By Matt Bradshaw —
On the south side of the city, about six miles from the University of Louisville, Aaron Flaker grew up playing baseball at the Beechmont Youth Complex. He later played collegiate ball before returning to the city and working as the Cardinals mascot for five years.
With Aaron’s help, alongside assistance from Vince Tyra and Dan McDonnell, Louisville baseball has officially opened the Flaker Family Pro Locker Room at Jim Patterson Stadium.
“It was the first project Dan and I discussed,” athletic director Tyra said. “I wasn’t sure exactly what he had in mind, but I knew it was needed.”
The brand new locker room received its dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony this past Friday at Jim Patterson Stadium. It features 10 spacious lockers, two 55-inch televisions, two showers (including a steam shower), a kitchenette, two chairs and a couch.
A state-of-the-art amenity, U of L constructed the locker room as a home for former Cardinals who currently play professional baseball. All alumni can use the space at their leisure during baseball off-season (September through February).
“It’s exciting, especially with what’s going on down the street at Kentucky,” Nick Burdi said, referring to the Wildcats’ new baseball stadium. He pitched as a Cardinal from 2012-14. “Overall, it’s going to help the experience here as players see guys in pro ball come back and still be a part of the program.”
Tyra, who played collegiate baseball himself, recognizes the importance of what the locker room represents.
“When I was playing in college, I can remember pro players coming back and they were mentors,” Tyra said. “It’s great to be on the field, but they need their own space. Today we’re able to unveil that.”
At the end of the 2018 season, 34 Louisville alumni were under contract with MLB organizations. Eight of those former Cardinals, a school-record number, saw professional playing time during the season.
Out of those 34 alumni, 15 showed up to the locker room’s ribbon-cutting.
“It’s appropriate that we have a great Louisville family’s name outside this facility because this (program) is family,” McDonnell said. “This is a huge commitment they make. Their dream, like a lot of little kids growing up, is to make it to the big leagues. They know we support that…This is a facility that’s here to help them along the way.”
Aaron Flaker planned the locker room for quite some time and, as a Louisville native himself, unveiled the facility with excitement and humility.
“This community is important to me. I grew up not far from here,” Flaker said. “As a kid that didn’t grow up with much, it’s exciting to give back. This is not about me or my family or putting a name on a sign. It’s about these dudes that work their butts off and made it to the big leagues. It’s exciting for them to have a home.”
Louisville baseball enters the 2019 season ranked as high as No. 4 in one preseason poll. Their home opener approaches Feb. 20, though Flaker took some time to look at the bigger picture.
“Coach Mac has an amazing dream for this program. We’re going to win a national championship,” Flaker said. “It’s going to happen. Something like this is another stepping stone towards getting there.”
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Photos by Matt Bradshaw / The Louisville Cardinal