Boclair: Vanderbilt baseball takes full advantage of the not-so-great outdoors

Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 11:02pm

They call it a multi-use facility, but the reality is that one of the buildings currently under construction on Vanderbilt's campus is the football team's indoor practice field.

It is a long-overdue, highly-anticipated project, one that is considered necessary to help the Commodores move up the ranks in the ultra-competitive Southeastern Conference.

Recruiting almost certainly will be easier as a result because it is evidence that the program wants to do and have the same things as the other schools in the conference. If James Franklin and his staff are not careful with their use of it, though, winning games actually might become a little more difficult.

Just consider what happened over the weekend not far from the construction site, at Hawkins Field. Vanderbilt's baseball team swept a weekend series with Tennessee despite rain that fell for an overwhelming number of the 29 innings that were played.

Coach Tim Corbin never has feared the weather. Sure, his team already has an indoor batting cage and other similar amenities yet anyone who has observed his program over the years knows that there are few atmospheric conditions that will drive him and his players out of the elements.

Now, thanks to another recent construction project, he has a playing surface that can accommodate his approach. More than ever he can keep his team outdoors for workouts and — as the last three days proved — preserve the integrity of his schedule as needed.

Without the artificial turf that was installed following last season, there is no way the Commodores and Vols would have played all three games, the first of which lasted 12 innings and well into Friday night.

As miserable as the situation was at times, it was nothing Vanderbilt's players had not experienced during training sessions. It is probably not a coincidence, therefore, that the Commodores got better as they went in those contests, each of which was very much in doubt into the seventh inning or later.

Of course, there is no guarantee that the weather got to Tennessee. It is just there is no chance that it got to Vanderbilt.

In short, as work progressed on one indoor facility an all-weather outdoor venue paid serious dividends.

Without this weekend's three victories, Vanderbilt would not have the two-game lead it currently holds in the SEC's Eastern Division. It would be a half a game behind Kentucky with no chance to make up those contests.

Recent years have shown that rainouts can play a significant role in SEC baseball, which is every bit as competitive the football. In the latest National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association rankings, six of the top 17 teams are from the SEC. Vanderbilt tops the list at No. 5 and now has three more victories for voters to consider.

Sports that are played outdoors require the ability to deal with the elements — football even more so than baseball.

Franklin and his staff need an indoor facility. No one can dispute that. The challenge — once its complete — is to make sure they don't rely on it too much.

Show it off to recruits and their parents. Put pictures of it on the website, in the game program and any other promotional materials. Talk about it on every radio and television show and in every banquet address.

Just don't be too quick to use it.

We all know that practice makes perfect but as the football season progresses it is rare that weather conditions are perfect. It's best that players have practiced in them … even if they have the option to go indoors.

Just ask the baseball team.

5 Comments on this post:

By: wiseguy1 on 4/1/13 at 8:26

Moronic commentary on football use of indoor facilties. Does anyone seriously believe Franklin is going to coddle the team away from the elements that can be a game changer in their own right? Every kid that has EVER played football at any level has played in rain and cold. We used to really look forward to the mud bowls. Those frightfully slow but sure footed fullbacks of the 70's churned through the muck as steady as a plow mule. Throwback to Woody Hayes ... 3 yards and a cloud of dust, well maybe a splash or splat in this case.

By: wiseguy1 on 4/1/13 at 8:32

Note to author. Time is precious, mine more so than yours. If you are going to write about baseball, or football or facilities do them is separate articles so I can read what I want by headline. Having to pick through paragraphs of football and training facilities to read snippets about a baseball series with UT leads me to Tennessean.com.

By: courier37027 on 4/1/13 at 11:45

Wait a minute. I thought the Student Life realignment at Vanderbilt means all new structures are for all students' use, not just sports teams.

By: 4gold on 4/1/13 at 9:25

Make no mistake the indoor facility is for football recruiting However in VU's sports setup the money comes from a fund that supporst all students. Therefore you notice how careful Williams is to insist it is a student facility. A dome by any other name. Its for football reruiting. And if they dont need it some other teams like lacross and track might make use of it along with gym classes. But if football needs it. Its everybody out.

How bou that baseball team? SWEEP! Uh oh, I mixed baseball and football. Don't tell Wiseguy

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!

By: wiseguy1 on 4/2/13 at 9:08

Gold ... U r so busted by subject police. I guess you get a bye this time since the article is helter skelter.

Odd that we still have not seen an article about the recent sweep in baseball. Are facilities that interesting to the masses?

Courier ... aren't athletes students?