SAN DIEGO, CA. (02/28/14) – With Major League Baseball currently in Spring Training mode, San Diego State University (6-2) and the University of San Diego (7-1) baseball squads are off to great starts in NCAA Division I local play at Tony Gwynn Stadium and Fowler Park. And these two teams competing at two great facilities have a lot to offer San Diego baseball fans right now through mid-May, not in a month when MLB Opening Day kicks off March 30th.
Attending Toreros and Aztecs games is probably one of San Diego’s best kept baseball secrets for a huge number of reasons. Both teams went to the NCAA Regionals last year and had a chance to play each other, but UCLA defeated both teams and spoiled that opportunity en route to it’s eventual 8-0 College World Series victory over Mississippi State.
And coming up March 4, the 2013 third place West Coast Conference guys from Alcala Park meet the 2013 Mountain West Tournament champions on Montezuma Mesa at 6 p.m. for the first of two 2014 cross-town rivalry match ups. The the rubber match will be played on April Fool’s Day at Cunningham Field. Last year the Aztecs swept three games from the Toreros, ruining the opening weekend of just-built Fowler Park for the white and blue. USD leads the rivalry, 17-15.
Besides the records, rankings and rivalry, these games and teams are easy on the eyes, easy to get in and out of, easy on the pocketbook and easy to like. Not to mention the fact that both teams are currently scoring runs at a frenetic pace, with USD recently setting a school record for five consecutive wins with scoring in double digits (New Mexico 17-2, and a four game sweep of Northern Kentucky 19-3, 13-3, 12-0 and 14-8). The Aztecs have unleashed 42 runs in its first 7 games.
Both playing facilities are gorgeous and feature state-of-the-art everything, and were constructed with hosting NCAA regional playoffs in mind, not to mention the local boys’ comfort. Both stadiums have 3,000 seat capacity, that strangely, are largely going unused. A Saturday night game at Charlie Smith Field against West Virginia (an SDSU 7-3 win) had an announced attendance of 686, and according to West Coast Conference statistics, Cunningham Field drew an average of 859 per home game. The lack of high attendance numbers, however, could be why these games are like baseball gemstones to be found by he unsuspecting fan.
There’s plenty of room at the parks at both universities, with no drunken fools yelling or spilling beer on you (unless you enjoy that) or people making you stand up every half inning to get by during key moments of a game.
The sight lines are terrific from any seat in the houses. USD wins on seating just for the fact that Fowler has cup holders and Gwynn doesn’t. Between innings, both locations feature all kinds of entertainment from drawings to fun mascots running around and great PA systems playing everything from Michael Jackson to AC/DC and Led Zeppelin tunes.
You might want to bring a seat pad, a glove and a warm jacket as it can get a bit chilly for the 6 p.m. evening games (Monday to Saturday). Home day games for both teams warm up and are usually at 1 p.m. Down the lines, USD is 312 feet to left, 395 to center and 329 to the right. There’s a sign on the rooftop of a residence hall closest to the field marked at 452 feet. SDSU’s lines are even at 340 and 412 to center.
The atmosphere at both facilities is casual, relaxed and family friendly, good for both the hardcore baseball enthusiast or the whole clan. Both USD and SDSU feature great play areas for kids, not to mention a much better chance for them to retrieve a foul ball while running freely through the park confines, definitely a better than one-in 40,000 shot at it than at a Major League ballpark. On Sundays USD lets kids in eighth grade and under in for free and run the bases after the game; SDSU lets the kids run the bags after Friday night games. Got a special birthday or announcement to make on the scoreboard? Not a problem at either facility. And don’t forget the seventh inning stretch.
Did I mention easy on the wallet? Small price to pay for seeing pure collegiate athletes play ball. For single game seats, USD reserved tickets are $10 with a $5 Friday promotion. SDSU is general admission for $6 every day of the week and has reserved season ticket seats closest to the field and behind home plate. Parking at USD is free in the Mission Structure on the east side of campus near the football field and has electric vehicle charging stations! Just make sure to stop at an entrance kiosk and get a permit for attending the game. It’s $1 per hour in Structure P5 at SDSU across from Viejas Arena from a self-service kiosk in the garage.
At a recent SDSU game, a father bringing a family of four to Tony Gywnn Stadium for the first time was happily stunned at the $24 price of admission. The Toreros have a spring game program packed with information and a game day scorecard insert for $2 and the Aztecs provide a game day sheet for free.
Watching USD’s sophomore Troy Conyers (LHP/1B, El Capitan High School) pitch and scoop digs at first base or seeing SDSU junior 2014 pre-season All-MWC team selection Greg Allen (CF, Hilltop High School) chase down fly balls and run the bases with lightening speed might make one hungry from time to time. The gigantic slice of pizza for $6 and the hotdog/chips/soda combo for $8 at Charlie Smith are like a two bag steal. And it’s advisable to do the garlic fries ($5) and pulled barbeque pork sandwich ($8) at Cunningham, that combo is just a big a hit as the team on the field. And with no 20 minute waits to get served.
So basically one could see a nine inning game sitting in a premium seat, eating great food and watching two teams packed with locally grown talent to the tune of about $10 to $25 per person depending on how hungry you are. For baseball. Or food. Or both.
On the coaching side, legend Tony Gywnn returns for his 12th year at the helm of the Aztecs and Rich Hill commands his squad over at USD in his 16th year with the Toreros. Gywnn is 326-344 in all contests, 164-123 in MWC games, has a .487 winning percentage in all games played and is .571 in MWC contests. In 19 years of service with the WCC (three years with the University of San Francisco), Hill is ranked first in career victories (620), WCC victories (291) and 11th in both overall winning percentage in all games played (.565) and WCC matchups (.579).
If the local teams don’t seem to draw you out to one of the parks, then maybe some of their opponents will. USD plays host to CSU Fullerton, Washington State, Loyola Marymount, Gonzaga, Santa Clara, CSU Long Beach, UC Riverside, St. Mary’s and UC Irvine. If you want a good road trip and have a surfboard, then travel to Malibu to catch three away games and some waves at Pepperdine. SDSU draws UNLV, Purdue, Santa Clara, Fresno State, Air Force, UC Riverside, CSU Northridge and San Jose State.
There’s no reason to wait for the big leagues to open up to watch quality baseball games in San Diego, and there’s no reason to spend hundreds of dollars on tickets and food with the Aztecs and Torreros bats and gloves as hot as the nachos with jalapenos coming out of the concession stands. Pull off the traffic-clogged freeway and enjoy a few hours of relaxation and quality baseball at architecturally relevant facilities with some good eats.
You can’t afford not to see these two diamonds in the rough.
Who: SDSU vs. USD.
What: NCAA Division I Baseball.
When: 6 p.m., March 4 (Tuesday).
Where: Tony Gywnn Stadium, SDSU Campus,
Parking Structure P5, $1/hr.
Why: Two great teams, tickets only $6.
USD Baseball: HERE
SDSU Baseball: HERE
Article originally published on http://www.cliffsrider.com/slideshows/baseball/sdsuusd.htm
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