Baseball opens 2004 campaign against alumni

By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, January 23, 2004

With a schedule that includes a series against some of the best programs in the nation, the Arizona baseball program can look forward to a lot of important weekends this year. But it won't have to wait until play officially begins for the first of those - tomorrow's Jim Click Alumni Weekend.

The Arizona baseball program begins its 2004 season with the annual event tomorrow starting at noon at Frank Sancet Stadium.

The activities will begin with the rededication of the playing surface to honor former Wildcat skipper Jerry Kindall, who brought Arizona its three national championships.

"I'm really looking forward to it," head coach Andy Lopez said. "The dedication to coach Kindall is something that I never thought I'd see or be a part of, so it's a neat thing for me."

Lopez played and coached against Kindall during his tenure in Tucson and said he has a great deal of respect for the former Wildcat head coach.

"It's really much deserved and I'm really happy for coach (Kindall)," Lopez said.

Following the ceremonies, Arizona alumni will play in a four-inning exhibition against each other followed by a three-inning contest against the current Wildcats.

According to Frankie Acosta, director of the UA Letterwinners Association, there could be more than 120 former players who will attend the event. He expects a few of the bigger names to show up as well.

He said current Red Sox manager Terry Francona is expected to come, along with former major leaguers Scott Erickson, Gil Heredia, and Chip Hale, to name a few.

Acosta added that members from the 1954 squad, who earned the school's first playoff appearance, and players for the three national championship teams should be in attendance.

Lopez said this will be a great opportunity for current players to interact with former players and build on Arizona's past successes on the diamond.

"(The tradition) is very important, especially meeting the guys from the national championship teams," Lopez said.

"It should be a good time to hear their experiences, how they won it and what they did," said sophomore pitcher Chris Frey.

"It will be fun to see all the players that built up this program," said sophomore catcher Nick Hundley. "Being at a place where you can win and a place that has won three national championships is big, and meeting the people who did do that is important."

Lopez stressed the importance of alumni in the success of the program and said that sometimes their contributions can be overlooked

"We sometimes forget what others did to put the program where it is," Lopez said.

He added that the work of the alumni is largely responsible for the current luxuries of Arizona baseball such as the stadium, clubhouse and other facilities.

"We need to have those people here," Lopez said. "It's really their program. I just happen to be the head coach at this time in life."