(NOTE: I talked to former Arizona Wildcats baseball coach Jerry Kindall on Saturday about a variety of subjects; more to come in other stories.)
The Arizona baseball team’s results this season speak for itself, and former coach Jerry Kindall — who was opposed but supportive of the team moving off campus to play its home games — isn’t reluctant to give credit.
When the athletic department was studying the move from Jerry Kindall Field At Frank Sancet Stadium to Hi Corbett Field, Kindall made it clear to athletic director Greg Byrne he thought it would be wiser to spend money to upgrade the on-campus facility.
“For those of us that wanted to stay, they heard us out,” Kindall said. “But they were determined to move — with good reason, by the way, and I recognize that.
“I began to see that it was going to happen, and I got on board and supported it, with some reservation. But it was the right move. I recognize that now. The fans turned out and it’s been a terrific experience. I don’t say that with any rancor.
“It has been a huge factor in our success.”
Arizona, buoyed by home attendance that rose from 1,103 per game last season to 2,628 this season, was able to play host to NCAA regional and super regional play in the postseason. The Cats hadn’t been home for the postseason in 20 years, and a nicer facility played a role in having a smoother path through the playoffs.
The Wildcats haven’t yet lost in the postseason, including a 3-0 mark at the College World Series in Omaha that landed them in the best-of-three championship series that begins Sunday at 5 p.m. Arizona will be taking on two-time defending national champion South Carolina.
Coach Andy Lopez has talked many times about the emotional lift of hearing “U of A” chants in the crowd, crediting a few key wins to the more vibrant atmosphere at Hi Corbett.
Some of those voices the team was hearing came from Kindall, 77, and his former longtime pitching coach at Arizona, Jim Wing.
“The fans got all fired up,” Kindall said of this season at Hi Corbett.
“They’re singing ‘Bear Down,’ and chanting ‘U of A.’ Jim Wing and I were right in the middle of it. It all worked out.”
Kindall said he has seen “quite a few games” this season, praising Lopez for the structure of his lineup and allowing “his horses” in the pitching rotation to lead the way.
“And I really like their defense,” Kindall said.
“Obviously, they can hit. But pitching and defense — that’s the foundation of a winning baseball team, and the foundation for a College World Series champion.”
Kindall led Arizona to national titles in 1976, 1980 and 1986 — which is the last of the Cats’ three championships. Kindall also won in 1956 as a player at Minnesota, which defeated Arizona in the title game.
When the Wildcats debuted this season at Hi Corbett Field, Kindall and Hank Rowe, the grandson of former coach Frank Sancet, threw out the first pitches.
Kindall delivered his to Wing, who was part of all three national titles.
“The longer I am away from coaching at Arizona, the more I appreciate him,” Kindall said of Wing. “He was the heart of soul of our team for 25 years. He was the cornerstone.”