One of the most picturesque, fan-friendly stadiums in the nation, Melching Field at Conrad Park will enter its 15th season as the home of the Stetson Hatters in 2013. At a cost of $4.5 million, Melching Field was the result of a joint effort between Stetson University, DeLand Sports Redevelopment Association and the City of DeLand.
Built on the same site as old Conrad Park, Melching Field opened on Feb. 12, 1999 as the Hatters defeated Louisville 4-3 before an overflow crowd of 2,874 fans. In just 14 seasons, the Hatters have built quite a home field advantage at "The MAC". Stetson is 344-165 all-time at Melching Field, good for a .676 winning percentage.
Melching Field has also served as the host stadium for the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament from 2002-09, and after a two year absence, the event returned to DeLand in 2012. The A-Sun Championships will once again be held at Melching Field for the 2013 season.
In 2006 Pete Dunn won his 1,000th game in a thrilling 11-inning, 6-5 victory over Mercer in the A-Sun Tournament. Two days later the Hatters celebrated their second consecutive tournament title (sixth overall). Stetson tied a school record with 29 home wins in 2003, including a 13-game winning streak during March and April. In 2002, the Hatters picked up their 100th victory in dramatic fashion against Troy State in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament.
Hatter fans have flocked to Melching Field in record numbers. With more than half a million fans since the stadium opened in 1999, Stetson is often ranked nationally among college baseball attendance leaders. A record of 61,798 spectators passed through the gates in 2007.
Melching Field features permanent seating for 2,500 spectators with grass berms holding approximately 500 additional fans. A full-service concessions area greets visitors upon their entrance to the park on Woodland Boulevard. The stadium is completely handicapped accessible and features excellent sight lines from anywhere in the grandstand.
The 2012 season marked the debut of a new high-tech scoreboard, which is located in left field and is equipped with a state-of-the-art message center and graphics board. The new $300,000 scoreboard is complimented by a $150,000 sound system. A state-of-the-art lighting system provides sufficient infield and outfield lighting for televising night games. In addition, the stadium features a modern press box, complete with two VIP viewing rooms, two radio booths, a television broadcast room, and a working press area.
The Stetson baseball coaches' offices are also located in Melching Field at Conrad Park, in addition to a pro-style locker room and the newly renovated Carlton Family Room, a player's lounge. Another recent addition to Melching Field is the Brian Snyder Hitting Pavilion, a covered batting area located outside of the right field corner.
Stetson University alumna Luella Nichols Melching of Coral Gables donated $500,000 to name the field in honor of her late husband R. Dale Melching. R. Dale Melching, a member of the Stetson class of 1944, was a student-athlete, playing varsity baseball and basketball and, in 1978, was inducted into the Stetson Sports Hall of Fame. Luella Nichols Melching, a Hatter cheerleader during her Stetson years and lifelong sports fan, said her husband would be proud to see the family name on the field at the modern baseball complex.
With a red brick and stucco facade and green metal roof, the stadium at Conrad Park resembles many buildings on Stetson's campus. The $500,000 gift is the another chapter in the Melching family's history of support for Stetson and its students. They took a leadership role in the development of Stetson's Wilson Athletic Center, a $1.6 million facility named for Pat and Patricia Wilson of Frostproof and dedicated in December, 1997.