Baseball plays in Minute Maid Park

Courtesy of City of Houston

By Matt Larsen
Sports Writer

Leaving Tuesday’s 13-2 mishap against Texas State in Waco, the Bears travel down to Houston this weekend to play three games in Minute Maid Park as part of the Houston College Classic.

Baylor (4-4) takes on the University of Houston at noon today, the University of Utah at noon Saturday and Rice University at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Before they look too much to their competition, the Bears will look to get comfortable in their spacious new home for the weekend.

“I think anytime you get a chance to go down and play in a big league park of any sorts, that’s what these kids play for; that’s their ultimate dream,” assistant coach Trevor Mote said Thursday. “They are going to have a lot of fun today in practice just having a chance to run around and get a feel for it.”

The Bears pulled out of Waco Thursday morning with a few differences in mind of what to watch out for when they step out of the dugout.

Minute Maid is known for a hill in deep center field that slopes up to the fence and features and in-play flagpole. These unique characteristics have created both pleasantly and unpleasantly memorable moments for center fielders.

“I’ve seen a couple of plays up there, and I’ve always dreamed of making one of those plays,” junior center fielder Brooks Pinckard said.

In addition to a unique and roomy new venue, this weekend also presents an uncommon adjustment for the Bears.

“Knowing that you’re going into the weekend playing three different teams, facing three different arms, it’s a challenge in itself,” Mote said. “We’ve been working with the guys on the process, taking one pitch at a time.”

Though two of their opponents reside just down the road in Houston, players feel less familiar with the bunch than might be expected.

The last time the Bears met their first foe, Houston, came two years ago when they held on for a 3-2 victory.

Houston brings a new coach into the 2011 season though.

Former TCU assistant coach Todd Whitting returned to his alma mater after helping the Horned Frogs reach their first College World Series in 2010.

The Cougars have gone 5-3 thus far under Whitting.

Logan Verrett expects to get the start against the Cougars and will look to continue his work from last weekend against Georgia. The junior gave up two runs on five hits and struck out five in the Bears’ first of a three-game series.

“I stuck with my plan. I didn’t get away from who I am as a pitcher,” Verrett said of last weekend’s effort. “We’re looking to having another good outing.”

The most unknown of its opponents will be Utah, whom Baylor faces for the first time Saturday.

Sixteen-year coach Bill Kinnenburg and the Utes take part in the Houston College Classic for the first time and come to Houston still looking for their first win of 2011.

Their toughest competition will likely come Sunday when they take on No. 21 ranked Rice. The Owls are off to 6-4 start and got the better of the Bears 8-3 the last time they crossed paths, two years in the same tournament.