National champion Arizona baseball team to be honored at Arizona Diamondbacks game
The Arizona Wildcats celebrate after defeating the South Carolina Gameocks during the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, Monday, June 25, 2012. (Gerry Melendez/The State/MCT)
The Arizona baseball team’s championship celebration is still not over, as the winners of the 2012 College World Series will be honored by the Arizona Diamondbacks Saturday night at Chase Field.
“These are always the perks after you win a national championship,” said head coach Andy Lopez, the National Coach of the Year last season. “I remember in ’92 (my Pepperdine team) was honored at Dodger Stadium. You work hard, it’s a long grind of a season and then it’s obviously a pretty good sprint for two weeks to try and win a national title.”
An on-field ceremony will be held to commemorate the national title, and Lopez will throw the first pitch for the UA Alumni Night.
“I throw batting practice every day so I’m pretty comfortable throwing strikes,” Lopez said. “Hopefully they’ll give me a chance to get loose and throw a little bit though.”
As the coach of a baseball team, throwing the first pitch with tens of thousands of eyes watching could be nerve-wrecking for because of the heckling likely to follow if he makes a mistake. Lopez isn’t worried at all, though.
“I was nervous when my kids were born, but other than that, it’s been a pretty boring life,” Lopez joked.
Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez threw the first pitch for the Diamondbacks in April, but he shared the spotlight with ASU football head coach Todd Graham.
This time, Lopez, a three-time National Coach of the Year, will have the mound all to himself as he opens up the Diamondback’s game against division rival, the San Diego Padres, at approximately 5:10 p.m.
The honor comes almost two months after the Wildcats went on an 10-0 undefeated postseason run, capping it off with a sweep of the two-time defending champion, the South Carolina Gamecocks.
“For me I’ve just been floating on cloud nine, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same for everybody else,” starting catcher Riley Moore said. “I mean, it’s a big deal, a national championship in Division I baseball … It’s crazy, I hardly even ever dreamed of doing what we did.”
At least five of Arizona’s most important players from the College World Series run won’t be able to attend Saturday. Kurt Heyer, Alex Mejia, Robert Refsnyder, Seth Mejias-Brean and Joey Rickard are all busy on MLB rosters. All of the returning players will travel up to Phoenix together on a bus and take part in the festivities.
It’s always a neat thing for the team to experience being on a major league field since most of the players hope one day to be making a profession out of baseball, Lopez said.
The College World Series victory marked Arizona baseball’s fourth national championship and its first since 1986.
“I’m really happy for the guys and these are things they’ll remember for the rest of their life, and it’s kind of fun for them to be a part of something like this.”