Football season ruins everything. Just when I get the itch to write the obviously more important college baseball stuff, there comes an assignment for football that takes me away. So mea culpa everybody. I haven’t been doing as much baseball stuff as I had hoped I would. Even ESPN.com is begging off the fall notebooks this year – at least so far. Looks like we’ll all have to persevere through this together.
But I did get an interesting Twitter question the other day that sparked an idea in my mind. Erika Carruba, the baseball SID at High Point, gave me grief over mentioning how thick the mesh netting is behind home plate at HPU’s Williard Stadium. I had tweeted about the Panthers’ 2013 schedule and how I had hoped they’d fixed the netting because it was so thick it made it tough to shoot photographs through. I immediately righted the ship by also tweeting out that High Point had one of “the best small stadium facilities in the country.”
Then, an Ole Miss fan sent a twitter Q to me asking which stadiums would be in my Top 10, regardless of size. Well, that’s tough to quantify. Especially in this day and age where new stadiums and massive improvements are happening everywhere. So that led to this latest installment of the Distillers’ Dozen.
Let’s take a look at the best facilities, starting with the small stadiumsâ€¦ and yes, thank you again Erika. You shook me out of my non-baseball writing funk.
1- BEST 1,000ish SEAT STADIUMS
These are the best of the “small” venues in college baseball. This proves you don’t have to have a 10,000-seat behemoth to have nice facilities that can attract recruits.
1- Miami University
4- High Point
5- Florida Atlantic
2- BEST PLACES TO WATCH A GAME
These are the places with the best settings in college baseball. i.e., best surroundings to go along with a well-laid out seating area with great sightless and other intangibles (like, for instance, Pepperdine’s nearly unmatched ratio of attractive coeds who frequent games)
5- Cal Poly
3- BEST PLACES FOR A BIG GAME
Got a winner-take-all game on the docket? A post-season white-knuckler? Here’s the places with the best big-game atmospheres in college baseball that I’ve been to. Loud crowds. Large numbers. High intensity. Buckle up and hold on for the ride.
1- Mississippi State
3- Florida State
4- BEST “WHO-KNEW?” PLACES IN THE COUNTRY.
These are the underrated stadiums you probably didn’t realize existed. This is the list of stadiums you walk into and say, “I had no idea this program had this nice of a jointâ€¦ or this big of a following.”
1- Ohio State
5- South Florida
6- North Dakota State
5- FIVE PLACES ON MY BUCKET LIST TO GO TO FOR A GAME
I know these are big-time places to catch a game and would surely be up high on the above lists, it’s just that I haven’t been to themâ€¦ yet.
5- Wichita State
6- Coastal Carolina
6- COLLEGIATE BASEBALL’s RECRUITING RANKINGS.
I admit, I’ve been a little bit too busy – and as mentioned, a little bit too lazy – to do a recruiting article this fall. Sorry about that people. It’s actually one of my favorite annual columns I write. So instead, I’ll let you guys take in what our resident guru-on-the-mountain has put together for his recruiting results. Here’s how Collegiate Baseball’s Lou Pavlovich rated the incoming classes for 2012 (also, be sure to go to www.CollegeBaseballNews.com to read it firsthand):
3- Arizona State
8- North Carolina
10- South Carolina
13- Texas A&M
17- Cal State Fullerton
18- UC Santa Barbara
19- Florida State
20- Fresno State
28- Georgia Tech
30- Missouri State
33- East Carolina
34- Oregon State
37- Mississippi State
38- Kennesaw State
39- Ole Miss
A couple of notes about the recruiting rankings.
- In addition to the 40 teams listed above, there were also 62 additional teams listed under the “Other top recruiting classes”. The first team listed in that section is Coastal Carolina. Now, I don’t know if that means the Chanticleers were the 41st ranked class or just arbitrarily listed there first. If that’s the case, then it should be noted that Creighton is ranked No. 48.
- As I tweeted the other day, it’s a lot of the usual suspects here. There are 12 SEC teams (I still have trouble listing Texas A&M as an SEC team, but I’ll come around to it), nine Pac 12 teams and six ACC teams in the top 40. So those teams will still be near the top year-in, year-out. As a side note, the only teams in the SEC/Pac12/ACC that weren’t listed in the Top 40 or Honorable Mention list were Tennessee, Boston College, Duke and Virginia Tech.
- The Big 12 only has three teams in Lou’s Top 40, the highest of which is newbie TCU, at No. 12. I can’t wait to see what coach Schlossnagle does in this new conference. This year’s incoming class will join last year’s bang-em-up frosh unit which featured Kevin Cron, Derek Odell, Keaton Jones, Jerrick Suiter and pitchers Preston Morrison and Brandon Finnegan. All of those guys received some form of Freshman All American honors last year.
- While Cal State Fullerton in the top 20 at No. 17, that’s not a big surprise. But one rung below them is UC Santa Barbara, a bit of a surprise at No. 18. Coach Andrew Checketts, who looks almost as young as the players he’s recruiting, has a great class coming in and this is the first time in school history in which the Gauchos have had an incoming class ranked in the top 20. The class is led by RHP Connor Baits, a mid-90s hurler and 23rd round pick of the Mets and SS Devon Gradford, a 34th round pick of the A’s. And like TCU above, the Gauchos already had a great frosh class last year as well, led by 1B/DH Greg Mahle, who finished 5th in the Big West at .347 and LHP Andrew Vazquez, who was 6-4, 1.93 in 15 starts.
- It’s cool to see a good bit of mid-major programs up in the list as well like Fresno State being at No. 20. They had a handful of highly-coveted talents like RHP Derik Valezquez (15th round pick, Orioles) and 6’9″ RHP/1B Cameron Stewart (20th round, Padres). Can you imagine facing THAT behemoth on the mound? Yikes. Stetson, Missouri State, Louisville and – pause for effect here – Kennesaw State all made the top 40 list. If you’re wondering, both Kent State and Stony Brook also made the “Others” list as well.
7- IS REPTAR NOT WITH US ANYMORE?
Saw this tweet from one of the ESPN college football twitter followers:
Wasn’t sure if this was for real or not. Been searching the obits everywhere and never saw the South Carolina mascots name anywhere. Did Reptar really die? Or did one of the Gamecock players, seeing how the superstition mascot ran out of magic, merely pour him down the toilet without telling anyone?
8- REPLACEMENT REFS
So you saw all the anger and the fury over the replacement refs that officiated the first three weeks of the NFL season, right? How games were so much longer and there were so many more penalties called and that they screwed up so royally the REAL refs had to be hurried back into service, post-haste.
Well I thought it was ridiculously funny how the “real” referees made their return at the Cleveland-Baltimore game last Thursday night and summarily they called more penalties (18, the replacement refs were calling an average of 15 penalties a game) and the time of the game, which fans complained was getting too long, was almost exactly the same as the time it took to play the games before (replacement refs: 3:16 game time average, the real refs 3:16 for this Cleveland-Pittsburgh game).
And then there was also the case of Green Bay getting ripped off of a game-clinching interception in the “loss” at Seattle, where incredulously even the replay official was wearing a dunce cap. Well, it doesn’t look like those saviors-of-officials did the Packers any favors either. Check out some of the blown calls in their week four game with New Orleansâ€¦
In other words, quit heaping so much praise on steroid freak Ed Hocholi and the real NFL refs. They ain’t so hot either. Hell, I might even contend that the replacement refs might’ve done a better job since they seemed to be calling the game more “by the letter of the law” anyway. I tell you this much, they proved they can do just as shitty of a job as the regular refsâ€¦ and I bet they did it at a fraction of the cost too.
9- THE NINTH QUESTION.
What ad campaign do you like better, Dos XX “Most Interesting Man In the World” or Jack’s Link Beef Jerky’s “Messin’ With Sasquatch”?
10- FEMALE ANCHORS
This is a simple question, why do female anchors get to wear tank tops? That’s essentially what a lot of these ESPN sports anchors wear. While the dudes on SportCenter have to always appear in multi-layered suits that cover everything from the neck down, have you noticed how diverse and skin-revealing the women anchors apparel is when they are behind the desk? I’ve never understood that. Of course, I’m not saying I want to see some hairy-shouldered Armenian giving me my sports news or a guy showing his legs in bermuda shorts, but why do women have it so easy and so comfortable?
Here’s a picture from NFL Live set a few weeks ago with hostess Sara Walsh in a near tank-top and the two analysts sweltering in full suits.
11- KEVIN JORDAN UPDATE
Saw the ESPN E:60 story on Wake Forest OF Kevin Jordan and his kidney transplant from head coach Tom Walter this past week. In case you don’t recall, Jordan was a projected 1st round draft pick in high school, but he fell victim to ANCA Vasculitis, a rare disease that caused him to use about 10% of his kidneys. It’s a fatal disease if left untreated and requires a kidney transplant for survival. None of his family members were a viable match for a new kidney, but his head coach was. And coach Walter, being the general bad-ass that he is, said simply “I wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines and watch this young man fight for his life when I could help.”
As you all know, the kidney transplant well perfectly and the good news is that Kevin is doing fine now. In his first season back on the diamond, Jordan hit .224 and started 36 games in 2012 (Yeah, I hear some of you smirking. Just .224? Let’s see you get a kidney transplant and then try to hit ACC pitching?). I asked coach Walter this week how Kevin’s game has evolved and if he was going to be more of a full-timer for 2013 and he said, “I am hoping Kevin has a breakout year. He certainly has the tools to be a fantastic college hitter. And I’ll be very surprised if he isn’t an every day starter for us this year.”
By the way, my man Ryan McGee wrote and produced the piece for E:60. Very cool story.
12- TOWSON ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK.
The latest college baseball toe-tag will go to the Towson University program. According to a press release from the President of the University â€“ and sit down when I tell you this ‘coz I’m sure it’s shocking news to you â€“ two men’s athletic programs will get a visit from The Turk:Â the men’s baseball program and men’s soccer program. Although the truly surprising aspect is that Towson will actually bring back a men’s sport, the tennis program. Go figure.
Either way, it’s another black eye for college baseball. Here’s how the Tigers have done the last five years:
2012: 27-31, 15-15 (tie 5th place in CAA)
2011: 26-28, 15-15 (7th)
2010: 19-36, 11-13 (tie 5th)
2009: 28-25, 12-12 (8th)
2008: 30-28, 14-16 (6th)
13- THE SHIRTS.
Okay StitchHeads, tell me what you think. I’ve had CollegeBaseballToday “StitchHead” shirts made the last few years, mostly just for the hell of it. I’ll give one to a coach or family member who I know will wear it from time to time. But if I made them available for sale, would anybody out there be interested in buying one – for a nominal fee?
Slap me with an Email if you do. I don’t get too many made, so the amount is limited. In other words, be SURE you want one and will wear it. Making shirts ain’t cheap. Here’s how they look, in case you hadn’t seen me wearing one:
Okay, that’s it for now guys. Don’t forget to follow me on @ESPNCFB, which is the Mother Ship’s college football twitter page. I man the site every Thursday night and Saturday during the season.