Omaha's power shortage continues
Home runs are rare at TD Ameritrade Park. Texas finally hit one in 1-0 win
OMAHA, Neb. -- I drive past the former site of Rosenblatt Stadium every day en route to the College World Series. It's not the shortest route, but it takes me around most of the traffic that floods downtown and offers a chance to salute the history of this event.
Usually, I don't take my eyes off the road, though. The sadness of leaving south Omaha has long since faded.
But I looked up on Wednesday and got a little nostalgic, noticing the familiar shape of the old hilltop and the billboard for Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, which has swallowed the old stadium property, perched in the same spot on which the left-field scoreboard once stood.
The last CWS played at Rosenblatt, in 2010, yielded 32 home runs in 14 games. In the final three years at the park, hitters averaged 2.45 homers per game.
Texas shortstop C.J. Hinojosa on Wednesday hit the first home run of this CWS, a bullet off UC Irvine's Evan Manarino into the left-field bullpen to open the top of the seventh inning. Coach Augie Garrido joked after the game -- a 1-0 victory -- that he suffered a "mild heart attack" and four players fainted in the dugout in response to the long ball.
"I put a long-distance call in to get Cinco de Mayo recognized as a national holiday in honor of him," the five-time national champion coach said.
Before Hinojosa's shot, 115 innings had passed since the last CWS homer. For those counting, the pitch count passed 3,000 in the fifth inning of Virginia's 3-2, 15-inning win over TCU on Tuesday. NCAA officials are taking note.
Yes, it's a problem.
Just ask the coaches who are winning games here, albeit without the home run.
"I think it's a serious issue," said Virginia coach Brian O'Connor, whose team will play Friday for a spot in the championship series. "That's not the way it is for all these teams in the regular season, regionals and super regionals."
Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said he's open to the idea of change.
Next year, the NCAA introduces a baseball with flattened laces, which will perhaps allow it to carry a few extra feet.
"There's not much we can do," Corbin said. "But there's enough conversation that's in play that may warrant more conversations and adjustments."
Aaron Fitt, the astute national college writer for Baseball America, has taken on Twitter to labeling any ball to clear an outfielder's head as a "TD Ameritrade Park homer."
On Tuesday in the 13th inning, TCU first baseman Kevin Kron, 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, tattooed a drive to left field. Fans stood in their seats. It was caught easily, eliciting laughter in the press box.
We've seen grumbling on social media from citizens of a city that would ignore most any malady to put their best feet forward during these two weeks of June. Attendance is still strong, averaging 22,361, but down more than 2,000 per game from a year ago.
"To get a double in this park, you feel like you've got to hit it down the lines," O'Connor said. "It doesn't seem like anything gets over anybody's head."
So might the fences come in? Likely, not until all other options are exhausted. And really, despite talk of the giant outfield, the dimensions of the new stadium bear a striking resemblance to Rosenblatt, regarded as hitter friendly.
But TD Ameritrade Park faces southeast, a non-traditional orientation, and the summer breeze -- gusting more than normal over the past week -- almost always blows in from right field.
"I think the wind may have changed," Hinojosa said of his shot, "so that was kind of lucky."
Most of all, the air just seems dead in the downtown park, maybe because of its low-sitting placement blocks from the Missouri River.
On the bright side, the pitching is excellent, and the games are close. Texas' win on Wednesday marked the 45th decided by one run in this NCAA tournament and the fourth in Omaha.
Games at Rosenblatt were prone to last 3 ½ hours and turn ugly in the late innings. Tuesday gave us walk-off victories by Ole Miss and Virginia. UC Irvine opened the bottom of the eighth and ninth innings on Wednesday by placing runners on base.
The action is interesting, if not exciting in the traditional CWS sense.
Is it worth the trade?
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