Archive for Saturday, March 6, 2004

Jayhawks to unveil softball stadium today

Kansas to meet Utah, Nebraska in first games at Arrocha Ballpark

March 6, 2004

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Allen Fieldhouse has been called everything from tradition-rich to deafening to venerable to imposing. Now add "hitter's background" to the descriptive mix.

Batters at Arrocha Ballpark, new home of Kansas University's softball team, will see Allen Fieldhouse beyond the outfield fences.

"Having a new background is weird," KU sophomore shortstop Destiny Frankenstein said. "But it's cool weird."

KU is scheduled to play its first games today in Arrocha Ballpark. The Jayhawks will meet Utah at 10 a.m. and Nebraska at 2:30 p.m. in the three-team Jayhawk Classic.

At old Jayhawk Field, the softball facility razed to make room for the new digs, batters saw houses and apartments along 19th Street in the distance. KU coach Tracy Bunge lobbied for flip-flopping the field because she wanted her players hitting with the prevailing southwesterly winds instead of into them.

"You'll see a lot more runs," Bunge said, "because 80 percent of the time the wind will be blowing out."

A rules change has softened the core of collegiate softballs this season, although to little effect, Bunge noted.

"You'll see the number of home runs go up even though they've decreased the core," she said. "We've been hitting the ball all over the park."

KU players have bashed 14 home runs in 13 games, including six by designated player Serena Settlemier. Last year, Kansas hit a school-record 37 home runs, more than twice as many as its opponents.

Another reason Bunge expects copious scoring this weekend is the new fast-drying dirt and polymer infield.

"I love the surface even though it will be harder to play shortstop," Frankenstein said. "I like it because it should help my batting average."

The surface is hard ... very hard.

"The infield will be extremely fast," Bunge said. "It's a hard surface, but basically we just need more time to fluff it up."

After approximately two inches of rain fell Thursday, Arrocha Ballpark passed its first drainage test.

"There was a little bit of standing water, and we pushed it off," Bunge said Friday. "I'm happy with the way the field handled the water. It did exactly what it was supposed to do."

Arrocha Ballpark was made possible by a $2 million gift from Cheryl Womack of Mission Hills. The facility is named in honor of her father.

Danny Manning will throw out the ceremonial first pitch during this morning's pregame dedication ceremony. The first 500 fans will receive commemorative seat cushions.

KU is scheduled to meet Utah and Nebraska again with 12:15 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

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