The original plan for the Arizona Wildcats’ first season as a full-time tenant of Hi Corbett was to move in the outfield fences at the spacious former home of major-league spring training and Triple-A baseball.
Turns out, there wasn’t enough time to make that change, as the city wasn’t able to evict the stadium’s former tenant, the Tucson Toros, until reaching a settlement in late November.
While the university hurried to remake the clubhouse and offices, transplant the scoreboard and make cosmetic changes before the start of the season in February, the fences had to stay where they were for 2012.
Regarding the fences in 2013 …
“You know what?” coach Andy Lopez told TucsonCitizen.com after Arizona’s national championship celebration at McKale Center on Tuesday. “We need to keep them right where they’re at.”
The Wildcats had great success with their pitching plan (attack the strike zone; don’t fear the long ball) and hitting plan (short swings, shoot for the gaps) at Hi Corbett … and then those skills perfectly translated to TD Ameritrade Park, the second-year home of the College World Series.
The new park in Omaha isn’t quite as roomy as Hi Corbett, but it is big by college baseball standards and the wind is usually blowing in, requiring a huge poke to get the ball over the fence, especially to center (actually, there have been no homers to center in the two years the Series has been at TD Ameritrade).
“We walked in there and we were right at home, man,” Lopez said.
“I got the guys on the field after the first workout and said, ‘Fellas, we’re at home. Strikes are going to be rewarded, line drives in the gap are going to turn into doubles and triples, and no one is going to hit a home run.”
Well, Arizona’s Robert Refsnyder hit two, including an opposite field shot, and Bobby Brown hit one, but there were only 10 homes runs in 15 games at the College World Series.
Considering that Lopez hopes to be back at TD Ameritrade, he is fine with the big dimensions of Hi Corbett Field serving as a season-long primer to the College World Series, also providing a mostly unique home field advantage.
Hi Corbett’s fences are 360 feet away from home plate down the left-field line, 410 in left-center, 392 in center, 405 in right-center and 349 down the right-field line.
Arizona hit eight home runs in 1,403 home at-bats — one for every 175.4 at-bats. The Cats hit 13 home runs in 894 at-bats away from Hi Corbett — one in every 59.6 at-bats.
The Wildcats, relying on singles and that gap power, hit .329, the fourth-best mark in the nation.
Lopez did say he would like to see one change to those green fences.
“Dress them up a little bit because they look old, but, other than that, leave them right where they are,” he said. “That’s my vote.”