So here we go. After the 24-hour drive from Omaha to Vail, Vail to Wolf Creek, and Wolf Creek to Los Angeles, I’ve jotted down a bunch of notes, added a few clips and am ready to put it all down now. We’ll call this my post-season Distiller’s Dozen of notes, quotes and antidotes. So enjoy.
1- ANDY LOPEZ IS COOL.
Okay, I’ll say it. Even without hesitation:
I’m really glad Andy Lopez won another national title.
In this business, you come across a lot of great people in the coaching profession. There are a LOT of great guys out there you like to see succeed. (And yes, you also come upon a lot of egos and people who think their shit is gold.) But I’m telling you guys out there that this dude is totally the genuine article. In all the years I’ve been doing this college baseball writing thing, coach Lopez has always been accommodating and has even gone out of his way for me. I always appreciate his efforts to help me with my columns and, as a fan, am also glad to see good guys finish first.
Just had to say it.
2- THE EIGHT FOR OMAHA IN 2013:
Usually, I do this during the break between bracket play and the title series, just to beat the rest of the national writers to the punch. But this year, I had a few too many things to do – and okay, got a little lazy too – so I’m just now including it here.
My eight teams for the 2013 CWS…
Bruins have experience-galore with returning rotation of Adam Plutko, Nick Vander Tuig and Zach Weiss, plus relievers David Berg and Grant Watson. That should overcome some losses at the dish.
New pitching coach Kirk Saarloos and returning Freshmen All Americans buoy the Frog hopes, with ace Preston Morrison and infielders Derek Odell, Keaton Jones and Kevin Cron – who if healthy, is a beast.
+ San Diego:
The first year of Fowler Park will see future pros like RHP Dylan Covey, OF Louie Lechich and 3B Kris Bryant, who could be the nation’s premier power-bat.
+ Ole Miss:
I’ve been saying forever that it’s just a matter of time for Mike Bianco to lead the Rebs back to Omaha. Aces Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers and saves man Brett Huber will pitch them to the promised land.
+ North Carolina State:
That freshman class will make history for Eliot Avent, don’tcha think? Carlos Rodon, Trae Turner and Brett Austin make this program lethal for the next few years.
+ Cal State Fullerton:
I take particular joy in hearing some people say the Titan program has slipped a little. I’m pretty sure their four Freshman All American pitchers will lead an Orange County renaissance.
Behind starters Jared Ruxer and Jeff Thompson, and seven hitters who went .299 or better, the youthful Cardinals are ready to make their return to The O as grownups.
+ Southern Mississippi:
What in Curly’s name is going on in Hattiesburg? Well, 10 of the top 11 pitchers are back, led by Jake Drehoff and Andrew Pierce, who started 29 games collectively. Scott Berry’s stellar recruiting will pay off in 2013.
2b- Okay, these guys have been spending way too much time together.
Aaron Fitt and Kendall Rogers had six of the same eight teams going to Omaha for 2013, with Arkansas, Mississippi State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Oregon State and Vanderbilt showing up on both lists. So my question is, who copied off of whom here?
3- THE EIGHT TEAMS THEY’LL BEAT IN THE SUPERS:
4- MORE GLARING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL.
Considering we had Golden Flashes and Seawolves in the CWS this year, here are my next five unique mascots/nicknames I would like to see (and may soon see) in Omaha:
5- THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH THE NEW STADIUM.
I think I’ve nailed down one of the bigger gripes to the new stadium in Omaha. And though the joint is pretty nice, there are still a lot of things they could’ve thought out a little bit better, like the large acreage of foul territory and the layout of the field. But the scoreboard at Rosenblatt had a number of helpful and useful features that aren’t used on the new Jumbotron/monstrosity that is at The Big Tiddy. Here’s the quick list:
- Pitch-Speed Indicator:
This is the most glaring oversight. I mean, isn’t this a normal feature in EVERY new stadium now? There is no MPH for pitches at the new joint.
- Pitch Counts:
The Rosenblatt scoreboard kept pitch counts for each pitcher as the game went on. It was helpful as hell, especially when the starters got into the 6th and 7th innings.
- The Batter Spray Charts:
For every batter they showed the “spray chart” on his previous at-bats. I.e., if a batter hit singles to left and then to right in his two previous at-bats, the scoreboard would show a graphic where his two previous hits went on the diamond.
6- THE FENCES.
A lot has been made about how there are no more home runs and small ball plays too big of a part of this new stadium. Mark Etheridge even had a column dedicated to the subject.
I’ve also heard rumors that the powers-that-be may want to move the fences in, encouraging more yard calls and half-speed trots around the bases, and having games rely less on bunting players over and stealing bases.
But why? As far as I could tell, Robert Refsnyder and Jimmy Rider amongst others, were able to park pitches into the stands. What’s the problem? Okay, I’ll give in to the fact that the field plays much differently than Rosenblatt and that 408-feet in straightaway center is a bit much. So if anything, maybe move centerfield to 400 or 395. Otherwise, leave it as is. A handful of players can still hit dingers and national powers have shown you don’t have to have Linebackers at the dish to win a title anymore.
Although I was a little bit intrigued by one of my loyal readers named NECBLfan’s suggestion of lowering the seams of the ball back down to the normal level the pros play with. Interesting alternative. But at the same time, I see those short porches like at Florida State, Vandy and Florida and I think there’s no way the batters should get any additional advantages. It would make dingers way too easy in these parks.
7- DON’T GET USED TO THE NAME
While we’re on the subject to The Big Tiddy, anyone wanna bet the over-under on how long it will take for “TD Ameritrade” to have its name taken off the new downtown stadium?
Look, the Qwest Center across the street, Omaha’s giant convention center and basketball arena for Creighton, has already changed its name to something called “CenturyLink Center”. So you KNOW its only a matter of time before we refer to it as the “Jiffy Lube Stadium” or “ConAgra Field”.
Here’s my pick: I’m thinking it’ll be Union Pacific Stadium in six years.
8- MY CONVERSATION WITH THE NCAA SELECTION COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN.
At the end of the Florida-Kent State game back on the first Monday, I was down on the field waiting for Florida to exit the dugout. Meanwhile, right next to me, NCAA committee Chairman Kyle Kallandar was ushering Arkansas onto the field for the next game. I recognized him and leaned over to him and said, “Hey, not a bad job on the field of 64 this year.”
He said, “thanks.”
And I shot back with, “And believe me, I don’t normally go very easy on you guys, so don’t take that comment lightly.”
Kyle said, “Well, it’s always tough, but we appreciate anything you guys have to say about it. We read guys like you all the time to keep up on things across the country.”
Caught a little off guard, I came back with, “Really? Thanks for reading. And don’t worry, I don’t think you guys are going to get it 100% right every time, soâ€¦”
Kyle said, “â€¦ well, if nobody was complaining, then we know we probably didn’t do our job either.”
“Haâ€¦ gotcha,” I said.
A few seconds passed as the Arkansas players were still filing through the gate. After a few beats, I leaned back to Kyle and said, “Nowâ€¦ about that Utah Valley thing.”
Kyle laughed, “Yeah I know. I would’ve liked to have gotten them in, but their non-conference schedule just wasn’t tough enough.”
“Well we can agree to disagree on that,” I said. “But look at what Stony Brook and Kent State can do once they’re given the chance.”
We split at that point. Too bad I didn’t get the chance to talk to him again after the title round was done. I would’ve pointed out to him how Utah Valley went 1-1 vs. national champion Arizona, while South Carolina went 0-2.
9- THE NINTH QUESTION
If you had one thing you’d like to ask Kyle Kallendar, what would you ask him?
10- MIKE MARTIN’S “THANK YOU.”
After Florida State was eliminated by Arizona back on Thursday, Seminole skipper Mike Martin waited until the end of the post-game press conference and made sure to give a big ‘thank you’ to the college baseball writing community.
“I want to close this up by saying something, and I mean this: Thanks to you folks for publicizing college baseball and making this such an event. Twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five thousand people coming out to this great facility and you people doing such a wonderful job of providing great information and insights. And I appreciate you. And I mean it. And God willing, I’ll see you next year.”
Since Kendall Rogers, Aaron Fitt, Phil Stanton and myself were the only national writers there, I assume he was talking directly to us. All apologies to Mark Etheridge, Brian Foley, Sean Stires and Sean Ryanâ€¦ coach Martin likes us better.
11- THAT ASSHOLE SANDUSKY.
Not that I want to bring up this subject, ‘coz it just pisses me off more than anything else. But the one thing that the Jerry Sandusky child molestation situation has done has made it downright weird to be at a little league baseball game now. While in Omaha last week I went to see the son of a good bud play a little league game. I brought my camera with me and was walking around taking pictures of the little dude during his game.
But at the same time, I kept getting this weird feeling that all the parents of the 9-and-10 year old kids were giving me the stink-eye and wondering, “Who is THIS pervert taking pictures at a little league game? Does he have a kid playing in this game?” I know, that’s screwed, isn’t it? Well, that’s where we are in society now. Thanks a lot Sandusky.
12- NO VEGAS FOR THE WCC.
I was already planning a return to Sin City for the conference tournament weekend because last I heard, the renewed WCC conference tournament was going to be held there in late May of 2013. But this past week it was announced that the West Coast Conference’s new four-team post-season tourney will be played at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, California.
Ironically, this may be a (very small) victory for the city of Stockton. Turns out the northern valley town is the first city of its size to ever officially file for bankruptcy.
Guess Stockton really needs my money. Too bad they don’t have a Vegas-style strip, ‘coz they’d get a lot more of my cash if they had a wealthy supply of Black Jack tables there.
13- THE ROAD TO OMAHA. LITERALLY.
As you might’ve seen when I tweeted this last week, Easton gave me a GoPro camera to mount to my car and a GoPro camera for my head to document my road to Omaha in any way I wanted to. So here’s the clip I put together from my drive from Los Angeles to Omaha and inside to my seat at TD Ameritrade Park.