Saturday, March 3, 2012

Loyola Marymount Lions 2 at Cal State Fullerton Titans 6 (NCAA Baseball) - February 29, 2012

It's Leap Day! Is there a better way to celebrate this quadrennial event than watching a baseball game in California before flying back to Japan? I couldn't think of one, so I ventured over to Fullerton to watch the Cal State Fullerton Titans taking on the Lions of Loyola Marymount in a non-conference game.

Goodwin Field

Opened in 1992 as Titan Field, Goodwin Field is celebrating its 20th anniversary this season. In that time, the Titans have amassed an amazing home advantage, winning over 75% of their contests played here. They also have won two national championships during those two decades, adding to the two they had won previously, making them a well-known program in college baseball.

The ballpark is located on the north side of the campus, just off Yorba Linda Boulevard. Parking costs $8 for any long-term lot (i.e. greater than 2 hours) within the campus confines but is not enforced on Friday evenings or weekends, which is when most games are held so this shouldn't be a problem. Lot G is the closest to the stadium.

Tickets vary from $15 for the good box seats down to $8 for general admission. There are ushers but they didn't seem to check for tickets, so if you are there for a less popular game, you can just buy the cheapies and sit where you want. Be aware though that this team does draw well for certain rivalries, but it doesn't matter, there is not a bad seat in the place. There is a screen that covers most of the seating area but section D has a clear view as do the unreserved sections.

The ballpark is park of a larger sports complex and the softball field shares the concourse above first base. I doubt they play games at the same time, but I did see the softball team practicing (above) which was quite interesting. Another sport I have to add to the list.

The Titans do a great job of commemorating their storied past. There is a list of every All-American as well as other national awards that takes up a whole side wall of the press box (above), and on the other side you will see the Wall of Champions which includes the rosters of all four national champs (below) as well as individual plaques for those stars who played here, including Tim Wallach and Mark Kotsay.

Above each section are small banners that list star players who have used those particular numbers, another nice touch.

There is a VIP room as well that is heated but didn't seem to be used by too many fans. You can see it on the right side of the picture below.

Above the batters eye are pennants for each team in the Big West conference, another feature I haven't seen before at this level.

There are lots of concession choices here, including several trucks which offer options that are not usually available at college ballparks. Prices were not cheap though, with pizza slices going for $5. Kettle corn seemed to be a fan favourite with snack bags just $3 and certainly providing far more than a snack.

Unlike other NCAA ballparks, Goodwin Field has local advertising above the fences, perhaps because it was also used by an independent league team, the Orange County Flyers. A charter member of the Golden Baseball League that were managed for a season by the late Gary Carter, the Flyers did not play in 2011 but intend to be part of the North American Baseball League this season.

Overall, Goodwin Field is a great college ballpark, and is definitely worth checking out if you are in LA, as it is less than 30 miles from downtown and will provide you with a chance to appreciate a baseball program that has succeeded over the years and is still relatively unknown outside college baseball circles.

The Game

Loyola Marymount is not a baseball powerhouse coming in at 2-5 while Fullerton was ranked #17 by the NCAA despite a rather unimpressive 4-3 start. The player to watch here is Michael Lorenzen (below), a sophomore who played with Team USA this past summer.

As this was a midweek game, neither team started their top pitchers, with the Lions sending lanky lefty Matt Florer (below) to face Koby Gauna, a freshman making his first college start.

LMU scored in the top of the second on a single, wild pitch, and another single but Fullerton tied it when Lorenzen doubled to lead off the third, advanced on a wild pitch and scored when the catcher threw the ball wildly past third base. That was all for Florer, who was replaced by Kevin Glomb, the first of 5 Lions' relievers on the day.

The game remained tied until the 7th when Scott Harkin led off with a homer for LMU, but again the Titans tied it, this time using 2 balks from LMU's Ramiro Carreon to plate the run.

Things went from bad to worse for LMU in the 8th. A leadoff single and sacrifice bunt were all well and good, but a hit batsman and a walk loaded the bases. Matt Orloff then attempted a squeeze but Lions' hurler Aaron Griffin threw wild to allow the first run to score and sending him to the showers. Then Keegan Dale executed a perfect bunt off Ryan Hawthorne to score another and Lorenzen grounded out to make it 5-2. Another single scored the final run of the night as the Titans used 3 unearned runs in the frame to win 6-2.

As you can tell, this was not a pretty game, with errors, wild pitches, balks, and passed balls all contributing to runs. Not only was the play rather poor, so was the umpiring. In the bottom of the third, Carlos Lopez grounded to short but the throw was offline. The first baseman missed the tag but Lopez missed the base (below). The umpire called safe too early though, when he should have said nothing, causing the Lions' manager to come out for an explanation. Lopez was later picked off second in another questionable call.

Not a wonderful game with all the bad plays and officiating, but that is what makes baseball so interesting. I'm just glad the game didn't go to extras as I needed to get to LAX for my flight home, which I did with plenty of time to spare.


Blue Jay ace Ricky Romero was a member of the 2004 championship team, winning two games in the College World Series. David Cooper, another Blue Jay who is on the bubble this spring is also a former Titan.

Loyola Marymount was the first school to play at Goodwin Field, being swept in a doubleheader on April 18, 1992.

College baseball is still a sport that thrives without the hype. The fans here were a lot of fun and although there were a few LMU supporters, there was some good-natured ribbing. Much like minor league ball, the game is the most important thing and fans don't derive their identity from the success or failure of the team. I'll be trying to add more college ballparks to my list as it is so much more enjoyable than the hype machines that are college football and basketball.

Next Up

I'm back in Japan and taking it easy for the next month. I'll be going to Okinawa for a week near the end of March and will see the two top bj League teams in action there, and I've got tickets to the first MLB game of the season in Tokyo on March 28, so I'll be recapping those. In the meantime, the sports world has seen lots of big news with the expanded MLB playoffs the most interesting. I'll be adding a few commentary posts on these and other news items, so check back often.



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