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Naming UConn Baseball’s New Stadium “Elliot Ballpark” Fits, But Save Space For Jim Penders’ Name

The Huskies’ future baseball home now has a name.

UConn Athletics

UConn baseball’s time at J.O. Christian Field is coming to an end. The Huskies are in the ninth inning at their home for the last 51 years. When this season ends, they will move across the street to their new 1,500-seat stadium. And now, that stadium has a name.

On Wednesday, the school announced it would be called “Elliot Ballpark,” in honor of former UConn baseball player Doug Elliot and his family. Elliot played for the Huskies from 1979-82 under then-head coach Andy Baylock, where he hit .285 with seven homers and 48 RBI. Close to 30 years later, Elliot’s son Doug Jr. also came to Storrs to play baseball under Jim Penders.

Both players share a connection, having won the Lawrence R. Panciera Team MVP award voted upon by their teammates. Doug Sr. won the award in 1982 while Doug Jr. won it in 2011 on a team that featured 10 MLB Draft picks and five future major leaguers.

In Penders mind, there’s no name more deserving on the stadium than the Elliot’s.

“The Elliot family has been incredibly special to this university for such a long time,” he said. “I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a family that’s had more of an impact, not just on the field but off. They’ve been extremely generous supporters since day one. They’ve never forgotten where they came from. Doug and [wife] Sheila both come from humble beginnings and both went to UConn and are so proud of it...They’ve been tremendous to me, tremendous to our program for a long time so I think it’s incredibly appropriate that they’re name is going to be on the new ballpark. They deserve it.”

With the new stadium on the horizon, Penders reminisced how his first meeting about a new ballpark for the program came over 15 years ago in November, 2003. That meeting happened in large part thanks to the work of Elliot.

“Doug helped me organize that meeting,” Penders said. “It was at the Travelers’ Insurance Company where he was an executive at the time and he really spearheaded this. When there weren’t many people behind me, he was always there and his wife was too. And getting a chance to coach his son, it’s been a real honor to get to know them.”

While UConn baseball’s home will have a new name, that doesn’t mean J.O. Christian’s name will disappear from the UConn Athletics District. In the location the baseball field currently sits, a turf field will be built for use of the school’s soccer and lacrosse program as well as UConn Recreation for intramurals. While it won’t host the baseball team anymore, the field will still remain J.O. Christian Field.

“I’m thrilled this piece of land is going to remain in his name,” Penders said. “He’s not just the baseball coach, he was a football coach, he even coached basketball. He was a coach to everything here and then he finished his career as an athletic director. So how cool is it that now this field is going to serve not just baseball student athletes but every student athlete and every student on campus?”

History is important to Penders. Not only does the coach make sure his players know the history of the UConn baseball program, he also takes them to historic places around the country nearby to where the team plays if the schedule allows. Keeping J.O. Christian’s name on the field and maintain his legacy is important.

“That was really important to me too that the stone out there and that field remain J.O. Christian Field and honors his legacy still,” Penders said. “We’re not taking it away, we’re just going across the street and starting a new tradition in a new ballpark and we have two great UConn baseball names that are going to be on this part of campus.”

While the names attached to both parks is more than deserved, the school needs to make sure to save space for another name in the new baseball stadium: Jim Penders himself. After UConn defeated URI 2-1 on Wednesday, Penders is now just seven wins away from becoming the program’s all-time wins leader. While that is impressive by itself consider this:

From 1980-2009, the Huskies reached the NCAA Tournament just three times, all of which came between 1990-94. In this decade alone, Penders has guided UConn to five NCAA Tournaments along with a Super Regional appearance in 2011.

Under his tutelage, 47 players have been picked or signed by a MLB team, six of which have reached the major leagues. George Springer won the World Series MVP in 2017 while Matt Barnes won the World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2018.

Penders took over a mediocre program and turned it into the premier program in the northeast. On top of that, he’s accomplished all that with one of the worst facilities in the nation.

Even though Penders is only around the midpoint of his career at age 47, it’s not too early to think about how to honor him. For a project so reliant on the work and contributions from donors, it makes sense for one of the most prominent baseball donors to get the stadium name.

But honoring one of the best coaches and men in school history is important as well. The name of UConn baseball’s stadium may be taken but there’s no reason the facility can’t be called Jim Penders Field at Elliot Ballpark once the coach decides to hang it up.