Distiller’s Dozen: Pre-Football Edition

By Eric Sorenson. Posted on August 27th, 2012 in National stuff
 

It’s the end of summer. Time for some lagniappe Stitch-Heads.

The World Champion Japanese Little Leaguers bow in respect to the fans of the Tennessee team they just routed.

I wanted to make sure and drop you a few lines and thoughts before the college football season kicked in and started taking over my life. And by the way, still no word yet on whether there will be any ESPN Fall Notebooks for college baseball like I did last season. But I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, here are 13 things that crossed my mind.

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1- THE LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES.

I don’t know why, but this event is fast becoming one of my favorites. Maybe it’s because it’s the second-biggest non-pro baseball event next to the CWS? Or maybe it’s because it just looks like a freakin’ blast to cover? Either way, getting to the LLWS is on my “Bucket List” of events to get to. Easton came close to sending me this year, but couldn’t pull the trigger.

I also find it one of the last bastions of true sportsmanship… even though it seems nearly forced on the poor kids. I’m not sure why sportsmanship is so heavily emphasized at this level. Normally, kids emulate what the pros do. And they see the pros preening for cameras, yelling at their opponents after a dunk or a tackle and trash talking incessantly. There’s virtually no sense of sportsmanship in pro baseball, pro football, hell, pro anything. This will be the final level of sports where the players will be pushed so hard to slap hands with an opposing player who just hit a home run off of their team.

Here's a screen grab of Japanese pitcher Kotaro Kiyomia slapping five with Brock Myers after Myers hit a home run off of him.

That’s also the reason why it never kills me to see Japan win the Little League World Series. These kids always display the ultimate level of respect from a country that is ingrained in discipline and honor. As you can see from the picture above, the Japanese players and coaches bowed to both the Tennessee teams’ fans and to their own after the game.

The Japanese have won two of the last three LLWS and are smart enough not to dogpile and have so much respect for their elders that the thought of dousing their coach with Gatorade is completely out of the question.

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2- BEST BETS FOR AREA CODE GUYS TO GO TO COLLEGE.

I really have come to like the Area Code Games, the annual high school All Star tournament played each August in Long Beach mostly in the name of scouts and college coaches. Okay, maybe a few parents and girlfriends too. But the big thing is that I always hope that the majority of these uber-talented players make their way to college baseball and turn down the play-for-pay organizations for a few years. But the truth of the matter is the best players at the ACG will never see a college diamond.

But here is one angle I meant to write about when I was at the ACG, but kind of forgot to. If you’re looking at the guys with the highest academic scores, then here are the players who had the best ACT and SAT scores in the entire field. So the thinking here is that these smarties are more likely to go the college route than the others.

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Best SAT scores:

- Robbie McInerny, 2B, Athletics… 2400 SAT

Laguna Beach, CA (Undecided on college commitment)

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- Tanner Nishioka, SS, Reds… 2100 SAT

Honolulu, Hawaii. (Undecided, but his final choices are apparently Stanford, UCLA, USC, Hawaii and Oregon)

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- Eric Garza, SS, Rangers… 2000 SAT

San Antonio, TX (TCU commit)

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Best ACT scores:

- Tanner Nishioka, SS, Reds… 33 ACT

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- Chris Viall, RHP, Athletics… 32 ACT

Santa Cruz, CA (Stanford commit)

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- Chasen Ford, RHP, Brewers… 31 ACT

Lake Forest, CA (Uncommitted)

Hopefully Chris Viall's well-heeled academia work means he will play college ball while studying among some of the greatest minds in American education at Stanford instead of ride rickety busses that smell of urine and eat fast-food in the minors for three years.

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3- SCHEDULE FEVER.

As I tweeted a few weeks ago, Butler University is the grand champion of Schedule Fever for 2013. Yes, a Northern team actually was the first to release its slate. A true rarity. The Bulldogs released their schedule back on July 13th.

The ‘Dogs were followed in order by:

LSU

Memphis

Central Arkansas

Auburn

Louisiana

Ironically, the new RPI formula which has been installed beginning this year to reward teams for road wins, did not sway SEC powers LSU and Auburn to schedule any road weekends in non-conference play. LSU will only play two true road games – midweekers at Louisiana and Tulane – and Auburn will play four true road games – midweekers at Kenessaw State, Troy, Samford and Jacksonville State.

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4- JOE WALSH

I was bummed to hear of the passing of Harvard coach Joe Walsh. The Crimson skipper took over in 1996 and became Harvard’s first endowed head coach, which is why there is that awkwardly named position known as “The Joseph J. O’Donnell ’76 Head Coach for Harvard Baseball.” In his 32 years as a head coach, which included 15 years at Suffolk University, his alma mater, Walsh won 569 games, lost 564 and tied three.

I was lucky enough to make a trip to Cambridge to see Walsh and Co. win their last Ivy League title back in 2002. At the time, I was writing college baseball stuff for USA Today.
Here’s what the column looked like at the time.

Assistant coach Tom Lo Ricco has been named as the interim head coach. Lo Ricco has been the Crimson’s recruiting coordinator for the previous eight years. Here’s a bigger view of the image I snapped that day in ’02 where the Crimson beat Princeton to go to the NCAA Tournament. Coach Walsh is visible on the far right-hand side of the pic:

The 2002 Harvard Crimson rush the field after beating Princeton for the Ivy League title.

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5- THE DESTRUCTION OF ROSENBLATT.

Not sure if you saw this, but venerable Rosenblatt Stadium was imploded this past week. Well, make that the Rosenblatt Stadium press box was dynamited. The grandstand and seated area of the stadium had already been dismantled and the elevated press box was all that was left. So check out Omaha.com’s Steve Pivovar’s write-up and the video of the demolition:

Click on this highlighted line.

As I’ve told you guys before, I don’t have much of a sentimental streak in me. I loved the place, but it’s time has long come and gone and the new downtown stadium – despite its many shortcomings – is a better place to enjoy a game. Lots of great memories at the old ballyard. Luckily I snapped a lot of pictures of the place. So it will live on there.

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6- YOUR CONFERENCE REALIGNMENT REALIGNMENT.

I can’t keep up with this freakin’ crap. I’m virtually assuring you guys that I’ll get a team or two wrong with their new conference homes in this coming seasons’ preview. Guaranteed. But hopefully helping me along the way will be Phil and Sean over at College Baseball Insider, who have the new conference-hopping programs all mapped out for our ease.

If you are confused as I am, here’s their guide to know who is going where:

Once again, click on this highlighted line.

And in case you didn’t hear the latest, Dallas Baptist is now not going to stay in the WAC after all and will head to the Missouri Valley Conference as they first intended to do. The Patriots will join the MVC in 2014.

And New Orleans is coming back to Division 1 and will join the Southland Conference. Initially the Privateers dropped down to Division III last year, but their higher-ups had a change of heart and now want to go back to D1.

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7- WHEN CREIGHTON CAME TO SMOGLAND.

I always forget that most of you reading my garb here week-in, week-out are not followers on Twitter, or don’t have Twitter at all. So every once in a while I have to remember to re-post things that I tweeted so everyone can enjoy them.

One of my favorite tweets of the entire college baseball season I posted was the first Friday of the Regionals weekend, when Creighton was sent to the Los Angeles Regional. And with me being the unabashed Bluejay fan, I decided to post this pic on Twitter:

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8- THE BIGGEST CATCH OF THE SUMMER

While I was working the Area Code Games, I got an Email from Texas Tech baseball SID Scott Lacefield (and I’m not kissing ass by saying he’s one of the best SIDs in college baseball, it’s just true). He forwarded me a picture of Red Raider shortstop Tim Proudfoot, holding up a 30-pound Kingfish he caught in the Straight of Juan de Fuca, which is near Port Angeles, Washington.

Proudfoot started 54 games last season as a true freshman and is the only frosh in Double-T history to start 50+ games. Proudfoot looks to improve on his .237 batting average this upcoming season. Here’s a pic of Proudfoot’s big catch:

Texas Tech Shortstop Tim Proudfoot is a proud fisherman with this 30-pound Kingfish. Now, let's see if he can help the Raiders hook an NCAA bid next June.

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9- WONDERING ABOUT SOMETHING.

Do you guys remember seeing these bat ads? This was the Vector O bat technology from Reebok. I never have seen a Division 1 team use them since they were introduced in 2008 or 2009. If anybody has seen them at any level, lemme know.

I had my suspicions about this gimmick catching on when I saw this ad in Collegiate Baseball three years ago.

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10- MORE EXPOSURE FOR COLLEGE BASEBALL

Back on August 15th the Pac 12 Network was officially launched. And by “Network” I mean there are actually six regional networks and one national network. The trouble is, I have DIRECTV and they currently have no deal with them or the Dish Network, so the Pac 12 Network isn’t being shown on satellite. But Cox, Time Warner Cable and Comcast have it. So we’ll see how the success of the network transpires. With The Mtn. going the way of the buffalo, I just hope the Pac 12 Network is able to hang on long enough to show a season or two of baseball. And yes, hopefully they’re smart enough to showcase some of those Friday night Pac 12 pitching matchups, which are always some of the best in the nation.

Ironically, this month also marks the 5th anniversary of the most successful conference TV Network, the Big 10 Network. They pretty much set the bar for the top level of success for a conference, airing immediately on DIRECTV and also broadcasting in remarkably sharp High Definition since day one. In the words of Judge Smails, “Top notch guys, top notch.”

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11- YOUR COLLEGE FOOTBALL REQUIREMENT.

It’s nearly the start of college football season. You can almost smell the tailgate barbecues in the air, you can nearly see the alcohol in the student sections and you can virtually feel the male cheerleaders holding the female cheerleaders up high in that creepy hand-up-the-skirt fashion. The good news is that the ESPN Mother Ship has hired me again for college football. The bad news is it isn’t for me to put out my attitude and sarcasm for the masses. Nope. Bummer.

ESPN has once again asked me to run their Twitter page each Saturday of the college football season for 2012. And that’s a good thing because I really love adding thoughts and observations as the day goes on. As Mark Etheridge told me, “Oh, so you’re getting paid to watch college football and comment on it. That’s a dream job.” Well sort of, yes. As with any sports-writing gig, it’s not what I’d call “dream pay.”

It's not six-figures in pay, but it's always nice to get responses like this one last year to one of my tweets I posted on the ESPN College Football twitter page.

Now, as mentioned above, I know that not all of you are on Twitter. But you don’t have to sign up for your own Twitter account to be able to keep tabs on a Twitter account. (Did that make sense?). As you’re watching your college football games, just go to Twitter.com and type in @ESPNCFB and you’ll be hooked up to the account. I’ll be on it every Saturday, extolling the virtuous side of college football. And that’s understandable, since what I write IS representing ESPN. They don’t allow me to rag on anyone or any team. They’re very adamant about not being negative. So I try to stay as positive as a pro baseball steroid test and also use my humor whenever I can.

I got in trouble last year for tweeting a quote that Joe Tessitore made during a Friday night Big East game. Regarding Pitt and Syracuse joining West Virginia in the exodus to other conferences, Tess said, “The Big East is like a house on fire where everyone is scrambling to get out… but they’re still inviting people to come in.”

Turns out the Big East Commissioner saw the tweet and told the suits at ESPN that they didn’t want to read quotes like that on our twitter page… even though it was Tessitore who said it during a broadcast.

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12- TEN CHANGES FOR COLLEGE FOOTBALL.

Since we’re on the subject of pigskin, here are 10 things I want to change about college football. And I want it to change now.

1- Stop with the conference realignment. Just stop it.

Look pigskin guys, this crap is screwing up all of our sports besides yours and ruining a bunch of great rivalries.

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2- You got a playoff now, right? Now go a little further.

The four team playoff that will take over in the 2014 is a start. And might I add, ’bout DAMN time! Now take another step. Go ahead and make it an eight or sixteen team playoff. That’s where it’s gonna eventually end up anyway. Quit bullshitting us with this 12-year contract with a four-team playoff.

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3- Yes, tear up that 12-year contract for the four-team playoff.

The only reason the powers-that-be put in such a lengthy contract is to make sure that even though there’s a playoff, they wanted to make sure to keep it at four teams as long as possible to protect their precious bowl games and keep them “viable.” A 12-year deal prolongs the high-profile BCS bowls, even though the playoff also renders their significance as useless.

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4- Put in reward points for road wins/good non-conference wins

I know, this sounds a lot like the argument I’ve had for college baseball. But my hope for this new committee that will take over to decide the four-team playoff is that they REALLY scrutinize teams’ non-conference schedules. Let’s try to end this large void of quality non-conference games in football. (That goes hand-in-hand with my argument that conferences have gotten WAY too big).

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5- Cut down on the trash-talking.

Standing down on the sidelines during games, it’s mind-boggling how much shit you hear from players in football games. It ain’t for kids, that’s all I’ll say. But it also leads to a lot of post-play smackdowns and cheap shots. Thanks a lot Ray Lewis.

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6- No more standing over players after you make a tackle.

I’ve been harping on this for years, but now I’m starting to see this practice in Pop Warner Football. How pathetic is THAT? Seeing an eight-year old make a tackle and then start “walking over” another player is just shameful.

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7- Make onsides kicks travel at least 15 yards.

The 10-yard barrier for the kicking team to cover an onside kick is getting too easy. It seems like the conversion rate for onside kicks is become too high. And not only that, but the collisions on the 10-yard kicks are becoming more and more dangerous in this day and age of lead-with-your-head impacts.

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8- Don’t allow O-linemen to “hold” as much.

The rule change which allowed offensive linemen to extend their arms and grab opposing jerseys has made the advantage for the offense way too pronounced. That’s why offensive numbers are through the roof. Make the running game more important, emphasize footwork and make pass protection less of a grabfest.

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9- Make overtime start with each team getting the ball at the 50.

Settling for a field goal from the 25 is also too easy.

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10- If your fans rush the field of any game, your school is kicked out of whatever conference it is in for two years.

Done and done.

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13- THE PLAYMATE.

I am happy to report that the girl who was being photographed behind me while I was trying to watch the NCAA Tournament Selection Show last May has been named Playboy’s September Playmate of the Month.

Be sure to get the latest issue of Playboy if you want to see more of Alana Campos. Here’s what the cover looks like so you’ll know what to look for on the newsstand:

Here are a few pictures from the shoot that day back in May:

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Okay, that’s about as good of a note to go out on here. Remember, follow ESPNCFB as soon as you can.

G’night.

 

COMMENTS:

August 28, 2012 at 1:11 am

Yes, stop the conference realignment… right after Fresno State and UNLV join the Big East and need a conference for their other sports (i.e. the Big West). Overall the shift worked out pretty well for the BWC. Boise kinda screwed up our footprint but they brought the big bucks and don’t baseball anyway, so i don’t really care.


September 2, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Couln’t have picked a better dozen things myself. Way to end strong.


September 4, 2012 at 3:45 am

Stitch, just caught your latest article. Joe Walsh was a great friend of mine and my club the MNStarz. This is what I wrote on my website after Tom told me the news.

Three days ago MNStarz Mizuno lost a dear friend, not only to me, but to the Starz program. Joe Walsh, Head Coach at Harvard University passed away due to a heart attack. Joe may have been one of the nicest guys in all of baseball. He always had time for people and was more concerned about how you were doing than himself. I take great pride that I not only knew Joe, but that he considered me a friend. Joe, I will miss talking baseball, your humor, compassion, New England and your Boston accent. What won’t ever be forgotten is the memories of our 8 year friendship. Joe is survived by his wife and 4 daughters. Here is the link to the Harvard website about Joe: http://www.gocrimson.com/sports/bsb/2011-12/releases/20120731ny763o


September 5, 2012 at 10:11 pm
Eric Sorenson says:

Good stuff Trent. Thanks for posting that on here. Good tribute to Coach Walsh.