Jan. 12, 2010
2010 Baseball Schedule
TUCSON, Ariz. - The countdown to the start of the 2010 baseball seasons begins this week as the Arizona Wildcats return to campus for the commencement of the spring semester on Wednesday. While official practices cannot begin until February 1 per NCAA rules, players will return to strength and conditioning sessions as well as on-field skill work in preparation for the start of the season.
After finishing 30-25 overall a season ago, the Wildcats are under the radar nationally, but Arizona coaches and players feel that this year's club has real potential to return the program to the postseason after a one-year hiatus. Only a handful of players remain in the program from the UA team that narrowly missed the College World Series in 2008 after nearly upsetting Miami in the Coral Gables Super Regional.
This year, the Wildcats will turn to a young, but extremely talented group of players. While the official roster will not be fully narrowed down until closer the February 19 season opener, Arizona figures to have as many as 22 newcomers, including 17 true freshmen.
Arizona completed a fall practice season in November that showed tremendous promise for the upcoming season. A dedication to the fundamentals and intangible aspects of the game was the focus throughout the season as coaches worked to break in the youthful group to Division I college baseball.
"The intangibles we always work to establish in our program are that we compete every time we step onto a baseball field, that we do a very good job of executing and keep attention to detail, and that we represent ourselves in a respectable way off the field and in the classroom," head coach Andy Lopez said. "Those were areas that we were not very good in last year, but I think we've got a group that did a tremendous job developing those characteristics this fall."
Lopez said he saw much-needed improvement by his team in the classroom, something that is never easy with a large freshman class but is always critical to the success of a program.
"We have the best team GPA that we've had here in the last five years," Lopez explained. "Some people say that doesn't have anything to do with baseball, but I strongly argue against that. Baseball is a game of preparation and repetition just like many areas of academics. After 33 years of coaching, I have found a direct correlation to academic performance and how it translates to on-field performance. I feel real good about where we are at in both areas right now."
As current players gear up for the season, former Wildcats will begin to return to Tucson in preparation for Spring Training and their upcoming professional seasons. The return of major league players such as Brian Anderson, Trevor Crowe and many others will be accompanied with players like Jordan Brown and others who are primed for major league debuts soon.
Lopez is looking forward to his young players getting the opportunity to meet some of the former Cats. He feels that a handful of the freshmen are as talented or more talented than some former Cats already in the pros.
"I'm really looking forward to when those former players are back and our team can interact with them," Lopez said. "I think it will be a real positive. I can say, to some of our guys, not only are you as good or better than that guy was when he played here, but you're going to get a chance to meet that guy and see him work out."
As Lopez and his staff prepare for the 2010 season, pre-season workouts will continue to be critical for the development of the team prior to official practices beginning. But as the team starts to take shape, Lopez knows some things are certain at this point.
"I know that this year we have better athletes than we did last year and we have freshmen who respect baseball and academics," Lopez said. "I think that is a great foundation and I enjoy coming to work with these guys each day. It's really an enjoyable group right now that I'm looking forward to coaching them this season."
Arizona opens the season with a three-game series against Utah Valley February 19-21.