I'd seen the Dodgers and Pirates in a snoozer the night before and wanted to avoid another expensive evening, so I headed to the west side to catch some NCAA baseball. The #3-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils (35-5) were in town to start a 3-game set against #5 UCLA (30-7).
Jackie Robinson Stadium
The ballpark is located west of the UCLA campus on Constitution Avenue. Take the Wilshire exit off the 405 and go north on Sepulveda one block, then left at Constitution. There's a $5 fee for parking, and tickets are $7 with a $2 discount for AAA members. UCLA baseball has not been historically popular, but this year they are highly ranked and games are suddenly a hot ticket, so get there early to get a parking spot.
The stadium itself is quite small with about 1600 seats that only stretch partway to the bases. All seats are protected here, which makes sense as college ball uses aluminum bats. There's also a couple of recently-added bleacher sections higher up to help with the overflow crowds. Tickets are general admission, so again an early arrival is recommended as it was quite full by game time.
It's 330 down the lines and 395 to center, but the ball doesn't carry well here, at least in the evening games. There were at least two hits that I thought would be home runs, but both were caught at the wall. Just beyond the right field fence is the 405 and you can watch the traffic zooming by (or crawling if it's rush hour) during the inning breaks.
Three banners for ex-Bruins who made the majors (Todd Zeile, Eric Karros, Garrett Atkins) are present but that is about the only history here. There is a statue of Jackie Robinson (below) next to the marketing table, which is where you can get a free copy of the program.
The UCLA site has a good recap and box score if you are interested. The Bruins' starter was Gerrit Cole who was the Yankees 1st-round pick in 2008 but chose college instead. He was 6th in the country with a 12.42 K/9 ratio. He throws fast with a nasty curve, but had minor control issues, walking 4 in his 6 innings. He certainly let the umpire get to him early when a couple of close pitches were called balls instead of strike 3. The umpire was somewhat inconsistent, but Cole needs to focus on himself rather than the call. To his credit, he settled down and struck out 9 but was the hard-luck loser as his offense couldn't score but a single run, shown below as Blair Dunlap scored when Dean Espy grounded into a double play.
Dean Espy grounds into a double play...
Dunlap scores the first run of the game
ASU's Zack MacPhee (below) came in hitting .440 (16th in the nation) but could only muster a single in 5 trips.
This is my second NCAA game and I like that they allow the pitchers to throw. Cole tossed 124 pitches before being removed while Seth Blair hurled 113 for ASU. But neither pitcher had great control and the game stretched over 3 hours. The weather was wonderful though, so I didn't mind. It wasn't a great game but it was a lot of fun. The place was full of scouts and I'm sure a few of these guys will be drafted in June. I'll try to follow the draft and see who goes where. Perhaps I'll see one of these guys in a minor-league game down the road.
I'm writing this from my hotel near LAX as I'm flying to London in a few hours. I'm hoping to see an EPL game with West Ham in Fulham after I land but the hotel I originally expected to stay in (close to Fulham) has been changed to one quite far away, so I'm not sure if I'll make it. Check back next week to see what happened.