Legendary Arizona Wildcats baseball coach Jerry Kindall doesn’t endorse the decision to move the team from the on-campus stadium that bears his name, but he’s still behind the program all the way.
“Now that it’s done and there’s no hope of saving our campus baseball field, I’m fully in support,” Kindall told TucsonCitizen.com on Wednesday after it was announced the school had agreed with the city to play its home games Hi Corbett Field.
“There are compelling reasons to move out there and I recognize those and have understood those from the beginning.
“(Athletic director) Greg Byrne had a number of discussions with me about this. He listened to what I was saying, very kindly, because I believe in the best of all worlds, baseball belongs on campus. It is for the campus.”
But Byrne and coach Andy Lopez decided it was best for the program to move off campus, less than three miles away, to Hi Corbett, thereby trading some tradition in order to upgrade the team’s facilities and perhaps provide a spark for greater attendance.
“Coach Kindall and I have a tremendous relationship,” said Lopez, saying they spent about 45 minutes together in his office on Tuesday afternoon.
“We talked, we joked about some things, and, I’ll be very candid, we prayed together about some things that we’re going on, this being one of them. And we hugged at the end. He said, ‘Andy, I’m going to back everything you guys are going to do with this program.’”
Kindall coached at Arizona from 1973 to 1996, winning national titles in 1976, 1980 and 1986.
He succeeded Frank Sancet … and both coaches’ names are attached to the on-campus stadium: Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium.
“Coach Kindall was not concerned about this in the least, but we’re going to make sure the Kindall and Sancet names live on as an important part of our history,” Byrne said. “There will be a bust or some sort of very proper recognition as you walk in (to Hi Corbett).”
Kindall was not at the news conference at McKale Center on Wednesday, although Byrne invited him to attend.
“I have tremendous regard for Greg Byrne,” Kindall said. “I believe he is the right man to move our department forward for years to come. He is a visionary. He is the right man.”
That doesn’t stop Kindall from disagreeing with the decision, although he said with a chuckle, “In my case, I’ve gotten over it.”
He said he’ll be there at Hi Corbett next spring watching games. He added that having his name attached to something at the new facility was “never an issue” in his disagreement with the move.
“There is no way to take away from the emotional part of the move,” Kindall said, “but now that it’s done, I’m encouraging all of the alumni and all the fans to get behind it and support it. I want to see them get to the World Series.”