Middle Tennessee will be unveiling full-sized statues of two pioneers for Blue Raider baseball at Reese Smith Jr. Field Tuesday, March 24 at 5:15 p.m.
Iconic former coach and athletic director John Stanford and longtime Blue Raider supporter Reese Smith will be honored at the front entrance of the stadium as statues of each are unveiled.
The ceremony will be in advance of the Blue Raiders 6 p.m. game vs. defending national champion Vanderbilt and is open to the public with free admission.
Middle Tennessee President Sidney McPhee will be on hand to help dedicate the statues. Many former Blue Raider players will also be in attendance, along with family members of Smith and Stanford.
“These will be the first two statues on our campus which is very significant,” said Director of Athletics Chris Massaro. “Coach Stanford and Reese Smith have really helped build our program together and allowed us to be able to compete nationally. The look in front of our stadium with the two statues is a great centerpiece to our campus and really showcases our history.”
“On behalf of the University and our athletic department, I want to thank Steve and Denise and the other donors who contributed to this wonderful project.”
Stanford and Smith have greatly impacted Blue Raider baseball, and Head Coach Jim McGuire believes it is only fitting for them to be honored in such a way.
“These two men are the foundation of Blue Raider baseball and this is a great way to honor them for their dedication and pride,” McGuire said. “It should be a great evening when we unveil the statues.”
Stanford came to Middle Tennessee in the 1950s after serving with the Air Force and made his mark on Blue Raider baseball by becoming an All-OVC selection as a player.
He would later leave an even greater mark as the program’s coach and eventually as the university’s director of athletics.
After graduation, he played two seasons for the Washington Senators before serving as baseball coach for Shelbyville Central and Motlow Community College in Middle Tennessee. In 1974, he returned to his alma mater to develop one of the most respected programs in college baseball. As the Blue Raiders coach for 11 seasons, Stanford guided Middle Tennessee to a 402-222 record. His teams won six OVC regular-season championships, four OVC Tournament championships and made four NCAA appearances. Stanford was crowned OVC Coach of the Year five times.
As athletic director, he worked with donors to improve baseball facilities and scholarships, upgraded the golf program and advocated the formation of the women’s softball program and field.
Smith, a Nashville native, and his two sons who had played baseball for the Blue Raiders, threw their efforts into lighting the field and building the stadium that now exists. Home to what is considered one of the finest collegiate baseball fields in the nation, Reese Smith Jr. Field was named in October of 1982 and officially dedicated on April 12, 1983. The dedication was a well-earned salute to the efforts of the late Reese Smith and family.