Stephenson family donation makes renovations possible

With the donation from the Stephenson family, the press box will be completely redone and 64 new seats will be added behind home plate, said UNA head baseball coach Mike Keehn.

The family of the late Robert Stephenson donated a significant amount of money to the University of North Alabama baseball program.

Stephenson was a faculty athletic representative and professor in the education department. He was a huge fan and supporter.

The generous donation will be used to renovate the baseball stadium. Head baseball coach Mike Keehn said the press box is going to be completely redone. Two sides of the radio booth will be expanded and brand new sliding windows are going to be installed. In addition, heating and air-conditioning units are going to be added to the press box.  There will also be new flooring and counter tops.

Athletics Director Mark Linder said the field has not been renovated since the summer of 2007. He said these improvements are very much needed.

“It’s really going to be a nice addition,” Linder said.

Besides the press box construction, there will be 64 new seats added behind home plate. The chairs will be larger in size, with flip-up backs.

“The seats are being placed behind home plate because Bob liked to sit there to see if the umpires were doing a good job,” Keehn said.  

There are also plans for an umpire dressing room to be added in the future.

Keehn is hoping for the construction to be finished by December or January if everything goes as planned. Craig Construction has already started working. Keehn said they have done all the work on the field and have always done a good job.

The renovated field will hopefully improve attendance and excitement at the games, Linder said. He said he is most excited about the story itself though.

“To have a man so passionate about this sport and his family to donate this to help us compete at a high level is exciting,” Linder said. “That family is going to make a difference not only in this department but in the players.”

Keehn recalled what a great man Stephenson was. He said Stephenson would call him every Monday to see how the team was doing.

“I really miss that phone call every Monday,” Keehn said. “He did it for 10 years.”

Stephenson was a professional baseball player before coming to work at UNA. Keehn said he never knew that fact until after Stephenson’s passing. Keehn attributes that to Stephenson’s humility.

Stephenson truly loved the game and the team. Keehn told the story of one game after Stephenson had just been released from the hospital two days prior.

“He was sick and we were playing West Florida,” Keehn said. “He was in the press box watching the game.”

In honor of Stephenson, the Bob Stephenson award has been created. It will be given to a player who not only excels in the sport, but more importantly a player who has the qualities Stephenson spoke about. The player must be a good student on and off the field and a good team player.

“There will be a ceremony to honor and recognize the family’s generous gift,” Linder said.