Winds of change blow TCU's Lupton Field fences closer

Posted Monday, Feb. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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For a coach and a program that has built its reputation largely on the back of outstanding pitching during the past 10 years, the changes at Lupton Stadium, undoubtedly, will turn a few heads.

And, in the case of the outfield wall, which has been moved in about 10 feet, TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle is hoping it's the heads of opposing pitchers whose heads are mostly turning.

No. 14 TCU, which opens its season Friday with a three-game series at No. 13 Mississippi, hosts its home opener Feb. 22 against No. 22 Cal State Fullerton.

Not only will fans see a slightly cozier park, but the grassy hill that kids have enjoyed sliding down along the right-field foul line has been replaced with terraced seating, including bleachers on the concourse and a private patio down at field level, which a group of 25 can purchase for $600 per game.

"Most coaches -- especially me -- always want their program built on pitching," said Schlossnagle, who begins his 10th season at TCU this weekend. "So I always want the field tainted toward the pitcher."

And for most of Schlossnagle's tenure, pitching has dominated at Lupton -- for several reasons.

Sure, TCU attracted top pitching recruits, accounting for some of the stingy offensive numbers, at least from opponents. But anyone who has watched a game or two at the stadium knows how strong the winds can be coming from the south, over the outfield toward home plate.

The new dimensions won't appear too drastic to most fans, partly because it was discovered the old fence wasn't measured properly.

For instance, the distances marked in both power alleys were significantly deeper than they were marked, making the changes cosmetic as well as physical.

Center field, the deepest part of the park, is now 395 feet, not 400. The left-field foul pole remains at 330 feet, with the left-center gap at 375, the right-center gap at 370, and the right-field pole sitting at 325, about 5 feet closer.

Schlossnagle decided a change was in order when college baseball changed its bat regulations before the 2011 season, which forced teams to use less-powerful aluminum bats that perform more like wooden ones.

"On a scale from one to 10 this has always been a solid 10 when it comes to being a pitcher's ballpark," Schlossnagle said. "When they changed the bats, it went beyond that. Between the size of the stadium and the fact that we face the strong south wind on most days ... then you add in the bats, it was beyond what it should be. It went too far."

Schlossnagle still has a pitcher's park, but it's no longer a "10" on the scale.

"I wanted to make it more of a fair park," he said. "On that scale it's probably a seven or eight. It will always be that because of the wind, but I wanted to try to level the field a little bit."

Other changes include a new warning track that runs the length of the foul lines. The entire park, including the new outfield wall, was outfitted with updated padding. The drainage was checked and the field leveled.

Perhaps the biggest change for fans in the stands, especially those with kids, is the absence of the grassy hill overlooking right field.

Ross Bailey, associate athletic director for operations, said taking away the hill wasn't an easy decision.

"We hated to have to come in and change it and terrace it, but we needed to figure out a way to increase our general admission seating as well as have some control from risk management issues. We think this actually helps enhance the ballpark."

TCU has sold more than 1,900 season tickets, a record for a team that was among the top 10 in attendance a year ago. The Frogs are coming off their third Super Regional appearance in four years.

"I'm sure there will be some people that miss having the kids be able to slide and stuff like that," Schlossnagle said. "But you've got to change with the times. As our attendance continues to get bigger, you want to give people a better seat to watch the game."

TCU hopes to begin an even bigger renovation this summer, which will include a bigger locker room, offices, and expanded training room and equipment area.

Stefan Stevenson

817-390-7760

Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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