VOLUME 22 #2

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Team effort

Hannah's former players go to bat for stadium renovations

Bob Hannah shaking hands with current UD baseball players
Photo by Mark Campbell
Bob Hannah greets the team at the new stadium named in his honor.

SPORTS | He struck out with the bases loaded, stormed up to the nearby water fountain, punched it in the spout and watched as the water sprayed straight in the air.

Coach maintained his composure. “Sit your fanny down,” he told the batter. “You do that again, you’ll never play another game here.”

It was classic Bob Hannah, remembers Jim Sherman, AS82: Cool, calm, collected, making a point without making a scene. “He actually used the word ‘fanny,’” the current head coach says with a chuckle. “You know, to this day, I’ve never heard the man swear.”

Hannah Stadium
Photo by Mark Campbell

One of the most respected and successful coaches in the history of college baseball, Robert M. “Bob” Hannah won more games than any other coach in UD history. During his 36-year career, he led Blue Hen baseball to 1,503 wins, including 12 NCAA regional appearances, 22 conference titles and a trip to the College World Series in 1970.

a baseball game at Hannah Stadium
Photo by Mark Campbell

On a breezy Sunday this April, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch in the new baseball stadium named in his honor.

In the stands were nearly 100 former players, spanning seven decades of Delaware baseball. Together, they raised more than $1 million to renovate the facility. The entire project—a $2.5 million, yearlong endeavor that included the addition of new synthetic turf fields, heated dugouts, scoreboard, fencing, batting cages and bullpen—has made Bob Hannah Stadium one of the premier baseball stadiums in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Athletics Director Eric Ziady calls the renovation “another milestone” for the University and UD Athletics, where enhancements in the past year include the opening of the renovated Carpenter Sports Building, the transformation of the Delaware Field House to a first-class indoor practice facility, the resurfacing of the two soccer practice fields and the recent renovation of the Stuart and Suzanne Grant Stadium.

“The new facility is now on par with the success and reputation of our program,” says Mickey DeMatteis, BE78. The former first baseman remembers practicing indoors on rainy afternoons and devoting hours to raking, dragging and cleaning the field.

Those days are long gone. Current players call the new stadium “stunning,” “beautiful” and “the nicest college field I’ve seen yet.” Former players say the same.

Indeed, the renovation project reconnected scores of alumni from the 1950s to the 2000s. “You got us in a room and we started sharing stories,” says David Yates, BE70, HS76M, who played on the 1970 World Series team and was recently inducted into the Delaware Athletics Hall of Fame. “There’s a mutual respect amongst generations—and the common thread is Coach Hannah.”

Yates and DeMatteis led the fundraising effort to mobilize former players. “We wanted to see the facilities upgraded,” Yates says. “But we also wanted to pay respect to someone who remains the ultimate professional. He cared about his players and he cared about the game.”

In fact, one of DeMatteis’ favorite memories at UD was his first day of practice. Coach Hannah called the starting nine to the top step of the dugout. “Leave your mitts on the bench, sprint to your positions and wait there till I call you back,” he said. With no gloves, DeMatteis and his teammates sprinted and waited. When they were finally called back to the dugout, they heard this: “That’s the way we play baseball here at Delaware. Once you step on the field, you hustle and play the game right.”

Years later, when DeMatteis coached Little League and American Legion, knowledgeable fathers would marvel at this Bob Hannah technique. “They’d comment on how well my players respected the game by the hustle they exhibited on the field,” he says.

For his part, Hannah remains as humble as his players would expect. He calls his wife, June, “the engine that made it work,” and former players remember the hand-packed brown bag lunches that sat atop every seat on the away-game bus.

“I was very fortunate to be surrounded by remarkable people,” says Hannah. “I attribute any success I had to the support staff that surrounded me—and the players.”

In a career that spans nearly four decades, Hannah has hundreds of great memories. One of his favorites is of the 1999 baseball team, which started the season 1-11 but won its next eight games on the way to a final record of 35-25, including 19-9 in league play. The team went on to finish second in the league regular season standings, capturing the America East Conference Tournament title and advancing to the NCAA Regionals.

“I love to see kids overcome deficits,” he says. “I love to see them maintain an approach that leads them to success long-term.”

UD’s current head baseball coach can attest to this.

Sherman, who just completed his 14th season at the helm of the Blue Hens, has since refrained from fistfights with water fountains. Still, there are times—like after a bad call from an umpire—that he hears Coach on his shoulder, telling him to calm down, to reason it out.

“There are few people who can change your life,” he says. “But Bob Hannah did that for me—and, I’m guessing, for thousands of others.”

Article by Artika Casini, AS05

For all the latest UD athletic news, visit www.bluehens.com.


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