Bo Pilgrim funds baseball at SFA
April 4, 2006
NACOGDOCHES - Baseball is back at Stephen F. Austin State University, and SFA's newest team is one step closer to having a new facility to call home, thanks to the generosity of a legendary Texas businessman.
Bo Pilgrim has pledged $1 million to begin construction on the facility, which will include a baseball field, softball field and field house.
"The name 'Pilgrim' has come to represent quality, integrity and fair-play - all attributes that SFA strives to instill in its students, and attributes we demand of our intercollegiate athletic programs," said Dr. Tito Guerrero III, SFA president. "We are honored to have the Pilgrim name attached to a university program."
The SFA Board of Regents voted in 2004 to bring NCAA Division I baseball back to East Texas.
"Bo Pilgrim Park will serve as the home park for Lumberjack baseball and Ladyjack softball and also will provide an outstanding venue for East Texas high school and youth league tournaments and play-off games," said Dr. Jerry Holbert, vice president for university advancement. "Baseball and softball are big-time sports in schools and towns throughout the state, and this park can serve as a focal point for enhancing their athletic activities."
The park will be the eighth NCAA Division I complex in the state named for a supporter.
"I believe Bo Pilgrim Park will be one of the finest and most picturesque ballparks in the country," Holbert said. "It will be a comprehensive sports complex surrounded by the towering pine trees that are synonymous with SFA. Even in 1986, when the Ladyjack softball team won the NCAA Division II national championship, we were playing on a city of Nacogdoches facility. That's hardly the standard for a program of this caliber. Thanks to the generosity of Bo Pilgrim, we'll be able to continue to recruit players who'll be proud to play in our first-rate facility, and they'll be the type of players fans will want to watch play ball."
Holbert said the connection between Pilgrim and the university is multifaceted, beginning with Pilgrim's Pride serving as the largest employer in Nacogdoches county and SFA as the county's second largest employer.
"Bo Pilgrim and Pilgrim's Pride are inexorably linked to East Texas, Nacogdoches and Stephen F. Austin State University," he explained. "Both entities add immeasurably to the economic quality of life in the city and region. Through the leadership and generosity of Pilgrim's Pride, SFA was able to construct one of the finest university-based broiler operations in the country at our poultry research center. Poultry science is a growing academic program at the university and is a source of great pride for us. We are proud to extend this relationship to our athletic endeavors."
Pilgrim began his business empire with a single feed store in Mount Pleasant, Texas, and created the second largest poultry company in the United States and in Mexico. The company employs more than 40,000 people and process approximately 6 billion pounds of poultry and 40 million dozen table eggs each year.
Holbert said the university hopes to begin construction on the facility in the fall. The gift comes during a successful time for fund raising at the university. During fiscal year 2005, the university received $8.7 million in gifts, the highest total in its history. Prior to the Pilgrim gift, in the first half of the 2006 fiscal year, gifts totaled $5.1 million.