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Arizona baseball notes: Terry Francona gift, Pac-12 preseason poll, recruiting and more

A major gift rolls in from the former Wildcat

Grand Canyon v Arizona v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Terry Francona spends much of the MLB offseason in Tucson, sitting courtside at numerous Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball games while he’s not busy managing at the sport’s highest level.

And this week, he contributed even more to the university, by pledging $1 million towards a new hitting facility, which will be named the Terry Francona Hitting Facility. It will take the place of the current batting cages beyond right field after the 2017 season is completed.

"Since I moved back to Tucson four years ago, it has been a priority of mine to give back to the University of Arizona," Francona said in a statement. "The reason I am doing this is because of the impact the University has had on my life. The people at the University of Arizona gave me an opportunity to go to the professional level, and not just survive, but be prepared. That's a big reason why I want to give back."

Francona also happens to be the only Arizona player to have ever won the Golden Spikes Award, which is given to the nation’s top amateur baseball player each year. He won it in 1980, the same year as the school’s second National Championship.

“Terry has always been an outstanding representative of Arizona Athletics,” interim athletic director Erika Barnes said in this week’s Wildcat Wednesday. “From his standout college career through his professional career, he’s handled himself with class and has set a great example for our student-athletes. We’re so happy he has continued to stay involved and this act of kindness will go a long way in assisting our baseball program’s return to prominence.”

According to Barnes, this is the 8th donation of at least $1 million from a former letterwinner, which is 25% of all such donations in the school’s history.

Pac-12 Preseason Poll released

Last year, Arizona was picked to finish 10th in the Pac-12. They ended up finishing tied for third.

This year, they are picked to finish third. Here’s a look at the entire conference as picked by the coaches:

Oregon State is not a surprising pick at the top. They received 8 of the 11 first-place votes. Stanford received two, and Washington got the other one.

Stanford will likely be without starting pitcher Tristan Beck to start the season. He has not thrown for the Cardinal in nearly two weeks while recovering from back stiffness according to D1Baseball’s Kendall Rogers.

The remainder of the national preseason polls have come out as well, and here’s where Arizona ranks in each of them:

Arizona Baseball rankings

Poll Ranking Previous
Poll Ranking Previous
Baseball America 17 17
Perfect Game 21 19
D1Baseball 18 17
Collegiate Baseball 19 19
USA Today Coaches Poll 19 18
RPI 15 10

Football’s not the only sport crootin’ this week

The 2018 class grew by one on Thursday when Austin Wells tweeted his commitment to Arizona. He was also interested in Texas A&M, TCU, and USC.

Perfect Game has Wells listed as a 6-foot-2, 195 pound catcher that also plays first base. As a sophomore, he hit .415 at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas. 33 of his 44 hits were singles, but with 14 walks, his OPS was 1.019.

Jay Johnson also added a member to the 2020 recruiting class with the verbal pledge of Kyle Casper, an OF/RHP out of El Cajon, CA. Based on his Perfect Game profile, he appears to be more on the pitcher track for Arizona than outfield, but this coaching staff has shown that they’re not afraid to use pitchers in other roles.

Alum notes

Arizona’s 2017 season begins on Friday, February 17th at Hi Corbett against Eastern Kentucky.