Hardball is even harder when you're battling the forces of nature.
No one knows that better than Kansas University baseball coach Ritch Price.
KU compiled a 6-3 record against the three other Big 12 Conference northern schools this spring, but a dismal 1-16 record against the league's six schools with a southern exposure.
Yet Price is optimistic, thanks to an ambitious plan that would help Kansas keep up with the Big 12 baseball Joneses.
"I think," the Jayhawks' second-year coach said, "we can negate the weather issue."
Negation would start with a proposed indoor workout facility at Hoglund Ballpark. The $360,000 project is part of a three-pronged $1.15 million baseball capital-improvements plan. Also on the wish list are a team clubhouse and a new scoreboard. All the funding would come from private sources.
"Hopefully, we'll have the money by the end of the summer and have them for next season," Price said. "They're crucial to the future success of our program."
Next week, the KU athletic department will submit the comprehensive baseball plan to the Board of Regents, along with a previously announced plan to convert Naismith Lounge into women's basketball offices at a cost of $292,000 and turn the old weight facility in Anschutz Pavilion into a hydrotherapy room at a cost of $243,000.
The old weight room in Anschutz was replaced last summer by the $8 million state-of-the-art Anderson Family Strength and Conditioning Center.
Reportedly, most of the funding for the baseball indoor workout facility
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already has been secured. The 70-foot by 90-foot insulated metal building will contain primarily individual batting cages on an artificial-turf floor. The structure would be located in foul territory down the right-field line.
Meanwhile, a one-story clubhouse would be constructed in foul territory down the left-field line at an estimated cost of $705,000. That facility would contain a locker room and showers, coaches' offices, a laundry room and equipment storage rooms.
A new scoreboard has been thrown into the mix because the score-by-innings feature doesn't work on the old one.
"There's something wrong with the wiring," Price said, "and it's so old they can't find replacement parts."
During the last half of the spring season, inning-by-inning scores for both teams -- as well as runs, hits and errors -- all had to be posted by hand.
"We went back to a manual scoreboard, sort of like Fenway Park, and that solved the problem," Price said.
Under the Lew Perkins regime, KU is on a fast track to bring its athletic facilities up to par with its conference contemporaries. Perkins, who took over as the Jayhawks' athletic director last July, already has secured $12 million in donations to renovate Allen Fieldhouse and to construct an adjacent Hall of Athletics.
The Hall, which will give the venerable fieldhouse a new east facade, is at least a year and a half from completion. Blueprints still have to be completed before bids can be let.
At the same time, athletic department and university officials are establishing priorities for the refurbishing of the state-owned fieldhouse.
"We've decided the first thing we'll do is replace the old trough urinals (in the men's rest rooms)," said Warren Corman, the university architect. "The next priority will be to clean the exterior. Then we'll get to replacing the windows."
Another athletic department renovation project already is under way. Work has begun on a $120,000 upgrade of the football practice fields south of Anschutz Pavilion.