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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Baseball’s move more than just an upgrade in facilities

Kyle+Wasson%2FDaily+Wildcat%0A%0AWith+UA+baseball+moving+to+Hi+Corbett+field+earlier+this+spring%2C+the+team+has+seen+an+increase+in+winning+percentage.+The+Wildcats+are+hosting+a+super+regional+for+the+first+time+in+team+history.
Kyle Wasson
Kyle Wasson/Daily Wildcat With UA baseball moving to Hi Corbett field earlier this spring, the team has seen an increase in winning percentage. The Wildcats are hosting a super regional for the first time in team history.

The most important reason behind Arizona baseball’s hosting an NCAA regional this year may not have anything to do with the on-field product. In August 2011, Arizona baseball agreed to play its home games at the city-owned Hi Corbett Field, for the 2012 season and presumably beyond. Prior to this season, all home games were played at Frank Sancet Stadium, which holds 6,500 people, mere steps away from the coaches’ offices in McKale Center.

Head coach Andy Lopez does not shy away from tying his team’s Pac-12 Championship season to the move to Hi Corbett.

“There is no way that we do what we did this year if we’re not at Hi Corbett,” Lopez said after last Sunday’s walk-off win over ASU. “There were times in that situation (in Sancet) where you didn’t feel the electricity. For me, it’s the intangibles. You can’t really put your finger on it, but it’s there, so to speak.”

The Hi Corbett atmosphere has been electric for the Wildcats this season, who averaged 2,461 fans in 35 home games. In their final season in Sancet, Arizona averaged 137 percent less attendance with just 1,103 per game. The lack of a present, enthusiastic atmosphere in Sancet affected Arizona’s ability to host in the postseason, Lopez said.

“I felt the club in 2008 had a chance to compete for the national championship,” Lopez said. “We have it all lined up and we beat someone up pretty good, and there was no one in the stands. I turned to my staff at that moment and said, ‘We’re going on the road.’”

The move to Hi Corbett has not only added to the game day presence of Arizona baseball, but also to the recruiting efforts of the coaching staff.

“I’m glad we’re on TV,” Lopez said prior to Friday’s 15-3 win over Missouri. “It’s good not just for Arizona baseball, but for Hi Corbett. We do recruit nationally, so I like for someone in Louisiana or somewhere other than Arizona to see Hi Corbett first hand.”

The nation got to see Hi Corbett and its high-energy atmosphere in action this weekend, when the Wildcats beat up on Missouri Friday and Louisville on Saturday and Sunday, a combined 47-10 to win the first NCAA regional Arizona has hosted in 20 seasons. In its first three postseason games, Hi Corbett averaged 4,192 fans.

Hi Corbett has helped the Wildcats not only offensively, but also as an intimidation factor. Because Hi Corbett was once home to the minor league Tucson Toros and the spring training headquarters for the Colorado Rockies, the stadium has a much bigger outfield than is used during most college games.

The dimensions of the outfield are 348 feet in right field, 392 feet in center, and 366 feet in left field. To put that in perspective, in Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, the distance from home plate to right field is 18 feet closer, from home to center is just 8 feet longer, and from home to left field is just 330 feet, 36 fewer than that of Hi Corbett.

The massive outfield makes for plenty of extra base hit opportunities for Arizona, which Missouri head coach Tim Jamieson noticed without even seeing the field.

“The first thing that jumped out at me was the stat sheet on Arizona. They have a lot of doubles,” Jamieson said. “Now I know why. It’s a big ballpark.”

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