For the Mike and Patty Smith Family, Loyola Marymount University is more than just an alma mater. It has been a way of life and they wanted to give back. They did just that and the LMU softball team earned a new home in Smith Field when the field was dedicated in January of 2006.
Thanks to a gift from the Smith Family, one of the top softball fields on the West Coast is now home to the Lions. The unique softball diamond is another piece of the Smith Family's tie to LMU. Mike graduated in 1966 with a Bachelor of Arts. Patty also came back to school after 30 years and finished her degree in 1998-99. And just like their parents, their three daughters also earned degrees at LMU.
"We just wanted to give back to the University," said Mike. "This is the first time we have made a major gift and we wanted it to be to athletics. I loved my time at Loyola and what the institution did for me. Each of our three daughters all had different but positive experiences at LMU. The best thing that can be said about LMU is that our daughters each said if they had to do it again they would chose LMU every time." The Smith's also have three sons, who went to Fairfield, Santa Clara and UCLA.
Smith Field is as unique as the family's college experience as the ballpark will combine state-of-the-art with a park-like atmosphere. Smith Field is in a similar location than the original ball field but flipped so that home plate is in the northwest corner.
"People ask us why athletics," said Mike. "We grew up playing sports and enjoy them. But more importantly we love Bill Husak (Athletics Director) and the team that surrounds him. They are doing some amazing things. We have donated some small things in the past and now this gift. It has been really fun to give something that seems to be so appreciated. Because of that attitude, We support what athletics is doing. They have made this period of time very enjoyable."
For the project to get started, nearly 3,500 yards of dirt had to be moved and relocated to build the mounds for the seating areas. That amount of dirt is equivalent to 350 dump trucks. They started by making a mound of dirt for the third base side seating area, which sits more than 10 feet above the field surface. The seating are tiers climbing from the top of the recessed dugouts to the point 10-feet above the playing surface.
The dugouts are professional grade and sit two-feet below the surface. The dimensions of the park are 200-feet in left and right field and 220 feet in dead center. The outfield fence stands four-feet high with a grass slope climbing behind for additional lawn seating.
Behind home plate is a 35-foot high net backstop. The final piece is a state-of-the-art scoreboard complete with line score, balls, strikes and outs. Also included in the project behind centerfield is a batting cage.
For the first time since 2006, LMU softball’s Smith Field underwent a significant upgrade which was completed in the Fall of 2016. Behind the dugout on the first base side is the brand new state of the art hitting and pitching facility. The facility just past the right field wall houses three turfed hitting tunnels, each approximately 14' by 60' and each removable to create one large open space for fielding practice. There is also a 1,250 square-foot meeting/lounge area. The fully enclosed building features five roll-up doors, including four glass doors on the west side, as well as skylights on the roof for ample natural light.
The second part of the facility is along the right field line creating an L shape just past the fense. The two facilites combined bring the total covered square footage of the facility to approximately 6,174 sq. ft. The hitting and pitching tunnels will be fully enclosed on all sides, with exception of the field side. The flooring of the facility will be field turf, along with three dirt pitching circles.
“We are so excited for the new indoor hitting facility to be built,” said Head Coach and alum Sami Strinz-Ward. “This sets our program up for success in the immediate future by being an absolute game changer in the recruiting world. We will be able to attract a more serious and committed student-athlete who knows that they can be the best both in the class room and on the field.”
Smith Field has been an advantage for the Lions. Through twelve season, LMU has won better than 64 percent of its games at Smith, including 12 wins in 2017. The Lions are 188-105 all-time at Smith heading into the 2018 season, winning a school-record 26 home games in 2007.