Penn State History Lesson: Medlar Field At Lubrano Park

At the eastern side of Penn State’s campus across Porter Road from Beaver Stadium sits Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. The stadium has 5,570 seats and has been the home of the Penn State baseball team and the State College Spikes since it opened on June 20, 2006.

What might be most impressive about Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, though, is the story of how it came to be.

“I never envisioned the field as it stands today,” said former Penn State baseball player and alumnus Anthony Lubrano.

Lubrano says the plan for the field was born from a comment that he made to then-Penn State athletic director Tim Curley at a football game in 1997.

“Me and Tim looked out at the baseball field from outside of our suite at Beaver Stadium and I said it would be nice to have a new field since we had just joined the Big Ten,” explained Lubrano. “Tim looked at me and said, ‘That’s a good idea. You should lead the project.'”

Penn State’s baseball facilities prior to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park were far inferior. Lubrano said its outfield was routinely in bad shape, and the ballpark lacked lights or even portapotties.

The initial plan, however, was not to build a new stadium. Rather, they planned a $5 million project to update the current field, similar to what William and Mary University had done a few years prior. Lubrano pledged $2.5 million for the project, and Penn State planned to raise the rest. There was only one problem.

“We couldn’t raise the other $2.5 million!” said Lubrano. “Even Joe Paterno couldn’t find anyone willing to invest in the project.”

Right when it seemed like the project had lost its footing, Chuck Greenberg began meeting with Penn State officials about a partnership. Greenberg and his management team had just acquired the Altoona Curve of the Eastern League in 2002. Greenberg proposed the possibility of upgrading the university’s baseball field while also bringing a minor league team to play there. The partnership between a university and minor league baseball team would be the first of its kind.

It took a lot of negotiating and effort, but finally, a deal was settled that would build a new stadium that Penn State would share with a minor league club.

“The uniqueness of the public and private partnership really helped to lead the deal forward,” said Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman. “Originally, I wasn’t overly excited about the idea because I knew it would require a lot of public dollars to achieve. But I think the community supported the idea, and it’s been a great fixture in Centre County ever since.”

Senator Corman was able to help secure over $12 million in state funding for the stadium. Then-Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell was quick to back the plan.

“When we first introduced the plan to the governor, he laughed and said we are doing entirely too much minor league baseball,” said Corman. “He was probably our most sports-friendly governor because a lot of these projects were approved during his term.”

Greenberg and his management team were finally able to purchase the New Jersey Cardinals in 2005, and relocated them to Pennsylvania for the 2006 season.

Anthony Lubrano kept his pledge of $2.5 million but declined to have the stadium named Lubrano Field. Rather he chose to honor former Penn State baseball coach Chuck Medlar by naming the field Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

“Chuck was such a major personality and had a great impact on all of his players during his time at Penn State,” said Lubrano.

The field has the exact same dimensions as the Pittsburgh Pirates home ballpark, PNC Park. The only difference is in the height of the right field walls. PNC Park has a 21 foot-tall wall to honor Pirates great Roberto Clemente, who wore No. 21. Medlar Field at Lubrano Park’s right-field wall is 18 feet, 5.5 inches tall to signify when Penn State was founded in 1855.

Both stadiums are also known for their picturesque views over centerfield. Medlar Field at Lubrano Park points east to maximize the view of Mount Nittany, which is visible from every seat in the stadium.

“It’s the best scenic view in the MLB Draft League,” said State College Spikes announcer Joe Putnam. “There aren’t many that rival it. The closest are Staten Island and Brooklyn.”

Putnam has been the play-by-play announcer for the Spikes alongside Steve Jones since 2008. Growing up in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, Putnam feels that there is a deep appreciation and need for the Spikes in State College.

“There’s not a lot of activity going on in the summertime in State College,” said Putnam. “There’s no major Penn State sports playing, and the Spikes offer great, affordable family entertainment. Families have the opportunity to view future stars here at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park every time they come out.”

Last summer, the future of the Spikes was in jeopardy as Major League Baseball sought to reform their minor league systems. The Spikes were the Single-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals for one year when they first came to State College in 2006. In 2007, they ended their affiliation and were an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates until 2012. In 2013 they switched back to the Cardinals organization, where they stayed until 2020.

The MLB’s review of the Minor Leagues led to the Spikes leaving the New York Penn League and entering the very first MLB Draft League with five other teams in 2021.

“We are very happy to still have Spikes baseball in State College,” said Putnam. “Major League Baseball approached us with the great opportunity to join the draft league. The only difference is that you used to get players after they were drafted, and now you get them before.”

When you get the chance, you should definitely consider visiting Medlar Field at Lubrano Park and start creating some of your favorite memories.

“My favorite memory at the field was when I threw out the first pitch of the Penn State Baseball season in 2007,” said Lubrano. “I practiced and practiced for it and threw a perfect strike.”

“One of my favorite memories is when I took my kids to the ‘Fun Zone’ that I helped organize up from the left field stands,” said Corman.

“I have so many, but the most special would be when Josiah Viera came out to make the last pitching change when we hosted the New York Penn League All-Star Games in 2018,” said Putnam. “Josiah was such a great kid that truly impacted so many peoples’ lives.”

Viera passed away on December 24, 2018, at the age of 14. He suffered from Hutchinson-Gilford progeria, a fatal genetic condition characterized by accelerated aging in children. He was named an honorary bench coach of the team in 2013 and is the only Spike to have his number retired. His No. 10 jersey is enshrined on the outfield wall.

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About the Author

Jordan Mansberger

Jordan Mansberger is a senior at Penn State majoring in broadcast journalism. He is from Cassville, Pennsylvania. He is a huge Pittsburgh sports fan as well as his Denver Nuggets. When he's not working, he can be found instigating Twitter beef with Padres fans and Antonio Brown or practicing his sub-par golf game.

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