LAS CRUCES, N.M. – New Mexico State broke ground on a brand new baseball training facility on Thursday at Presley Askew Field.
When the Aggies’ baseball players start the 2020 season, they will have a new facility to help them hone their skills thanks to long-time donors and loyal Aggie fans, Mike and Judy Johnson, who have pledged $900,000 to build a new training facility for the NM State baseball program.
Aggie players will prepare for next season in the new 4,500 square foot facility, located adjacent to the team dugout along the third base line. Housing three designated hitting locations, along with two dual-use hitting and pitching areas, the facility will enable more players to practice specific skills at the same time.
While consistent sunshine often makes Las Cruces an ideal climate for baseball, late season temperatures in April and May can limit outdoor practices. The facility’s open air design, including exterior screen walls, a standing seam roof and protected ceiling fans, was crafted by national architecture firm HOK to enable sustained seasonal practices for Aggie student-athletes despite rising spring temperatures.
In recent years, Aggie baseball players and fans benefitted from other projects funded by Mike and Judy – including extensive stadium renovations to Presley Askew Field completed with a $1.4 million gift from the couple in 2013.
The funding for the new training facility is an extension of Mike and Judy’s love for NM State baseball, and part of a larger goal to assist the Aggies in becoming a top-25 program in the NCAA with a high quality stadium that can host an NCAA Tournament regional.
“We want to make sure the baseball team is taken care of,” Mike explains, “And to be competitive, you not only have to have talented players, you need a place where they can play and improve, where their hard work meets opportunity.”
The Johnsons’ generosity has already shaped the program’s progress in recent years, according to New Mexico State Director of Athletics, Mario Moccia. “With Mike and Judy’s original and continued investment in the stadium, our Aggie baseball program has rocketed to success,” says Moccia.
Some recent team successes include a rise from 11 wins in 2015 to four consecutive years with 35-plus victories, a 2018 Western Athletic Conference Tournament title, an NCAA Regional appearance in 2018 and a regular-season title in 2019.
Improved facilities often increase the success of college programs. State-of-the-art facilities enhance player skill and preparation, and also play a role in attracting recruits.
“The new training facility will be a tremendous addition to the Aggie baseball program, and another major step in creating one of the premier college baseball stadium complexes in the southwest,” an aspect Moccia says will help in recruitment efforts around the southwest region, where many Aggie players come from.
New Mexico State University Foundation Vice President, Dr. Tina Byford, praised the Johnsons and highlighted their continued support of NM State. “Long-time supporters of New Mexico State in many capacities, Mike and Judy’s financial generosity is matched by their service. We are grateful for this exceptional gift to the baseball program and express our sincere thanks for their commitment to New Mexico State students.”
Mike and Judy’s sustained philanthropy towards the University extends to the academic arena as well. The Johnsons established the Michael L. Johnson Endowed Chair in the Department of Geological Sciences, the Daisy Gray Endowed Scholarship for students majoring in Education and the Lionel Haight Endowed Chair in Accounting, among others.
Service has also been a significant part of Mike and Judy’s history with the university. Judy recently joined the New Mexico State University Foundation board and also served as a board member on the College of Education’s Board of Advocates and NM State’s College of Business Advisory Council. Mike served as a University Foundation board member for many years, including the role of chairman.