Kentucky Proud Park becoming a ‘true home’ for Wildcat baseball


The Kentucky Baseball team waits by the dugout before the season home opener against EKU on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky defeated EKU 7-3. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Hailey Peters

Spring sports have a comforting, special place in the hearts of many Kentucky Wildcats fans. With the beloved football Caturdays halting during the off season and the winding down of infamous Kentucky basketball, fans search for a fun, relaxing sport to watch as they enjoy the warming weather. Many UK fans turn to baseball.

The current baseball season is being played in the brand new, $49 million stadium with an all-turf field. Kentucky Proud Park has quickly become a fan favorite Wildcat athletic facility.

“It really is just a special place,” baseball head coach Nick Mingione said before the start of the season. “I’m excited for the Big Blue Nation to experience it. I think they’re really going to fall in love with it.”

Many fans certainly have. Season tickets sold out in record numbers before the season started, and the opening game against Eastern Kentucky saw a crowd of more than 4,000 fans, despite being chilly weather on a week night.

“It’s incredible, really,” Kentucky fan Charlie Stivers said. “Baseball is special to my family and we’ve been going to games at the old stadium for years. That place has a special place in our hearts, I think… but this is really what our team and the school deserves. It’s great. I can’t get enough of how nice it is.”

Before the opening of Kentucky Proud Park in 2019, the UK baseball team played at beloved Cliff Hagan Stadium. Many fans, especially students, miss “The Cliff,” despite how nice they believe Kentucky Proud Park is.

“It’s kind of hard to tailgate, which is going to be a problem when it’s actually really warm and on the weekends,” UK junior Brady Chandler said. “I feel like we’ll get used to it. It’s gorgeous out here. I think the fans will be able to overlook its flaws because it’s so nice.”

Nestled between Kroger Field and the soccer-softball complex, Kentucky Proud Park sits atop the hill on the side of Alumni Drive.

“It’s cool how you can see something that says ‘Kentucky Proud’ on top of that hill,” Stivers said. “The name ‘Kentucky Proud,’ despite being a great nod to local farmers and agriculture in the state, is really a double meaning for how BBN feels about the school and the athletics. We are proud. We are UK.”

The team has been practicing at the new park since the fall, so it was not hard for them to be able to fall into place at their new home.

“The team has really fit in here,” Mingione said on opening night. “They’re comfortable here. T.J. Collett already hit the first Big Blue Bomb here. We won the first one… this is our true home. We’re excited to stay and finish the season strong here.”

Since the announcement of its opening, Kentucky Proud Park has quickly become one of the hottest discussion topics of UK Athletics. To the players, the coaches and the fans who have experienced a game there, it has and will continue to become so much more.