In Southern Miss folklore, the names Pete Taylor and Hill Denson are legendary. Not only are the two among the greatest coaches in school history, but they also are immortalized as the namesakes of the Golden Eagles' home stadium.
Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field has been the home of Southern Miss baseball since 1984, when the facility was opened. "The Pete" as it is nicknamed, has seated more than a million fans who have entered its gates. During that time, the Golden Eagles have been regularly among the top teams in the nation in attendance.
The stadium is named in honor of C.J. "Pete" Taylor, who remained a dedicated Golden Eagle fan after serving the University in a variety of capacities until his retirement up until his death in May of 2011.
Taylor became the 10th baseball coach in Southern Miss history and guided the Golden Eagle baseball program from 1959-83.
In 1999, Hill Denson Field was added to the name of the park in honor of the man, who carried the torch after Taylor and took the baseball program to the next level, a higher status where it currently competes today.
One of Taylor's pupils, Denson took the reins from his mentor in 1984 and took the Golden Eagles to unprecedented heights.
In his 14 seasons as the head coach at Southern Miss, Denson compiled a 468-386-2 record, guiding the program to 10, 30-win seasons, two 40-win seasons and two trips to the NCAA Regional Tournament, the school's first in all three categories.
The stadium features chairback seating for 2,054 fans and bleacher seating for 1,212, after its most recent renovation prior to the 2012 season. The facility upgrade extended the main grandstand past each dugout to give it a more overall stadium look. The extended grandstands eliminated the bleacher seating that had been utilized down each of the base lines.
The stadium also has media facilities and a popular right field lounge area known as the "Right Field Roost," which has reserved parking for 40 vehicles and is equipped with barbeque grills.
Since the park first opened, it has undergone numerous improvements. In 1991, the press box was enlarged to handle radio and television broadcasts. A concession area, permanent restroom facilities and an electronic scoreboard were also added.
Over the years, other additions have included expanded sunken dugouts, an automatic underground watering system, underground french drainage system, a full-size infield tarp, Triple A specification lighting system, a state-of-the-art public address system, four covered batting cages equipped with pitching machines and covered bullpen mounds.
Pete Taylor Park is complemented by the Rogers, Thames and Welch Baseball Center, which opened its doors in August of 2001. It is located adjacent to the bleachers behind home plate and on the first-base line. The complex provides the Golden Eagle program with several amenities including a team locker room, training room, meeting room, an area for equipment storage and distribution, a laundry area, as well as coaches' offices and dressing rooms for coaches and umpires. During the summer of 2003, the parking lot was paved and ornamental fencing replaced the fence and gates at the entrance of the park. A new scoreboard was added in the 2005 summer with an electronic video board.
The 2008 season saw the addition of 12 luxury suites and a new press box. This addition makes "The Pete" one of the few collegiate baseball stadium in the nation that offers luxury suites.
The addition includes two levels, both of which are accessible by elevator. There are eight luxury boxes on the first level and the second level consist of four suites and a working press box. There are also spacious booths for both home and visiting radio broadcast, a game operations booth and a larger booth to accommodate live television needs.
Following the 2013 season, the playing field got a makeover as the entire ballpark was resurfaced for the first time in over a decade.
Prior to the 2015 campaign, "The Pete" received its last addition, Baseball Performance Center. The 2,050-square foot building encompasses all of the team's strength and conditioning needs at their own facility, without having to leave the program's facility.
Because of the tradition of the program as well as the first-class facilities offered at "The Pete," Southern Miss has been selected to host several tournaments, including the 1990 Metro Conference Tournament, the inaugural Conference USA Tournament in 1996, the 2003 NCAA Hattiesburg Regional Tournament, 2005, 2009 and 2013 C-USA Tournaments.
That long line of hosting tournaments will continue this spring as the league's postseason event returns to "The Pete."
The program will play host to its fifth C-USA Tournament here at the facility, marking the most by a league school since the inception of the conference during the 1996 campaign.
With all these events, Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field has developed into one of the top baseball park destinations in the South and is among the best in the nation. The facility not only serves as the home for Golden Eagle baseball, but also is used by various American Legion and high school championship and all-star events.