After five days of scrutinizing the state baseball tournaments at All-City Field, I have a few observations.
The facility is one of the best for high school baseball and it sure has changed since I played on the field decades ago.
There used to be bleachers around the field, which didn’t have grass on the infield surrounding the pitcher’s mound.
All-City is well groomed, well maintained and an excellent venue to host the most important games of the season.
A heavy rain fell the evening of May 28 after the 5A finals. Puddles were all around the perimeter of the stadium on May 29 prior to the start of one of the 4A Final Four games but the All-City ground crew arrived at 5:30 a.m. and the field was playable for the start of the 9 a.m. game.
The scoreboard didn’t work for the first 4A game between Valor Christian and Cheyenne Mountain on May 30 but Xcel came out, found the problem and the scoreboard was working for the second game.
One problem this spring has been finding a place to park and still allow enough time to walk to the field to see the first pitch.
The University of Denver purchased the land that used to be the west parking lot from the Denver Public School and is building a tennis facility. Fans, players, coaches, parents, media and well-wishers have to find places to park east of the field.
For years, I have parked in the lot near the softball field east of the field, but now people have discovered my spot.
● Crowds for the 5A Final Four games were good and some people watched standing on the concrete barriers just down the left-field line and other fans sat on cars parked beyond the outfield fence.
There were even people watching the games while standing on the piles of dirt located around the field.
Instead of Rockpile tickets like the Colorado Rockies sell, the CHSAA should have sold Dirtpile tickets.
● One thing that was evident in the four 5A games I saw and three 4A games is that pitchers were not shy about pitching inside to move back batters who tend to crowd the plate.
There were 16 batters hit by pitches in four 5A games and nine more in three 4A contests.
Some of the hit batters occurred because pitchers have to throw inside to get batters off the plate, lack of control results in hit batters, and the fact that in a double-elimination tournament you oftentimes have fourth- and fifth-line players on the mound is a factor.
● Valor Christian senior Luke Ziegler was the Eagles’ top pitcher last season with six wins and also hit .328, but he’s only played as a designated hitter this season.
He has signed a letter of intent to play baseball next season at Pepperdine, so the Eagles coaching staff honored a shutdown period this season to let a shoulder impingement heal.
“Having a body like his sitting on the bench every game wasn’t ideal, but we’re glad he contributes the way he does,” said Coach Brian Bonn.
Ziegler finished the season with a .398 batting average.
“I wish I could have impacted games more like I used to, but at the beginning of the year I really accepted the role of DH,” said Ziegler. “It’s really good to see my brothers go out and get the job done without me on the mound. It’s a team game. I’m throwing right now. I’m in rehab but not fully up to 100 percent. There was really no point in me throwing this season.”
Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 303-566-4083.
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