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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona softball successful despite lack of student support

Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Softball vs San Diego State University

The Arizona softball team is historically one of the most prolific in the nation, but you’d never be able to tell by the lack of student support at home games.

Arizona’s successes have been well documented. With Mike Candrea at the helm, the Wildcats made it to the postseason Women’s College World Series 22 times in 23 years, from 1988 to 2010, and won eight national championships. In fact, the UA softball team has the most championships on campus.

The Wildcats’ Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium averages slightly more than 2,500 fans per game, but almost none, apart from other athletes showing support for their comrades, are students.

“We’re always for more students coming to our games, but it’s not really realistic with softball,” sophomore pitcher Shelby Babcock said. “I like our fan base right now. We have a lot of people that come out to watch us. They may not be students, but I don’t think we notice it too much.”

Arizona is in the midst of a 23-9 season and has nine home games remaining before postseason play begins, yet students are still reluctant to attend games.

“I’ve never been to one. I just don’t have the time,” UA student Steffanie Malepeai said. “Softball is awesome, but I don’t think students understand the concept really, even though it’s practically the same as baseball.”

Arizona baseball, which moved off-campus to Hi Corbett Field to start its season, has seen an attendance boost. More than 10,000 fans showed up to last weekend’s series against No. 2 Stanford.

The difference, however, is that the softball team does not carry the same weight that “Arizona baseball” does.

“We’d love to get the college crowd,” assistant coach Larry Ray said. “Hillenbrand has been there since 1993, and most of the season ticket holders are a little older, but we’d love the college crowd. They bring an energy that all college sports kind of feed off of and live through.”

UA students may not be attending simply because softball is not a revenue-generating sport like football or basketball, and thus does not garner the type of attention or coverage those sports do.

“I understand football and basketball are more popular, and rightfully so because they get more coverage,” Ray said. “But we’ve been to places like UNM (New Mexico) that have tremendous student support, and it has a great effect on the game.”

To solve the attendance problem, the Arizona athletic department has hosted events such as the “red-out” this past Saturday, in which the first-ever panoramic photograph was taken of a women’s sporting event at Hillenbrand. Babcock said the biggest problem in getting people to attend is that softball, unless you’ve played, is a hard sport to love and follow.

“I love softball, so obviously I would go watch games,” she said. “But I don’t know how other people look at it.”

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