Over the past two seasons South Bend's Coveleski Stadium has been transformed from a neglected Reagan-era afterthought into one of the Midwest League's most impressive facilities. Recent improvements include a new Downtown entranceway, 360-degree concourse, outdoor suites and, perhaps most strikingly, a majestic synagogue-turned-team store in left field.
But one of its unique improvements can't be seen by the general public, and, in fact, might not really be an improvement at all. This past offseason, the team remodeled the visitor's clubhouse and in the process they saturated the walls, the stalls, the couches, and even the sinks in a vivid pink hue.
The Iowa Hawkeyes football team, under the leadership of coach Hayden Fry, famously painted their visiting locker rooms pink under the assumption that it would put their opponents in a passive mood. The Silver Hawks were certainly inspired by Frye's initiative, but their motivations were less psychological in nature.
"The idea came from our owner, Andrew Berlin," Silver Hawks president Joe Hart wrote in an email this past April. "[It] just came from wanting to be a little different and give people something fun to talk about. ... We figured, if we can get people talking about the Silver Hawks across the country, then it is a success."
My most recent Minor League Baseball road trip concluded in South Bend, and during the game I was able to get a look at the locker room myself. While there, I spoke with Silver Hawks operations intern Pat Lillis, who did the bulk of the painting.
"We used 15 gallons of [a paint color called] Santa's Cheeks, and five or seven gallons of Polka Dot Pink," Lillis revealed. "I literally spent three weeks here, painting, then lunch, then more painting and then I'd leave. I'd get down here, plug in my headphones and just paint. It went by pretty fast."
As much as I enjoyed getting Lillis' perspective, his was not the most important. Nor was Hart's. What it really comes to down to is this: how are the visiting teams responding to these new environs? Prior to that evening's ballgame, I spoke with Bowling Green Hot Rods catcher Geoff Rowan and he provided his take in this exclusive Q and A.
MiLB.com: The Hot Rods opened the season in South Bend. When you guys got here and saw the locker rooms, what was the initial reaction?
Geoff Rowan: I think the first reaction was "Is this really happening? Are these locker rooms really pink?" And then as you walk into the bathroom you realize that not only are they pink, but there are pink and yellow stickers on the stalls.
So it was kind of a shock at first. ... But this time, we were prepared for it. You go in there, focus on the TV, and then come out here and get ready to go out and play the game.
MiLB.com: Given that you guys are professional athletes, was there a sense among the team that the pink locker rooms were disrespectful?
Rowan: I think it's funny, and in baseball everyone is always joking around a little bit anyway. I look at it as something fun, another thing you can do around the game itself. We still have to come here and do what we came to do, which is win ballgames.
MiLB.com: Your father [Jerome Rowan] actually played football for the University of Iowa. Growing up, did he tell you about their pink locker rooms for opponents?
Rowan: He told me about Hayden Fry putting them in, and sometimes some of the home guys would go over there and take a peek. It's supposed to be about psyche, and I guess it's a little different for football because you're supposed to be fired up, and instead you're looking around and it's pink everywhere. In baseball, it's a little more laid back and relaxed, in that you come out here [on the field] and then you get fired up.
MiLB.com: Psychology aside, what do you think about the locker room from an interior design perspective?
Rowan: They did it very impressively, from the stickers on the stalls to the pink flowery couch. It was very impressive that they could find a pink flowery couch. Everything is pink in there except for the wood, and who knows? They could change that by the next time we come here.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.