciate this day and appreciate all the former players who came today to say hello and be a part of this ceremony,” said Hannah as he addressed the crowd during the pre-game ceremony. “We want to thank all the people who have supported this program and put the final stamp of approval on this project. So many people were responsible for making contributions and bringing this day to fruition. Thank you to University of Delaware President Dr. Harker and Director of Athletics Eric Ziady and his staff for their remarkable efforts in making this day possible.”
Over 250 people attended the pre-game rededication luncheon and a crowd of 600 filled Hannah Stadium to watch the Blue Hens pull out the heart-pounding victory.
“This was a great weekend,” said Delaware head coach Jim Sherman, who was an All-American player under Hannah in 1979-82. “There was so much pride in Delaware Baseball out here and you could feel the energy in the ballpark. We had about 100 alumni guys and coaches back and it was great to have such a big win with them here.”
In addition to the pre-game ceremonies, all the former players in attendance were recognized during the third inning and former Blue Hen assistant and batting coach Bruce Carlyle was presented with a plaque during an on-field ceremony in the seventh inning. Through a donation from his former players, the batting cages at Bob Hannah Stadium will now be known as the Carlyle Cages. Carlyle, who now lives in Arizona, was a former UD baseball and football player who coached alongside Hannah from 1970-90. As hitting coach, he was instrumental in Delaware annually ranking among the top hitting teams in the country at the NCAA Division I level.
The stadium project was announced on April 24, 2013 along with three other facilities improvement projects for Delaware Athletics. Construction on the new stadium began in September, 2013, and after a winter filled with severe weather, saw the Blue Hens play their first game on the new turf on April 4. The Hens won that game 1-0 in 12 innings on a suicide squeeze as part of a three-game sweep of Colonial Athletic Association foe Northeastern University.
Volunteer leaders David Yates ’70 and Mickey DeMatteis ’78 helped with the fundraising effort raised for the project with gifts coming from approximately 80 people including 70 former Delaware baseball players. Major donors to the program are listed on the former player plaque and all-donor plaque now located at the Stadium. A lead gift to the project came from the family of Richard M. Appleby, Jr. and the new scoreboard is now named in his honor.
“Today marks another milestone for our athletics department and for the University of Delaware,” said Ziady in the pre-game ceremony. “The Bob Hannah Stadium project is one of several significant improvements to our athletics facilities that we have undergone this year. We now have one of the premier baseball facilities in the Mid-Atlantic region. We thank the over 100 former baseball players and numerous other supporters who have made such generous donations and made this project a reality.”
What They Are Saying:
Dave Yates (1968-70; All-American Infielder and UD Athletics Hall of Fame Member)
“It’s hard to put into words what Coach Hannah has meant to so many people. We all have so many different memories and relationships. I have been fortunate to know him as a coach, as a friend, and as a father-figure. It’s exciting to be part of all this and exciting that he is being recognized like this. He has done a lot of things for us and brought a lot of us together. It’s been fun reconnecting, not only with the guys from the 1970s who were my teammates but with guys who played before me and after me. This event builds a groundswell for future get-togethers like this.”
Bruce Fad (1968-70; All-American Outfielder)
“Coach Hannah means an awful lot to me and always has. He is a really special guy and a wonderful man of very high integrity. I really enjoyed playing for him and have enjoyed knowing him. It’s been a pleasure to reconnect over the last 45 years.”
Victor Sage (1998-2001; All-Region Pitcher)
“Playing for Coach Hannah was an honor and a privilege. He taught me a lot about baseball and a lot about life in general.”
John Brelus (1975-78; Four-year pitcher and letterwinner)
“What Coach Hannah did for me is hard to put into words. Any success that I have had in life really comes from the foundation that was built at the University of Delaware. The values he taught us as teammates set a great foundation for the rest of my life.”
Darren Pulito (1996-98; All-American infielder)
“Everyone has a special relationship with Coach Hannah. I was fortunate to play under him for several years as well as with Coach Sherman. They were kind enough to bring me in as a transfer and gave me a great opportunity to come and help the program. It’s been fun to come back with my family and see all the great things happening here. Being at Delaware set me on a great path and prepared me for life.”
Mickey DeMatteis (1976-78; 1978 captain)
“It’s been fantastic coming back and being part of this. Our 1970s group has stayed in touch throughout the years. We are a tight-knit brotherhood. Coach Hannah and Coach (Bruce) Carlyle were so instrumental not only for what they taught us on the field but off the field as well. I remember all that we went through and all the rainouts that we had. Now with this new turf they can play much more than we ever could and that is fantastic.”