Crowds at the College World Series this year "remain strong," but there "remains an overwhelming sense that something needs to be done" regarding low offensive outputs to keep people coming, according to Pat Borzi of the N.Y. TIMES. The CWS last year attracted a record 341,483 fans (24,392 per game), and crowds this year have averaged 21,872 for 13 games heading into yesterday's Finals. Big West Commissioner and NCAA D-I Baseball Committee Chair Dennis Farrell said, "Scoring is certainly one that is on everyone’s mind. Could it use a little more scoring? Yeah, a little bit more. But I don’t think going back to where we were in the 1990s is certainly the answer." The NCAA said that for the "first time since the introduction of aluminum bats in 1974, there were no home runs in the first eight games of the series." Teams hit 32 homers in '10, the final year at Rosenblatt Stadium -- eight more than TD Ameritrade Park "has yielded in four seasons as the host ballpark." Since the ballpark switch, "no team has overcome a deficit of more than four runs to win." This CWS "now has 87 runs; last year’s had 86, the fewest since the NCAA introduced the eight-team, double-elimination format in 1950." TD Ameritrade’s outfield dimensions "are identical" to Rosenblatt’s, but that "is deceptive." Rosenblatt, built "on a hill, faced northeast." The prevailing wind from the south "frequently blew out, helping fly balls carry." TD Ameritrade "opens southeast, accenting the downtown skyline, so the same wind blows in." ESPN analyst Kyle Peterson is "among those who favor moving the fences." He said, "If you bring them in 10 or 15 feet, maybe that will be enough. But they’ve got to do something, because you can’t take the home run out of the college game" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/24).
Events and Attractions
MLB last night announced a broad restructuring of the competition format for the annual Home Run Derby, which in recent years has come under increased criticism for being overlong and bloated. The new structure will feature 10 participants, up from the traditional eight, with five representing each league. Hitters will have seven outs each, down from 10, and after the opening round a bracket-style format will be used to winnow the competition. With the inclusion of the bracket structure, the Derby will now encompass four rounds instead of the prior three. But with no cumulative carry over of home run totals from round to round, the new format is designed to inject more head-to-head drama and a quicker pace to the event. Prior Home Run Derbies have often required at least three hours to complete, with the first round alone lasting about two hours. Blue Jays RF Jose Bautista was named captain of the AL team for this year’s Derby, with Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki serving as NL captain. ESPN again will broadcast the Derby, which carries a new title sponsorship from Gillette.
USGA Exec Dir Mike Davis said that holding the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open in back-to-back weeks at Pinehurst No. 2 "might be a break-even proposition for the USGA, even though there was a savings -- the USGA won’t say how much -- in keeping the infrastructure in place for a second week," according to Alexander & DeCock of the Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER. Davis added that those savings would be "offset by reduced revenue because corporate hospitality sales and ticket sales were coupled to cover both events." Final attendance figures for the Opens "aren’t complete, and the USGA said total attendance for the two weeks will be about 340,000." In comparison, the '05 U.S. Open at Pinehurst "drew 325,000, setting an attendance record." Holding the events in back-to-back weeks at Pinehurst "went as smoothly -- and the USGA believes, successfully -- as anyone could have anticipated." Davis before the U.S. Open began said that the two-week run "wouldn't be perfect." Alexander & DeCock: "But it came pretty close." It helped that there was "just one weather suspension during the two weeks -- for a thunderstorm late in the first round of the Women’s Open." Davis: "Mother Nature gave us a big, big break" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 6/24).
HIGHS & LOWS: In Raleigh, Luke DeCock reports Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore’s restoration of the No. 2 course "to the spirit of Donald Ross’ original 1907 design ... received rave reviews." The course "held up beautifully, with the greens playing as smooth and as pure on the final day of the Women’s Open as they had during the men’s practice rounds." However, an "unexpected drought this spring" left No. 2’s Bermuda grass brown in wide areas outside the middle of the fairways, "making for unattractive television viewing, albeit without impacting play." It also was "beastly hot at times during both events," and the USGA was "forced to issue vouchers for free bottled water" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 6/24). GOLF WORLD's Jim Moriarty writes there is "a lot that could have gone wrong." The USGA "took great pains to make sure the examination Michelle Wie faced at Pinehurst No. 2 was just as fresh as the one Martin Kaymer passed so superbly." All of the hypothetical problems "seemed just that, hypothetical." The USGA prepared by "collecting 50,000 data points on both the men and women" (GOLF WORLD, 6/30 issue).