BLACKSBURG When Brad Clontz was being recruited by Virginia Tech in 1990, Clontz, a budding baseball pitcher, was told that by the time he put on a Hokies uniform, the team would be playing under lights.
“We never saw them,” Clontz, one of two former Tech players to win World Series championships as major leaguers, said Friday.
As Clontz and Franklin Stubbs, the Hokies’ first Series winner, spent time on campus last week, the upgrade in Tech’s facilities is one of the things that stood out to them.
“To see the facilities is just amazing,” said Clontz, who still returns to Blacksburg to attend every home football game each fall. “That’s pretty amazing stuff out there. To have people come back and contribute and help the program grow, being in the ACC, it’s an exciting time for Virginia Tech baseball.”
Lights were added before the 2004 season.
In 2009, Tech completed an 8,000-square foot indoor complex, complete with batting cages and video equipment.
A $1 million artificial turf field was installed last spring and the dugouts were expanded.
It’s a far cry from what Clontz saw during his time at Tech from 1990 to 1992 and an even more dramatic improvement from Stubbs’ days (1980-82).
“When I saw that batting cage out there I said, ‘Man, I probably would have hit 50 home runs with that cage,’ ” Stubbs, a former first baseman and outfielder, joked during the team’s annual Baseball Night in Blacksburg, a fundraiser designed to continue the growth of Tech’s program.
Stubbs was also impressed with the new turf at English Field.
“From what I’ve seen it looks as good as minor league fields I’ve seen,” said Stubbs, now a minor league coach in the L.A. Dodgers’ system.
Clontz said he was stunned to learn that Tech’s vastly improved facilities still don’t have the program in the top tier of the ACC in that category, but he hopes events such as Friday’s will help the Hokies attract the kind of donor dollars to change that.
“I think being in the ACC, I think they realize, we’ve got to upgrade,” Clontz said, noting the recent success of state rival Virginia. “That local rival up the street, they had someone come in and dump some money in. If you look at Baseball America every week or USA Today and they’re top five or 10 in the country. Let’s get there. Let’s get that way.”
In 1981, Stubbs became Tech’s first All-American, after a season when he set the school record for home runs (29), total bases (186), walks (59) and slugging percentage (.969). His total-bases and slugging-percentage marks still stand.
The next year, he was an All-American again and became the first Hokie selected in the first round of the major-league draft when the Dodgers took him the 19th pick that spring. Six years later, he became the first former Tech player to win a World Series, when the Dodgers beat the Oakland Athletics for the 1988 title.
Stubbs said he still gets “chills” watching Kirk Gibson’s famous game-winning pinch-hit home run from Game 1 or Orel Hershiser recording the final out of his complete game in the clinching Game 5.
“I wish everybody could experience that,” Stubbs said. “Just the whole journey of it. The year goes fast when you’re winning, for some reason. Don’t ask me why. When you’re losing, it goes slow.”
Clontz is the only other Hokie to experience that journey, winning a title in 1995 when his Atlanta Braves beat the Cleveland Indians in six games.
Clontz set Tech records for wins (12) and innings pitched (130) in his junior season in 1992 (marks that still stand). He was drafted in the 10th round that year by the Braves.
He pitched in the majors from 1995 to 2000, playing for Atlanta, the Dodgers, the New York Mets and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
He’s about to begin work as a sports agent for Richmond-based Proformance, the agency he signed with out of Tech.
Stubbs played 10 seasons in the majors, retiring in 1995 after time with the Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers and Detroit Tigers. He is now a coach for the Albuquerque Isotopes in L.A.’s minor-league system.
Both said they were more than happy to help Tech coach Pete Hughes as he continues to try to raise money to grow the Hokies’ program.
“Even though we used to win back in the day, I just think Virginia Tech is trying to build on that now,” Stubbs said. “Because this conference is so good. And if you don’t compete, you’ll get left behind.”