UA baseball's Terry Francona Hitting Center opens with alumni game
The brand-new Terry Francona Hitting Center is officially open. Francona himself made the trip down to Tucson and cut the ribbon, opening the facility at UA baseball's Hi Corbett Field. The whole day was a celebration as alumni came to play in a scrimmage that was open to the public.
The scrimmage was followed by a barbecue for the players, donors and season ticket holders. The day ended with speeches from head coach Jay Johnson, Director of Athletics Dave Heeke, University of Arizona President Dr. Robert Robbins and Francona.
Chip Hale and Francona were the two managers for the game and both have managerial experience. Hale, the former Diamondbacks head coach, played at Arizona from 1984–1987 and started 255 games in his UA playing career. He won a national championship in 1986.
Francona, the current manager of the Cleveland Indians, has won two World Series with the Red Sox. He lost Game 7 in 2016 with the Indians. Francona won a national championship at Arizona in 1980 and also received the Golden Spikes award, which is equivalent to college football's Heisman Trophy.
The two teams had a range of players from the 1970s all the way up to last year. Some notable players include Kurt Heyer (2012 College World Series champion), Jack Howell, Joel Estes (1986 College World Series champion), Steve Strong (1986 College World Series champion), Rich Tomey and Shelley Duncan.
There wasn’t an MVP award given out after the game, but if there was, Shelley Duncan (1999–2001) would’ve won. In just four innings, he hit two home runs and a double that scored almost half of the red team’s runs. The red team went on to win by a score of 11-1 in four innings.
At the barbecue after the game, fans and attendees were able to talk to anyone they wanted. They were also free to ask for pictures and autographs. After the lunch, everyone made their way over to the hitting facility to see the unveiling.
Johnson spoke about how much of an impact the facility is going to have on recruiting.
“I don’t think we’ve had a better example in the history of our program than what Terry has done to create this,” Johnson said. “When you’re recruiting the type of players we’re trying to recruit ... this matters.”
When asked about why he wanted to give back and help, Francona was gracious toward the university and the baseball program as a whole.
“I’m happy to help. This university gave me my future, and without that, I never would’ve made it in the major leagues.” Francona said.
The hitting facility is all turf, has four batting cages, a full-sized bunting practice area and four turf mounds to help pitchers adjust for when they play on turf fields. It’s open at all times of the day for players to go in and use, and is 100-percent climate controlled.
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