Baseball games at Dallas Baptist University are reverent affairs. The national anthem is preceded by a prayer. The Christian flag flies as high as Old Glory. The cornerstone at Horner Ballpark, the Patriots’ gem of a home field near Mountain Creek Lake, declares it was “built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.”
All you see beyond the green outfield fence is a grove of trees separating the DBU campus from Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery. Each evening at 7, about 30 minutes after weeknight games begin, the sound of “Taps” wafts over those trees. When that happens, all of the players, coaches, and umpires remove their caps and face the flags in center field until the song is over. The custom is spelled out in the ground rules given to visiting teams.
Dan Heefner, DBU’s head coach since 2008, said the official pause was inspired by former player Paul Voelker, who decided to remove his cap one game in 2014 to honor fallen veterans during “Taps.” “You start thinking about it,” Heefner says, “and it dawns on you what’s really happening there.”
This may go without saying, but, no, you can’t buy beer at the Horner Ballpark concession stand. But that’s okay, because the lack of booze just adds to the family-friendly atmosphere. A front-row seat that allows you to rest your feet atop the Patriots’ dugout costs only $7. (The cheapest seat at a Rangers game will run you nearly twice as much.) If your kids have ants in their pants, there’s a grassy expanse along the first-base line where they can run around but still see the games.
And those games are played at a top-flight level of late. DBU has earned a berth in the NCAA Division I playoffs (limited to 64 teams, just like the basketball tournament) six times in Heefner’s nine seasons as head coach. Consequently, his name has been linked to recent coaching vacancies at Baylor and Texas. Heefner declined to comment on those reports, other than to say he’s happy where he’s at.
“It’s a very unique place, and we’ve had a lot of success,” he says, “and we feel like there’s another whole level to reach.”
That next level would be the College World Series. If you watch Heefner’s team play, you’ll find it hard to believe they haven’t made it there already. The Patriots routinely make catches and throws that are just as awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping as anything you’ll see in Arlington.
When those plays happen, try not to take the Lord’s name in vain.