Feb. 17, 2012
By Adam Gonzales
Arizona's No. 5-ranked baseball team will open its season this weekend, but there is more excitement in the clubhouse this year than usual. After 44 years, the Wildcats are leaving their previous home stadium, Frank Sancet Stadium, and will be playing at their new home, about five minutes west to Hi Corbett at Reid Park.
Everyone involved in the program is excited about the move to Hi Corbett, especially junior pitcher Kurt Heyer.
"I love it," Heyer said. "I feel right at home. "It's a shame I wasn't here two or three years ago."
Heyer said without any hesitation that the new clubhouse was his favorite part about the new stadium.
"It's huge," Heyer said. "Our lockers are triple the size of the ones at McKale, it's a big-league atmosphere in there."
Heyer will again be the Wildcats' pitching ace this year. He led Arizona last year with a 2.41 ERA last year and is looking to top that this year. For the Wildcats to be successful this year, he is going to have to shoulder the load again.
"I want to get the chance to help the team as much as I can this year," Heyer said. "It would be nice to get 20 starts again this year, then get hot at the right time and make it to Omaha and hopefully start a couple of games there."
Head Coach Andy Lopez is excited about starting the new season at Hi Corbett as well.
"It's a great baseball facility," Lopez said. "It's exactly what you would want if you're a young guy, to be in that kind of setting."
The dimensions of Hi Corbett are similar to the ones at Sancet Stadium, so the adjustments won't be too challenging.
"It won't be much of a change for us," Lopez said. "The field at Sancet/Kindall was 360 feet down the line and this one is 349 feet down the line. It won't change our philosophy offensively. This is the way we have played everywhere I've gone."
Lopez has high expectations for Heyer this year because of the success he had last year.
"He wants the ball," said Lopez. "He doesn't want to come out of the game, but my dream is for him to throw less innings this year."
Lopez also has high expectations for the rest of the team.
"We talk about this every year," Lopez said. "We talk about getting hot at the right time, starting hot, playing well through the Pac-12 and trying to get to Omaha."
Many believe that the Pac-12 is known as one of, if not the best conference in the country in baseball.
"It is just a grind every weekend," Lopez said. "I think there are six teams that are ranked in the top 25 from the Pac-12 this year, so that's always a bear."
Despite facing several difficult teams during the season, Heyer hopes that his team will play to its No. 5 preseason ranking.
"I'm excited for this year also because of the expectations," Heyer said. "We have a lot of key guys coming back that have played in starting roles since they were freshmen and now it's just a matter of making a run at Omaha."
Heyer's main goal is to give his team a chance to win every time he is given the start.
"I'm just going to try to throw as many strikes as I can," Heyer said. "I just want to keep the game close and just try to do the same things I did last year, maybe a little bit better."
The anticipation of playing at Hi Corbett is an exciting prospect for all. Arizona is looking to come out of the gates strong this weekend against North Dakota State.
The Wildcats play at 6 p.m. on Friday, 4 p.m. on Saturday, and at noon on Sunday. They are looking forward to playing in front of a big crowd this weekend and are hoping that this is the start of their journey toward Omaha and a National Championship.