Wayne Graham’s Letter On the State of College Baseball

By Eric Sorenson. Posted on July 13th, 2013 in National stuff
 
A man with this many title rings can say whatever the hell he wants about our sport.

A man with this many title rings can say whatever the hell he wants about our sport. It is our responsibility to listen.

Here is the open letter Rice head coach Wayne Graham wrote on the state of college baseball.

 

(I re-typed it myself since it was sent in PDF form so any typos are my own, not coach Graham’s)

 

 

July 12, 2013

 

The Destruction of College Baseball

 

Major league baseball learned in the 1920s that the long ball made the game an extremely marketable entertainment product. They have never forgotten it. The advent of the padded wall has added a new dimension with the superhuman catch to prevent the home run. Watching TV at the end of the day tells how important these two elements are to the entertainment value of baseball.

 

Everyone who enters a sport should understand the risks involved, whether it be Nascar, football, motocross or basketball. Fear of litigation should never be allowed to change a sport to the point that it is losing its momentum and popularity. The chance of a successful lawsuit were the risks are clearly defined is remote if the person chooses to participate.

 

The game that was played in Omaha this year has many similarities to the game that was played in 1905. To say that this is the “pure” game is silly since baseball did not become “America’s Pastime” until the 1920s with the advent of the long ball era. Major League Baseball has made various moves since to ensure that the game would have the proper balance.

 

The college game is now officially out of balance. This can be rectified by adopting a ball with the same life as the major league ball. Make no mistake. A ball can be made at a reasonable cost with the same “life” as the major league ball. This has already been done.

 

Even with a ball with the life of a major league ball, the exit velocities will be less in college than in the major leagues because major league players are bigger, stronger and have better timing than college players. There will still be more home runs per game in the major leagues.

 

TV revenues and attendance are going to diminish over time if we do not restore the entire entertainment value to our product. This needs to be done immediately, even to the point of emergency meetings. Every coach I have talked to wants this. Fans I have talked to tell me that after a few games they became bored with the type of baseball played at the College World Series.

 

Our teams are known for pitching and defense. Therefore, I have no bias toward the long ball. My only bias is toward the welfare of college baseball. I am grateful for the life that I have had, and I want others to have the opportunity to experience a life in a balanced and dynamic college baseball.

 

Sincerely,

 

Wayne Graham

(Editor’s Note: For what it’s worth, a PDF copy of this letter was sent to myself, Kyle Peterson, Aaron Fitt, Kendall Rogers, Paul Mainieri, Jack Leggett, Skip Bertman, Pat Casey, Dennis Poppe of the NCAA and two others I didn’t recognize, including someone from the Houston Chronicle and somebody from Florida State.)
 

COMMENTS:

July 13, 2013 at 12:42 am
waltgreenberg says:

Touche, as Coach Graham once again takes a leadership role in an important issue to college baseball nationally. He’s actually initiated a research project with the Rice School of Material Science to evaluate the cost and performance implications of using the MLB baseballs (with higher and tighter seams).


July 13, 2013 at 12:46 pm
Tikii Owl says:

Walt I am sure meant the MLB balls have lower seams than the NCAA ball (or even the HS ball).


July 13, 2013 at 1:06 pm
Albert Angulo says:

I totally agree with the great Coach Graham. As a season ticket holder and not a Rice Alumnus I sit the Rice dugout. For me, and ALL who seat near me, the change of bats a couple of years ago was a big blow. I recently caught a foul ball and was shocked as to the softness of the ball.

Bring back lively bats and balls and let’s make it the sport it was and should be.


July 13, 2013 at 2:10 pm
Buddy Chuoke says:

I couldn’t agree more with Coach Graham. The entertainment value of the CWS this year was reduced with those long fly outs in a cavernous ballpark. Bringing the fences in would also make for more exciting games.


July 13, 2013 at 2:49 pm
James W. Hajovsky says:

Very good letter from a man that has been around long enough, both in college and the pros, to speak about a topic like this. He speaks with authority and if only other coaches would stand up and take a stand giving him the support needed to make a change that is long overdue.

I hope the NCAA reads this letter and consults with all the college coaches for their opinion, they will find out something needs to be done and will do it.


July 13, 2013 at 2:57 pm
Doug Nicholson says:

AMEN!!!!


July 13, 2013 at 5:30 pm

This is fantastic! Baseball is an amazing sport, which must be preserved and marketed the correct way. I have respect for pitchers who throw low and hard and keep balls in the park. But, fans want the excitement of the long ball and the game shouldn’t be tilted otherwise.


July 13, 2013 at 6:09 pm
Jose Cruz Jr says:

I cannot agree more. The bbcor bat is a joke and a bad idea. It’s not only killing college baseball, but high school ball as well.


July 13, 2013 at 6:21 pm
AHarvin says:

Hooray for Coach Graham. The college game has gotten boring with the dead balls and bats. Well hit line drives in the gaps seem to never get through. just look at the stats each game. Rarely a home run. Even doubles and triples have become rarities. The singles game is not entertaining.


July 14, 2013 at 3:24 am
Doug hermance says:

Coach Graham is right. When 3,4, and 5 hitters are bunting we are in the dead ball era of college baseball. I agree with AHarvin it is not just the loss of home runs, it’s the elimination of the ball in the gap, that gets to the wall. This has become even scarcer than the home run.
Baseball should consist of more than pitching, walks, sacrifice bunts and singles.


July 15, 2013 at 5:52 pm
Tim K says:

Interesting how Coach Graham doens’t mention “bats” or “fences” in his letter, but some still seem to think the fault lies in those topics. The ‘ball’ issue has been one that has been discussed/known by many, including Stitch, in the college scene for several years now. It’s not surprising that the NCAA is slow to rectify a situation that is obvious to many. It is surprising how many average fans think changing bats and fences is a flip of a light switch that should be done immediately.


July 16, 2013 at 9:58 am
John says:

Agree 1000 percent with Coach Graham. I love college baseball, but it has literally become unwatchable. The CWS has had the entertainment value of watching paint dry. It has truly been horrific I can’t stand how people make arguments about how this is somehow the way the game is supposed to be played. Total nonsense. Why the heck should there even be fences? It is not like players can even hit home runs over them anyway. You might as well just tear down the fences and maybe line drives down the line can roll past the outfielder and inside the park home runs can be hit like players are playing in some third world country.

I’ve said it a million times, but changing the bats was the most idiotic decision ever. 1998 and 21-14 was last century both literally and figuratively with the bats. Dumb decision.The CWS used to be fun to watch. It was something that brought anticipation, excitement, and drama during June every year. Now it just inspires the feeling that the product shown to the nation in college baseball’s marquee event is a 2 week long snoozefest where the best teams in college baseball look like they just arrived from another planet and just discovered this novel baseball skill called “hitting.”


July 17, 2013 at 11:29 am
Kris Boucher says:

BBCOR bat rating is probably here to stay; a safety issue. The people who develop a light-weight, effective head gear for pitchers will retire in comfort.
An MLB-lively ball is a great idea. Programs could move fences if they want to deal with that expense, but developing a livelier ball for college play….great idea!.


July 23, 2013 at 10:46 pm
fred4945 says:

I must say Coach Graham’s argument has brought me around. Until reading this letter, I’d felt nothing needs to be changed. His recommendation is the only one which makes sense.
Bringing in the fences would reduce the players’ value because most home runs would be suspect and there would be reason for scouts to discount the defensive range and arm of outfielders who are pro prospects.
Changing the bat is a step backwards. It’s a crutch. And it’s dangerous. A BBCOR bat is safe — but a minus 5 is a whole other story.
Coach Graham’s general principle is dead on: If the hitter must compete with a wood-like bat, the pitcher should also have to use MLB-standard equipment.
My only question is should college ball go to lower seams, OR a livelier ball — or BOTH?
The lower seams, alone, might solve the problem. I coached at a CA junior college whose pitchers put up great numbers (2008-2011). But none of those pitchers went on to succeed at the D-I level — and just 2 at the D-II level. The head coach at this JuCo would not teach long toss and, consequently, pitchers’ velocity declined into their final seasons. My point is that, even with less velocity, the high seams allowed them to carve up jr college hitters. At D-I, the lack of velocity betrayed them. We wouldn’t want to take away the D-I pitchers’ velocity, but make it more difficult to locate a tight breaking ball and the problem is solved.