Sept. 16, 2008
TUCSON -- A new infield and -- for the first time ever -- a warning track are in the process of being completed at Arizona's softball complex, Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium.
Since last Thursday, the UA grounds crew has been hard at work preparing the playing surface for full team practices beginning next Wednesday and "Fall Ball," Arizona's fall tournaments.
The new infield is composed from a product called Stabilizer® "Pro Red" Infield Mix from Stabilizer Solutions, a landscaping company based in Phoenix. In previous years, the infield was made from a product called Hilltopper® Infield Mix, made by the same company, which contained polymers that bounded the surface together. But this surface did little to accept water, which led to puddles and chunks of clay being ripped off by cleats.
"Pro Red" is more conformable to weather, will improve footing and will help the overall play, according to John Slater, a softball groundskeeper. The mix is intended to not only accept water, but maintain a consistency throughout the infield. Also, a new pitching rubber and home plate are scheduled to be placed on the new surface this coming Thursday, after a laser-grading of the infield.
An eight-foot warning track is another new feature to the stadium. A first in the Mike Candrea era, the warning track spans the entire outfield fence and should provide outfielders some comfort in full chase of a fly ball. The track will also be made from the same substance as the previous infield.
Notes: Yesterday's walk-on tryout day consisted of 12 prospective student-athletes running a 20-yard sprint, fielding ground balls from right field and throwing them to both third and home bases and spending some time in the batting cages hitting off both a tee and a pitching machine.
Arizona's first full team practice is next Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 3:15 p.m. On Sept. 27, the Cats will host Yavapai and Eastern Arizona in exhibition matches at 4 and 6 p.m., respectively. Yavapai and Eastern Arizona will face off against each other at 2 p.m.
Head Coach Mike Candrea set off to Europe today for a 10-day trip to hold softball camps and help grow the sport in a critical region for the International Olympic Committee.
Catcher Stacie Chambers will be sidelined during Arizona's fall tournaments because of surgery on her right wrist to repair an ECU tendon sheath. The surgery is scheduled to take place tomorrow in Phoenix.