In case you were wondering, yes, Tracy Smith would like something done about TD Ameritrade Park

(Dustin’s Note: All of this comes from a conversation Friday with Smith, which also produced this story in Saturday’s paper and this story in Sunday’s paper. Couldn’t fit these comments in either one of those, but thought they were still relevant considering the talk around Omaha this week.)

Before Indiana left Bloomington for the College World Series, IU coach Tracy Smith told reporters that his team wouldn’t change its approach at the plate because of the size and the in-ward blowing wind at Omaha’s T.D. Ameritrade Park. He said coaches told him to tell his players not to hit fly balls and to try to hit down on it. Smith said he told them that would be “like telling the Pope not to pray.”

The Hoosiers got to Omaha, though, and Smith learned that the park really does change the game. The Hoosiers, who led the Big Ten with a .301 batting average and 6.7 runs per game this season, scored a total of six runs in their three tournament games. They compiled 200 extra-base hits in 65 games this season, including 53 home runs, and slugged .443. They managed a total of three extra-base hits, all doubles, in three games at TD Ameritrade.

Smith didn’t blame that entirely on the ballpark and he certainly didn’t blame his Hoosiers two losses on it either. Indiana’s hitters were baffled by opposing left-handed pitching all week and struck out 38 times in three games, and the park had little if anything to do with that. However, he did join the chorus — led by Louisiana State coach Paul Manieri — suggesting that TD Ameritrade’s spacious dimensions and near constant headwind cause a drastic change to the game and give an unfair advantage to pitchers and that the fences need to be brought in if the College World Series is still to be held there. He’s also concerned about the Big Ten’s decision to hold next year’s conference tournament at TD Ameritrade. In the 12 games in the College World Series so far heading into the start of the best-of-three championship series Monday between UCLA and Mississippi State, a team has scored more than five runs in a game just three times. Just three home runs have been hit. UCLA is in the title game despite scoring a total of eight runs in three games.

“I don’t want to disrespect anybody,” Smith said. “I think everybody’s intentions were to make a beautiful, state-of-the art facility. I think they’ve done that. But I don’t think we can ignore the fact that the game that’s being played out there,  it’s not real baseball. The more that I watch it on TV, the amount of space messes with the integrity of the game. Not only is it virtually impossible to hit home runs, but where you can position your outfielders negates base hits. There are certain areas of foul territory that you’re seeing guys make plays in that they shouldn’t be in position to get to.

Smith said he does think the park is beautifully designed and doesn’t think the dimensions would be so bad if not for the wind. TD Ameritrade is bigger than most college ballparks but not overwhelmingly so. Bart Kaufman Field, for instance, is 400 feet to center field and 330 down the lines. TD Ameritrade is 408 to center and 335 down the lines. If the wind were not a factor, the size of the park could actually help gap-to-gap hitters because it would open up more space in the outfield. It’s not much bigger if its bigger at all than Rosenblatt Stadium, which was viewed as a launching pad before the NCAA changed its bat standards to deaden the bats.

But the wind is so strong and so constantly blowing in that balls that should reach the warning track or the wall are being brought down well short of that and outfielders can afford to play in and shrink the gaps between them without getting burned much by deep fly balls.

“Having just built (baseball and softball) parks, I know the designers of the ballpark had numerous discussions about wind patterns in the spring and in the summer and we made adjustments based on those particular factors,” Smith said. “The dimensions were the same as they were at Rosenblatt, but you can’t tell me they didn’t check the wind patterns before they decided to orient the field this way. I’m a little shocked that it got to this point. I never really paid much attention to it before because we weren’t in Omaha and I didn’t care, but now I can see why there are more and more and more different coaches like the Paul Manieri’s of the world that are being vocal about this. Now, we’re signed on to use this park for the Big Ten Tournament next year. I think that’s a mistake, because it’s not real baseball.”

 

7 comments

  1. Well said, that park turns college baseball into a women’s softball game! The super regionals were much more interesting than the CWS bc of the absurd stadium.

  2. Seems like what is being said is that there is nothing wrong with the Omaha WS stadium …except the wind. And yes, teams that depend on the homerun have to be willing to adjust to it. Same as what happens at Wrigley when it blows in from the lake (especially early spring phenomena). That’s what makes ‘beisbol so good’.

    Your report, “He [Coach Smith] said coaches told him to tell his players not to hit fly balls and to try to hit down on it. Smith said he told them that would be “like telling the Pope not to pray”, sort of opens a door perhaps we didn’t see in our enthusiasm. I say that because during the Mississippi State game the TV announcers reported that after the win over Louisville, when Coach Smith tried to go over additional instructions leading to the MSU game, the team basically clamored back ‘enough talking’.

    Coach Smith’s admonition that they avoid swinging for height and distance was more than a Papal sermon; it now appears from this report it was good baseball.

  3. Headwinds would probably be manageable if not for the deadening of the bats. In 12 games this year only 3 HR. 5 runs or more only 3 times in the same 12 games. OF’s playing shallow narrowing the alleys is a positive factor for the D. Lefty pitching silenced Hoosier scoring. But to keep every game from being a pitching duel shorten the fences. Play Ball!

  4. Good point HC, screwing around with the bats to begin with (wood to aluminum and then wondering why they were having to chase shots 3 miles down a hill, enginnering the ball, etc…just typical of the NCAA’, the game IS the game…don’t mess with it!

  5. HC,

    Your comment got my curiosity. The new bats were regulated in 2011 the same year that TD Ameritade opended, great planning.

    What follows may be more than you are interested in.

    New college baseball bats to perform like wood ones starting this season

    by Aabha Rathee
    Feb 18, 2011
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    NCAA’s Baseball Bat Standards

    The familiar ping of college baseball is set to change. The start of the NCAA baseball season on Friday coincides with a new rule that ensures that metal bats perform very similar to wooden ones. And the change in the bat’s performance will alter the sound as well – with a higher frequency being produced.

    All NCAA competition bats will now have to meet a new BBCOR, or “Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution” standard. It’s a complex formula that uses the mass and inbound and rebound speeds of the ball. But in short, what it measures is the bounciness of the ball when it hits the bat. The new enforced limit sets a coefficient of 0.50, which is typically how a wooden bat performs. This means that the new bats will not have a “trampoline effect,” which happens when the ball hits the thin metal surface of the bat causing it to depress and then return to its original position. The resulting impact to the ball is more bounce.

    The older NCAA standard BESR or the “Ball Exit Speed Ratio,” which measured the ratio of the ball exit speed to the combined speeds of the pitched ball and swung bat, has been done away with.

    Alan Nathan, a physics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been on the NCAA Baseball Research Panel since 2001 and also does independent research on the physics of baseball. Nathan answers questions on and why the NCAA took the decision and what this new regulation means.

    Q: Why did the NCAA find the need to move to the BBCOR standard? What does it measure differently from BESR?
    A: There has been a considerable amount of research into bat performance over the last decade, since the adoption of the BESR standard. The research concludes that the primary factor that determines field performance is the BBCOR. The BESR is a more indirect method of regulating performance, so switching from BESR to BBCOR is actually a simplification.

    Q: Is BBCOR a stricter standard?
    A: The BBCOR is not necessarily a stricter standard. As with any standard, the degree of strictness depends on where the line is drawn. The recent change by the NCAA was really two different changes. One was to use BBCOR as the metric of performance, as recommended by the Baseball Research Panel. The other was to set a maximum BBCOR so that the best performing non-wood bats are no better than the best wood bats. That line was set by the NCAA Rules Committee.

    Q: Do you see any basic similarity in principle between the the NCAA’s new standards and the recent moratorium on composite bats by the Little League?
    A: The moratorium on composite bats by the Little League really has nothing to do with the new NCAA standards. Composite bats are a problem for the governing organization regardless of the standard used to regulate their performance. Little Leagues uses the so-called BPF standard.
    NCAA uses the BBCOR standard. The Amateur Softball Association uses a batted-ball speed (BBS) standard. And for all these organizations, the “moving target” associated with the changing performance of composite bats is a problem.

    Q: Are these moves a step back for school and college baseball into the wooden age of bat technology?
    A: Certainly bat manufacturers are capable of producing bats that perform far better than the rules allow. That was true even with the BESR standard, under which non-wood bats could outperform wood bats by about 5 percent. With the new BBCOR standard, the gap in performance between wood and non-wood will be reduced to very close to zero. I suppose in that sense this is a step back.

    Q: Will that mean better preparation for younger players for professional leagues?
    A: I can only offer an informed opinion. Since professional baseball uses only wood bats, it must be considered better preparation for high school and college players to use wood bats, or at least bats that perform like wood.

    Q: Would the change translate into fewer home runs, or smaller run production?
    A: Of course, we shall have to wait and see what the statistics show. However, the expectation is that the number of home runs will be reduced in 2011 relative to previous years. Quite possibly total run production will also be reduced.

    Q: So if these bats perform very close to the level of wood bats, why can’t metal bats be completely done away with?
    A: By requiring that the BBCOR of metal bats be no greater than for wood, we are essentially saying that the maximum batted ball speed of metal will be no more than for wood. However, metal and wood bats are still different from each other in a very important way.
    The [moment of inertia] of a metal bat is less than [that] of a wood bat. While that does not have a big effect on the maximum batted ball speed, it does mean that a metal bat will be easier to swing. That allows a batter more bat control, perhaps allowing him to ‘get around’ quicker on a fastball, make adjustments on the curveball and other off-speed pitchers, etc. So, while a batter might not hit the ball harder with a metal bat, he might make good contact more often.
    But the original reason for aluminum was that they don’t break, and ultimately that might be the main reason not to abandon them.

    ©2001 – 2013 Medill Reports – Chicago, Northwestern University. A publication of the Medill School.
    .

  6. Thanks Jay Gregg. It is several handfuls more info than I would have expected to research on my own. It seems they could have run the operation of that project(NCAA’s Baseball Bat Standards)leaner by just switching to wood bats.

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