June 10, 2013
BERKELEY - Although coach David Esquer and his Cal baseball team did not win the College World Series this year, in a lot of ways 2013 was a championship season for the program.
The recently completed campaign will forever go down in history as the year Evans Diamond shined brightly, both figuratively and literally, as the venerable baseball stadium was graced with lights for the first time in its 80-year history and sported a brand new video scoreboard.
"The lights and scoreboard have impacted our program even more than I could have imagined," said Esquer, who has guided the Bears since 2000 and was the 2011 National Coach of the Year after leading Cal to the College World Series. "The atmosphere at our games immediately changed. The games became an event, and I saw more families at our games than ever before. Seeing the energy that the young kids provided the stadium was great. I also feel that these improvements provide a message to the community that Cal baseball is here and not just surviving, but thriving."
Indeed, the new amenities at Evans Diamond made a difference in both attendance and revenue. Friday game attendance doubled from 2012 to 2013, and the total average attendance nearly did. The average home attendance for Pac-12 night games after the lights were installed on March 28 was 900, and seven games in 2013 boasted figures of over 1,000 fans. A record 2,133 fans watched the Bears battle USC at the historic first night game. Prior to this season, only three games in the past three years had extended past 1,000 spectators.
In addition, the total revenue from baseball tickets sales this season was $89,187, a 101 percent increase over 2012. The top revenue-generating series of the year was against Stanford the final weekend of the spring when an average of 1,078 fans watched the three games, creating just over $16,000 in ticket sales.
"The Evans Diamond facility upgrades with lights and a new video scoreboard were critical to providing the necessary support for Cal baseball's future," explained Cal Deputy Director of Athletics and Chief Operating Officer Solly Fulp. "Most importantly, lights provide our student-athletes the ability to attend class in the day and practice in the evening. In addition, evening games allows little leaguers, donors, students, faculty and the general college baseball fan to watch Cal baseball live at Evans Diamond. Simply stated, playing in the evenings is a game changer for Cal baseball."
The major upgrades to Evans Diamond came about through the impressive fundraising efforts and commitments from both the Cal Baseball Foundation and the Cal Athletic Department to increase the school's baseball program's revenue potential, as well as improve its competitive advantage. Private donors Tom Wolfman (son of former Cal baseball coach George Wolfman, who led the Bears to the 1957 College World Series title), Larree Renda (whose son, Tony, was a standout on Cal's 2011 College World Series squad), Stu Gordon (pitcher for the Bears in the early 1960s and the chair of the Cal Baseball Foundation), Dave Amoroso and Tom Hornaday, all made the Evans Diamond lights and new video scoreboard project possible through their generosity.