Cleveland Indians manager and University of Arizona alumnus Terry Francona donated $1 million to the Wildcats’ baseball capital projects fund, the school announced Tuesday.
A large part of the funds will go to a new indoor hitting facility. The school hopes to have the new building, which will be named for Francona, completed by the fall.
“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. “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, as a junior for the Wildcats in 1980, became the only Arizona player to win the Golden Spikes Award. He also won Sporting News Player of the Year, was a unanimous All-American, and took the College World Series MVP as the Wildcats captured the National Championship. His No. 32 jersey is retired at Hi Corbett Field.
Francona had a 10-year MLB career before entering the coaching scene. He was the manager of the Phillies and Red Sox, winning two World Series in Boston, before heading to Cleveland in 2013. The Indians were the American League champions in 2016 and came within one win of a World Series.
On top of Francona’s donation, the Wildcats received a $1 million matching gift from an anonymous source in June. The school has accumulated $300,000 to match the donation so far.
“The University of Arizona has always been exceptionally proud of Arizona Baseball and our long tradition of champions,” said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. “I am so glad to see one of our most successful and renowned Wildcats continuing to take part in the UA community. This gift will further the impact of Arizona Athletics and ensure that the UA continues to be an incredible source of community and regional pride, and I am so grateful for Terry Francona’s generosity.”
Arizona has already undertaken improvements to the home clubhouse and home plate seating of Hi Corbett Field, where the team moved in 2012. The school led all West Coast schools in attendance in 2016, averaging about 3,000 fans per game. Arizona was a College World Series Finalist with a 49-24 record.
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