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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Baseball sees No. 1 rank as opportunity

    Arizona catcher Dwight Childs takes a cut in a game last season against Utah. Childs and the rest of the Wildcats, ranked No. 1 in two preseason polls, will open the season Feb. 22 in Athens, Ga.
    Arizona catcher Dwight Childs takes a cut in a game last season against Utah. Childs and the rest of the Wildcats, ranked No. 1 in two preseason polls, will open the season Feb. 22 in Athens, Ga.

    With temperatures in the mid-60s and the ping of aluminum bats resonating through Sancet Stadium, there was a springtime feel Friday afternoon as the Arizona baseball team held its first official practice of the season.

    As the players casually strolled in and headed to the dugout to lace up their cleats and button up their pristine jerseys, head coach Andy Lopez stood in front of a group of reporters and enthusiastically fielded questions about his team’s high expectations.

    But one topic continued to find its way to Lopez’s tongue: the Wildcats’ preseason ranking, which was No. 1 in two different polls.

    “”To me, (the ranking) is not about the expectations, it’s about a chance of maybe fulfilling a dream,”” Lopez said. “”When we go out and recruit we always talk about playing for a national title; and now (the players) have this chance to go fulfill their dreams,
    their visions.””

    Lopez was not the only member of the team thinking big on Arizona’s first day of practice. Second baseman Colt Sedbrook also expressed optimism regarding what the team feels is a legitimate shot at a national championship.

    “”It’s a special occasion,”” Sedbrook said. “”It’s a historical thing being ranked No. 1 for the first time in Arizona history.

    “”I think this year is going to be pretty historical in itself and I think we got a really good chance at going to Omaha, where we want to be.””

    The Wildcats’ high expectations were not the only topic addressed by the team Friday. Another big issue was a brand new design to the college baseball season implemented just this season.

    Last year, Arizona began its season Feb. 2. This year, the team started practice Feb. 1, and will not play its first game until Feb. 22 when they take on Georgia in Athens, Ga.

    As a result of the later start, the college baseball schedule will be dramatically condensed as the teams will find themselves playing more mid-week series than in years past.

    With the season now three weeks reduced, it leaves 14 games that still need to be played, leading to regular Tuesday and Wednesday games.

    Two of Lopez’s major concerns with this new structure are academics as well as a significant increase in travel costs.

    “”We’re going to be on the road more than I’ve been in 26 years of college coaching,”” Lopez said. “”I’m OK with starting late, but for those of us who are in the geographic area like Tucson, Ariz., who do we play?

    “”I’m really concerned about my guys’ academics because we’re on the road a lot this year.””

    This year’s tighter schedule poses yet another problem as fewer days are positioned between games which results in less practice and recovery time for the players, especially pitchers.

    “”We’re gonna

    A lot of freshmen talk about wanting to redshirt because they don’t think they’ll play. But the thing is the kid(s) just need to work hard.

    – Colt Sedbrook,
    second baseman

    have to have two more arms that can go during the week, which we do have,”” said catcher Dwight Childs. “”We have a deep pitching staff and I’m really confident that they’re going to be successful in those games.””

    Despite the concerns surrounding the new schedule, most of the Wildcats’ focus lies elsewhere.

    For many players, their concentration is aimed at maintaining their starting position.

    With several newcomers as well as an abundance of young talent, some of last season’s key starters are left looking over their shoulders.

    “”A lot of freshmen talk about wanting to redshirt because they don’t think they’ll play,”” Sedbrook said. “”But the thing is the kid(s) just need to work hard.

    “”I don’t even know if I’m going to play this year, honestly. I’m gonna have to work hard just like everyone else and fight for my spot.””

    Although the pressure may seem frustrating at times, the depth of this Wildcat team may be a reason for Arizona’s top preseason rankings.

    Childs said he feels the competition for positions will be a positive thing for the team leading up to the season-opener.

    “”I think it just fires everyone up,”” he said. “”It drives everybody to be better; and if one person gets better, the entire team gets better.

    “”I’m just really excited for this season; every day is just one day closer to playing.””

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