In wake of record CWS attendance, moving in fences may prove costly
OMAHA, Neb. -- The lack of offense, most notably home runs, has been a major topic of conversation among fans and media at the College World Series.
The NCAA has noticed, too, but no immediate changes are planned in an attempt bring up the numbers.
There were three home runs hit in the 14 games, and some have suggested that the fences should be moved in at TD Ameritrade Park.
''All of that costs money, and we would do that why? So there would be a few more home runs? Is it worth it?'' said Damani Leech, the NCAA's director of championships and alliances. ''We've only had three home runs, yet we've had the highest average attendance in the history of the College World Series.''
Leech officially takes over as lead administrator for the CWS on July 1, replacing the retiring Dennis Poppe.
Leech said in an interview Tuesday that the offensive issues at the CWS coincide with the drop in offense throughout all of college baseball since the dialed-back metal bats were put into play in 2011. According to the NCAA's midseason statistics report, the latest data available, the per-team average for home runs was about one every three games. The year before the new bat specifications, the average was about one a game.
Leech noted that there were nine home runs hit at TD Ameritrade Park in its first year, 2011, and there were 10 last year.
''Were folks comfortable with that number?'' Leech said. ''That's the kind of conversation we've got to have, that the baseball committee's got to have. Are we comfortable with the kind of baseball that's being played here at our premier national event?''
The fences at TD Ameritrade Park are 335 feet down the lines, 375 in the power alleys and 408 to center field. Those are identical to the dimensions at the old Rosenblatt Stadium, where there were an average of 33 home runs during the last 10 years the CWS was played there.
Not only have the bats changed since the CWS was played at Rosenblatt, so has the field orientation. Batters faced the northeast at Rosenblatt and were able to launch flies into the prevailing south wind most days. They face the southeast at TD Ameritrade, meaning they usually hit into the wind.
Leech said he spoke with the agency that operates the stadium to see if they could give him an estimate for what it would cost to move in the fences. They couldn't come up with a figure, but they pointed out there would be significant costs associated with addressing the angles of some of the outfield seats and having to make changes in grading.
The batting average during the three years the CWS has been played at TD Ameritrade is .236. Last year's .234 was the lowest since it was .227 in 1974, the year metal bats replaced wood.
Researchers from Washington State, representatives of Rawlings Sporting Goods and American Baseball Coaches Association executive director Dave Keilitz met with NCAA officials on Tuesday to discuss possible changes to the ball.
Leech said the consensus is there will be no change to the core of the ball, but they did discuss the possibility of switching from the raised-seam ball to the flat-seam ball used in professional baseball.
No change in the ball could take effect until 2015, which is at the end of the current moratorium on baseball rule changes.
''Generally people don't want to see us go back to the days of 21-run games,'' Leech said.