BATON ROUGE - Have you ever seen an energetic dog off its leash in front of a wide open field for as far as they can see? That is how Zach Watson is going to feel in center field Saturday at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, at the College World Series.
He'll be able to run all day. Or as is usually the case with the LSU baseball program that tends to dominate the television ratings as if it is Alabama football, he'll be able to run all night as the Tigers play the first prime time game of the CWS at 7 p.m. Saturday on ESPN against Florida State.
Amazingly, TD Ameritrade's dimensions are exactly the same as good ole and now dead Rosenblatt Stadium - 335 feet down the left field line, 375 to left center 408 to center field, 375 to right center and 335 down the right field line. There is more outfield green, though, and it just plays much bigger as it tends to be in a huge mass of dead air. It's like somebody put that dome from Stephen King's "Under The Dome" right on top of it. Baseballs can come in, but they can't get out.
Rosenblatt was a home run park. It was on a hill. It was also a real ballpark. TD Ameritrade, which opened in 2011, feels like an NFL stadium - too much uniformity and bigness that just doesn't fit the college game. Sure, it has all the modern conveniences and technologies, but unfortunately not nearly as much atmosphere or air flow.
When LSU won its first national championship in 1991 without juiced bats or balls or Gorilla Ball, it was a pitching first team that hit eight home runs in Rosenblatt in four games. In five games in TD Ameritrade through two trips in 2013 and '15, LSU has hit all of two home runs. Mason Katz hit one in the Tigers' first game in the stadium in 2013 in a 2-1 loss to UCLA, which hit .250 that year with 19 home runs and won the national championship. LSU hit .305 that year with 47 home runs but went home at 0-for-2.
Then Jared Foster hit one in 2015 when the Tigers lost to TCU, 10-3, in the opener. That's it.
Not only LSU has died at the warning track of TD Ameritrade. In the last three seasons at Rosenblatt - 2008-10 - an average of 2.4 home runs a game were hit. In 2011 at Ameritrade, 0.64 home runs were hit a game and 0.67 the next year. And it has not changed much since.
In other words, Watson is going to catch a lot of fly balls.
"He's going to be something to see," LSU right fielder Greg Deichmann said. So will left fielder Antoine Duplantis, who would be playing center on probably every other team in the nation.
Deichmann will be fun to watch as well. For a big guy, he can patrol right field very well, too. But he can also hit home runs. He has as many this season as UCLA hit in 2013 - 19. Deichmann has also hit 13 home runs in TD Ameritrade. He went there last year as part of a Home Run Derby.
"We were trying to hit home runs and perform at that," he said. "I never try to hit home runs in real games. You just try to drive it, and if it goes, it goes."
Deichmann also does not adjust his swing or approach based on the ballpark.
"The minute you try to change to the stadium is the minute you stop having success," he said.
The great thing about Deichmann is that he is a home run hitter who doesn't have to be. He does not have to hit home runs to be dangerous to opponents. He has 12 doubles this season and hits for average as he is third on the team at .320. Of the regulars, the Tigers have five .300 hitters, three between .277 and .294 and just two around .260 - Michael Papierski at .260 and Jake Slaughter at .256. And Papierski has raised his average from .230 just over the last five weeks.
This will be the fastest, most athletic, most balanced and deepest pitching team LSU has ever taken to TD Ameritrade. The Tigers' chances of staying much longer than about a weekend as they did on their only two previous trips are very good.
LSU is full of line drive hitters who don't strike out a lot, and that tends to work better in all that vastness in the outfield and dead air.
"I think top to bottom right now, throughout the whole lineup, we're just getting the job done," said Duplantis, who is a line drive machine and hitting .322 with 57 RBIs on just one home run. Those are perfect numbers for trade and commerce at TD Ameritrade.
"It definitely helps having a bunch of athletes," Duplantis said. "That's really important in that kind of ballpark in Omaha. We hit singles and make plays on defense."
The biggest obstacle facing LSU in Omaha will be making sure it is not dead on arrival. This is what killed one of LSU's best teams in 2013. Two of its best and most consistent players did not show. Alex Bregman, a .369 hitter that season, went 0-for-8. Raph Rhymes, who hit .331, went 0-for-9.
Undoubtedly, some of LSU's best hitters may experience something like that, but if enough others hit, the Tigers will be in Omaha long enough get to know virtually every inch of TD Ameritrade.
Glenn Guilbeau covers LSU sports for the USA Today Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter at @LSUBeatTweet.
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