Hi Corbett's deep walls help Arizona baseball
When it comes to college baseball stadiums, and even major league ballparks, few come close to the deep dimensions of Hi Corbett Field, which is in its fifth season serving as the home of UA baseball.
The stadium’s history dates all the way back to its construction in 1927 and opening in 1928. It was originally named Randolph Municipal Baseball Park and served as the home of the minor league Class D Tucson Waddies.
Hi Corbett Field became host to Cactus League spring training games in 1945 when state Sen. Hiram Stevens Corbett convinced Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck—who had a ranch in Tucson—to bring his team. The stadium was renamed Hi Corbett Field in 1951 in honor of Sen. Corbett.
The Cleveland Indians stayed at Hi Corbett Field until 1992 and a new expansion team, the Colorado Rockies, took its place in 1993. The Rockies left Hi Corbett Field after demanding more renovations following 2010 spring training, which opened the door to the Wildcats.
Arizona agreed to leave Jerry Kindall Field Frank Sancet Stadium in 2011 and made Hi Corbett Field their permanent home facility.
It is a challenging place offensively, but it works to a pitcher’s advantage with dimensions of 349 feet down the right field line, 405 feet to left center, 392 feet to center, 410 feet to left center and 366 feet down the left field line.
“When you play in a park like this, it’s deep all over the place pole-to-pole, so the mentality is hard and low, basically,” said first baseman Ryan Aguilar. “Sometimes, you get into one just by thinking hard ground ball or line drive.”
Aguilar said that when players think they have a homerun at Hi Corbett Field, it usually ends up being an out, and they have to get into it for a ball to get out.
Arizona coach Jay Johnson said a player can never be reliant on the homerun when playing in a park like the Wildcats’, and teams must be able to score in a number of different ways.
“We really try to be proficient in the bunting game,” Johnson said. “I think eliminating free bases is always important. … It’s even more important because you really have to earn your runs here, especially at night. From an offensive philosophy standpoint, hitting the ball on a line, or line drive down as we call it, is really important. You want to minimize the fly ball outs that you hit.”
The field’s dimensions are advantageous to pitchers, especially pitchers who can draw a lot of fly balls.
“From a pitching standpoint, I think it’s good having good curve ball guys,” Johnson said. “Good curve ball guys usually get fly balls and so that’s going to be a point of emphasis in recruiting.”
Johnson will be looking to recruit guys like right-handed pitcher Nate Bannister. He is 5-0 at home this season with a 0.86 ERA.
“I just like to get ground balls, so if I fall behind a hitter or two, I try to make sure I get a strike,” Bannister said. “And if it’s up, then I know my outfielders will run it down with the big gaps.”
Bannister’s complete game was an example of Hi Corbett Field working to the Wildcat’s advantage, but the stadium’s dimensions worked against them a couple of days later.
Arizona was on the brink of sweeping the Cardinal last weekend, taking a 5-4 lead into the ninth inning, when Quinn Brodey came up and hit a two-run inside the park homerun to spoil the Wildcats’ chances at a sweep.
“It’s a big park and you can’t cover all of it,” Johnson said. “This park has been really good to us advantageously and it beat us right there.”
Few stadiums in the Pac-12 Conference come close to the dimensions of the Wildcats’ home, but some Pac-12 stadiums are by no means strangers to deep walls. Smith’s Ballpark, home of the Utah Utes, is 345 feet down the left field line and only 315 feet down the right field line, but dead center outdoes Hi Corbett Field’s 392 feet at 420 feet.
Phoenix Municipal Stadium, home of the ASU Sun Devils, is 345 feet down both the right and left field lines and is 410 feet to center field.
Though it can be a challenging place to play, Arizona has had its share of success at Hi Corbett Field, winning its fourth national championship under former head coach Andy Lopez in its inaugural season at the park.
The Wildcats have a 25-14 overall record this season and a dominating 17-5 home record. Johnson said he is satisfied with the way his team has played at Hi Corbett Field.
“I want to build an offense that’s capable of winning any kind of game in any kind of park and is adaptable to whatever situation that is,” Johnson said. “I think we have mature guys that understand the game and understand what they need to do to be successful in a ballpark like this and offensively, we’ve done a pretty good job of that so far.”
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