Tuesday, March 17, 2009

2nd Annual Baseball Heaven Series...The West

RT Staff Note:
"Is this heaven?"
"It's collegiate baseball."
"Collegiate baseball? I could have sworn this was heaven.."
We are ranking our collegiate baseball heaven by region the rest of this week. The West, by virtue of being our first in this series is our number one region because of these four words..."No Chance of Rain".

Yes folks, California and the western United States may be seen as a nutty place to be, but it's a dry, nutty place to live. In our many years out here, we have only seen a handful of rain outs...and that was in January or February when it does actually rain here. Of course, the rest of the country is shoveling snow at that time, so we'll forgive the rain gods for two or three rain-outs every ten years. As you and your sons decide on what colleges to target, we thought that a bit of dreaming is in order. These places are our pick for great places to play ball. Now if only they can get more fans out to the games, the West may be the best place to play. Thanks to the University web sites for the info and to our sons for the chance to see these places first hand in past tourneys and camps.

1. Arizona State

Our number one for several reasons. Tradition, Alumni and National Titles. They are the baseball version of UCLA basketball and USC football. They also reside in one of the best baseball climates in the country. If you like to play in warm weather (it’s near perfect in the spring and late winter), then this is your baseball heaven.

Winkles Field-Packard Stadium at Brock Ballpark, home of Arizona State baseball since 1974, is one of the nation's most beautiful collegiate ballparks. Known for its wonderful aesthetic features, the outfield wall is lined with palm trees, and just beyond the right-field fence is the award-winning Karsten Golf Course. In left field, sparkling Tempe Town Lake and the Tempe construction boom is visible. In the distance, the Superstition Mountains offer a picturesque backdrop. But for every bit of beauty that envelops the facility, there is an equal dose of tradition.

The facility is the home of two national championship teams and 14 NCAA regional tournaments. Arizona State's all-time record at Packard is 894-257-1, for a winning percentage of .776. Last season, ASU was 26-6 at home and over the last five seasons, ASU has won over 80% of its games at home.
In 1995, the Sports Turf Manager Association awarded groundskeeper Brian Johnson and Packard Stadium Field of the Year honors. In addition, a 2003 coaches survey published in Baseball America ranked ASU's baseball facilities among the Top 15 in the nation.

Just before the 2003 season, ASU installed a brand new playing surface featuring major league quality drainage and irrigation systems. The playing surface consists of tiff green grass in the infield and Bermuda grass in the outfield. The dirt portion of the infield is crushed red brick, which can be found at many major league stadiums. The playing surface is annually referred to as one of the nation's best.

A new players' facility, opened in August 2004, includes a clubhouse and a state-of-the-art sports medicine facility. The clubhouse also includes a video room, study area and meeting room.

2. Pepperdine

Pepperdine's home baseball games are played at Eddy D. Field Stadium, one of the nation's most picturesque collegiate facilities. The baseball field looks out over the Pacific Ocean. The campus is like a Club Med and is in tony Malibu. Oh yeah, Pamela Anderson is kind of like their team mascot and big athletic supporter. If this kind of thing gives you baseball sized goose bumps, (it does us) then this is your baseball heaven.

Original field construction was completed prior to the 1973 season, and the facility was then known as Waves Park. Pepperdine won the first game played at Waves Park, defeating Whittier by a final score of 5-2 on Feb. 16, 1973.

Bleacher and stadium seating was added in 1980, and the facility was officially dedicated as Eddy D. Field Stadium on March 30, 1980. Pepperdine defeated Nebraska by a final score of 5-4 on that date.

Eddy D. Field Stadium has seating for up to 1,800 fans. The facility includes a fully equipped press box, self-contained clubhouses underneath the grandstands, restrooms and a concessions booth. A significant portion of the playing surface was refurbished during the summer of 2003 and a state-of-the-art scoreboard with a video screen was added prior to the 2007 season.

Other recent improvements include additional batting cages, new lockers in the home clubhouse, an upgraded weight room and new blue plastic chair back seats installed during the summer of 2003. Fundraising is currently underway for a new screen backstop.

Pepperdine has posted a winning record at Eddy D. Field Stadium each year since 1974 and the Waves have won more than 70 percent of their home games over the years. The 2006 season marked a first in program history as Eddy D. Field Stadium was selected as the host site for an NCAA Regional.

The Eddy D. Field Stadium complex has been used extensively for the filming of several commercials and movies and has been the site for the University's commencement exercises.

3. Stanford

Often called the most beautiful college baseball facility in the country.
Located a short distance from Stanford Stadium (football field), the facility was originally constructed in 1931 and continues to have a seating capacity of 4,000.

In addition to being the home of Stanford Baseball, Sunken Diamond has also served as a host site for nine NCAA Regional Tournaments - 1983, 1985, 1987, 1990, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001, 2002, as well as NCAA Super Regionals in 1999, 2000 and 2002. A Sunken Diamond record of 4,172 fans witnessed the 1997 NCAA West Regional Final between Stanford and Fresno State.

It is also situated on one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. Arguably the nations top academic school, Stanford has had 93 Olympic Gold Medal winners and has won 109 national championships in various sports. If you are a sports fan, then this is your heaven.

4. UC Santa Barbara

The baseball field, it’s hitting facilities and locker rooms are top notch. The baseball stadium is average but has a charm about it… but the location of this school, its size and the weather makes this Big West school tops on our list.

See the picture to the right? It isn't altered. This is baseball heaven for the Oakley set. The school of 21,000+ students IS on the ocean. That whole area/peninsula shot you see there is the university. As if the Ocean wasn't enough, the school has a lake too. Dorms have million dollar ocean views at relatively inexpensive college prices. The stadium gets a nice breeze towards left, making it a bit easier for right handed hitters. The campus is gorgeous and so are the people that go there. Why this school doesn’t compete at Omaha year after year with the recruiting tool they have is beyond us.

They are competitive though. Last year the Gauchos won 36 games and return most of their team. Thay are ranked in the top 25 this year and will challenge for the Big West title. This is a bonafide baseball school folks, not just a pretty place to go to school. When you go on their web site you’ll find that they love their baseball and its alumni like perennial MLB All-Star Michael Young. Barry Zito, the Cardinals Skip Schumacker and the Rockies Ryan Spilborghs are also active major leaguers and ex-Gauchos.

5. San Diego State

Tony Gwynn Stadium is home to SDSU’s Aztec baseball team. The $4 million facility was made possible through the generosity of San Diego Padres owner John Moores, and is named in honor of SDSU alum and Padres’ Hall-of-Fame inductee Tony Gwynn.

Like UC Santa Barbara, the location and the fact that one of the greatest hitters of our time sits in the dug-out makes this our 5th choice for baseball heaven. The campus is also one of the most beautiful of all the state schools in California. Its Mission Style architecture, palm trees and patented warm climate is so very conducive to playing ball. They have a very good team this year and Steven Strasburg is the top pitcher in the country bar none this year. Look for the Aztecs to go far and win a MWC title.

In fact, you will find that this week, our baseball heaven entries are all in warmer weather climates. Why? Baseball is a warm weather sport boys. That's our take anyway. You will never see us crying over the fact that Texas, California and Mississippi aren't part of Hockey heaven places to play.

Enjoy our series. You may be disappointed that your school is not one of the chosen few, but you can't argue with who we picked either. There are others of course.

Fresno State

For sheer fan support, Fresno State packs them in game after game in a great baseball atmosphere. In fact, in terms of California fan support, the Bulldogs have the best fans in the west coast. The reigning national champs are favorites to win yet another WAC title and will try for a Oregon State like repeat in Omaha.

At UCLA, you gotta love a field named after Jackie Robinson.Oregon State has a great field, just lousy weather. West Coast Conference schools such as LMU and Santa Clara have great stadiums but lack a bit on the fan support. If your school is your baseball heaven, then comment below. It's all fun and all good.

"Is there a heaven?"
"Oh yeah. It's the place where dreams come true."
"Maybe this IS heaven."


Gapper Dan said...

One thing you didn't mention is that many of the schools you mentioned, Stanford, Pepperdine, Santa Barbara, UCLA and LMU are great academic schools as well. All things equal...Stanford is the top baseball/academic school and UC Santa Barbara is by far the most picturesque as well as being a highly ranked academic school. My daughter goes to school there and it's my sons top choice for baseball when his time comes.

Anonymous said...

Fresno State has the best facility. Not even close. When that place is full...which is most of the time, there is no better place to watch a game.

On another note, there's no better overall atmosphere than Santa Barbara. My son went to a week long camp there and after I dropped him off, I didn't want to leave. The dorms he stayed in had an unbelievable panoramic ocean view.

Anonymous said...

San Diego, home of Ron Burgundy, has the best overall climate for baseball and San Diego State is a great place to watch a game. The team is actually making some national noise this year and the fans are so adoring of Tony G that they will come out to wtach a game just to see him. I have been to Fresno State many times and while they pack them in, it's no San Diego State.

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