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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Changes shine up Sancet

    Greg Granados, who works in the facilities management paint shop, paints the bleachers at Sancet Stadium. Two sections of bleachers have been removed to add grass seating as part of a renovation project.
    Greg Granados, who works in the facilities management paint shop, paints the bleachers at Sancet Stadium. Two sections of bleachers have been removed to add grass seating as part of a renovation project.

    After all was said and done with the 2005 edition of college baseball, and it was ASU – not Arizona – that punched its tickets to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series, Arizona head coach Andy Lopez wondered what was next.

    Rumors had him linked to a number of schools around the country, including Oklahoma and most prominently Texas A&M.

    “”I want our fans to understand how large of a role that they can play in helping the program to reach a higher level,”” he said in a prepared statement at the time. “”By working together we can make Omaha and the College World Series a regular June destination for us all.””

    In addition, athletic director Jim Livengood made it clear that the athletics department was “”totally committed to (Lopez), his coaching staff, the student-athletes, the program and their collective efforts on the field, in the classroom and in the community.””

    Now, seven months later, Livengood’s words have come to fruition in the form of a new scoreboard that now includes a “”CatVision”” video screen and a redone playing surface at Sancet Stadium.

    Maybe most important, though, are the grassy hills that replaced the former bleacher seating down both the first and third base lines, akin to seating seen at Spring Training stadiums all over Arizona, including Tucson Electric Park.

    “”This place looks good, huh?”” junior shortstop Jason Donald said. “”I mean, I knew it was going to be nice, but I didn’t know it was going to be this nice.””

    When coupled with further planned improvements ranging from a redesigned press box to some covered seating, one can see why Lopez returned for his fifth season at the helm of the Wildcats.

    “”I would hope that it would be a little bit more fan-friendly, that people would come out and watch some games,”” Lopez said.

    “”I’m happy for the guys that you see here,”” he added, gesturing towards former Wildcats Trevor Crowe, Nick Hundley, Chris Frey, Jordan Brown and John Meloan, who were in town for alumni weekend, Jan. 21-22. “”The reasons for the things we see now are their efforts on the fields, and getting us to regionals, getting us to the World Series, nationally contending.””

    Though the changes reduce the physical number of seats to 3,000 while keeping capacity at 6,500, in the shiny new stadium the ball is in the fans’ court. A program that has made it to postseason play the past three seasons has been producing in the win column even if it hasn’t been in procuring fan support.

    “”We’ve had some pretty good clubs these past couple of years,”” said junior shortstop Jason Donald. “”If it was a big weekend, then we’d get fans, but I think (getting fans) on a consistent basis is what we really need.””

    In other words, the team needs more than the 650 people who showed up for the season finale against California last year.

    “”It just feels better when you have people on your side,”” Lopez said. “”If you have to be going into the last couple of innings down by a run or two, you just feel like it’s a doable situation because you’ve got a good crowd behind you.

    “”I personally want people to come out and watch these guys play, because you know what? They merit it, they work hard every day,”” he added. “”No one’s on a full scholarship, they’re all paying their way in some respects.

    “”They’re not being pampered in any way, shape or form. They work hard.””

    Though only midway through his master plan, Lopez has been molding Sancet’s facilities slowly but surely, senior outfielder Derek Decater said.

    “”Even the first year I got here, things were already under way with ‘Lopes’ coming in,”” he said, pointing to the left field wall, formerly a chain-link fence, as evidence. “”He changed things right away.””

    “”A top program’s field should reflect that,”” he added.

    Not lost on anybody was quite possibly the biggest area the changes might impact: recruiting.

    “”Obviously, it’s going to make recruiting a little bit easier,”” said Lopez, the master architect of Arizona baseball. “”We live in a day and age, the 21st century, where guys want to see some of the glitter and stuff, so we’ll now be able to show that to them.””

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