PHOENIX – After four decades of playing at Packard Stadium, Arizona State baseball is leaving the Tempe campus for Phoenix Municipal Stadium, a more updated and spacious facility a few miles away.
By moving into the former spring training home of the Oakland Athletics, the Sun Devils will gain a major league-sized outfield, adding 7 feet to right and left field and 15 feet in center field from what the team has had at Packard.
Johnny Sewald, a junior center fielder, said the deeper outfield means the Sun Devils will need to become more of a line-drive team rather than focusing on hitting home runs.
“It’s definitely a bigger ballpark, so it’s going to play a little different,” Sewald said. “There’s obviously a lot of home runs here in Arizona with the dry air, so it’s going to be a little different.”
Packard Stadium has been home to ASU baseball since 1974, and that history is one of the things Sewald said he and other players will miss.
“There’s been a lot of great players here, All-Americans, major leaguers and all that,” he said. “It is kind of sad, but it’s also a good transition that we’re going to move over to Muni.”
The team held its first scrimmage here Nov. 1 and will host the annual Maroon and Gold Tournament from Nov. 17-23. The Sun Devils’ 2015 season begins in February.
ASU has had 102 players go on to the major leagues, the most in the NCAA since 1959, including Barry Bonds, Mike Leake, Oddibe McDowell, Reggie Jackson, Dustin Pedroia and Andre Ethier.
Some of the Sun Devil baseball history will be brought over to Phoenix Municipal. Rocky Harris, senior associate athletic director, said one of the projects Sun Devil Athletics is working on at the new facility is legacy signage.
“We are taking a lot of the key contributors and former baseball players and honoring them at Phoenix Muni,” Harris said. “We will also have all of our former baseball coaches recognized.”
Harris said the project that includes the renovated clubhouse, new scoreboard, and new signage is expected to be completed by February 2015 and will cost about $3 million. It will be paid for mostly by fundraisers put on by Sun Devil Athletics.
And the clubhouse, which is 75 percent complete, was one of the first priorities of the renovation.
“We’re adding a players lounge down there, adding new lockers, painting, just gutting that whole area and making it new,” Harris said. “They spend a lot of time in the clubhouse, so that’s an enjoyable experience for them.”
Sewald said the clubhouse is one of the things he is most excited about.
“I think the clubhouse and the training room and all that is going to be top notch, and we’re really looking forward to it,” Sewald said.
Harris said the athletic department is spending money to make sure that everything that was red or green becomes maroon or gold, down to flags and banners on the street.
“We are also looking at branding it out with ASU to make it have the look and feel of an ASU facility,” he said.
Harris said a new video board has been installed and will be live in about a month.
“Basically that will help enhance the overall experience for our fans,” he said.
Phoenix Municipal can hold more than 8,000 fans, about double the available seating at Packard.
The next stages of the renovation, according to Harris, will include adding a new batting cage and practice facility.
“That’s really important to our coach and our players and student athletes,” he said. “That’s the focus for the next phase, getting the funding to build a batting cage that is one of the top in the Pac-12 and in college sports.”