Welcome to another summer blockbuster.
Okay, truth be told, I really don’t have time to do any kind of preamble here. So let’s get the keys to the liquor cabinet and go straight for the good stuff…
1- I FEEL A DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE.
As I’ve told you guys before – and anyone who writes me to ask how they should get into college baseball writing – there’s no money and very little opportunity in trying to make a living as a college baseball writer. Because of that fact there are always a few people who drop in and out of our small community of writers around the country each season.
The worst casualty of all in our sport has been the recent announcement that SEBaseball.com’s Mark Etheridge is officially hanging up his keyboard for college baseball. Believe me, this is terrible news. I’ve always maintained that Eth was the best pure writer in our sport. Nobody can turn a phrase or could paint a picture like this dude could and he even did it with a great sense of humor… although, I often felt he didn’t use more humor in his writing. I’ve also always said that baseball writers – pro, minors, college, LLWS – all tend to be way too staunch and stuffy. Eth wasn’t.
I always had a good kinship with Mark because back in the late 90s, he and I were the only ones out there writing about college baseball. Sure, there were the Dana Heiss Grodin’s and the Will Kimmey’s, but they’ve all wised up and gone to more lucrative fields of business since then. Eth and I were the last of the originals.
In Mark’s case, it was just a matter of time. As in, not enough hours in the day with all he had to juggle with a “real world” job, the required travel and having a special needs child to take care of. Here’s Mark’s “official statement” on his retirement from SEBaseball:
“The reason I’m getting out has nothing to do with Rivals or the
ever-changing media landscape. As with anyone, we all have priorities ebb
and flow as we move through life. After 15 years of working a day job and
then spending nights writing and weekends driving all over the south (on my
own dime) with SEBaseball it finally has taken a toll.
I remember weekends where I’d be in Nashville on Friday, Lexington or
Knoxville on Saturday, and Atlanta on Sunday. Then get home at midnight -
catch a nap and get up at 5 for work. Week after week. You need a lot of
drive and passion to keep that schedule up for year after year.
I like to think I was able to deliver clever content that made people
think. If this is the end of the line I hope that is how people remember my
Thanks for all the support over the years.”
(Editor’s note: Dammit!)
2- SPEAKING OF, GIVE ‘TIL IT HURTS, YOU MISERS.
While I was in Sugar Land, Texas in late May for the Southland Conference Tournament, I was talking with Matt Brady, the baseball S.I.D. for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (and no, I couldn’t convince him to start a campaign to shorten the school’s name). He told me that he was trying to spearhead one of the best proposals I’ve ever heard of in college baseball.
“I’m trying to propose to the NCBWA that they add ten dollars to their yearly dues which would go straight to a fund toward the D1Baseball.com website,” Matt said. “I don’t know anyone in our business who doesn’t use it.”
Good idea Matt. Probably the idea of the year. But I’d like to expand that $10 donation to EVERYONE involved in college baseball, not just the National College Baseball Writers of America. So please people, go to the D1Baseball.com site, look for the yellow “Donate” button on the left side of the page.
Give. Give. GIVE.
3- LETS SEE WHERE THE PRIORITIES ARE.
At some point in the month of May I came across this graphic which showed the highest paid public employee for all 50 states. Here’s what it looked like:
Note only 10 states are non-college coaches, and all of them are college educators… although Nevada’s rather hilarious “Med School Plastic Surgeon” is a questionable one. I mean, is the dude REALLY involved in a Med School? Or is he just making breasts bigger and is in some faint way related to the med school.
Also, big props to University of New Hampshire hockey coach Dick Umile. He’s the only non-football or non-basketball coach on the list. Over half the states in the union pay a college football coach as their highest paid employee.
4- UCLA IN THE L.A. TIMES
As you guys probably know, UCLA won the national championship in baseball back in June. You might also know that the Bruins play baseball in the second biggest city in the country – Los Angeles. So yes, unfortunately they don’t have the same type of following as a Mississippi State has. That’s why UCLA’s 300 or so fans in Omaha couldn’t drown out any opposing crowds.
But the thing that bugged the crap outta me in Omaha was how the L.A. Times and Daily News didn’t have a single reporter there ’til the title series. But, that’s the type of town I live in here in Smogtown. Pro sports, beach sports and the paparazzi upskirt shots rule this town.
Just as an example, here is what the L.A. Times had for the front page and the sports page of their paper the day after the Bruins won the brass ring in Omaha…
5- YES! I FINALLY OFFENDED SOMEONE.
For the past four years I’ve had a StitchHead-like “Mad Men” rip-off as my banner ad on Jeremy Mills’ D1Baseball.com front page. Well this week I finally got an Email from someone “complaining” about my banner ad having a cigarette in the StitchHeads’ hand. Personally, I’m very disappointed. I thought I’d get a complaint WELL before now.
Either way, here’s what College Baseball Today SuperFan Amy Leonard said in her Email to me…
Gotta hand it to you StitchHeads on twitter out there. Got some good responses when I posted this.
- Bradley Goldberg wrote, “offended by the *Piece of chalk* in your hand?”
- SWI Sports Images responded with, “I find it offensive that someone was offended by one of the finest avatar’s on Twitter.”
- L.A., an East Carolina fan I know, wrote, “Crushed. Always figured it to be a good cigar.”
- And Dirtbag Blues topped things off with this tweet back, “I’ll have you know I took up smoking specifically because I saw it in this ad and thought it was cool. Up to 4 packs a day.”
6- BEST OFF-SEASON COLUMN?
With the new signing date of July 15th, I was still in “too lazy” mode to discuss the MLB draft signings. But my good bud Aaron Fitt at Baseball America did a pretty good job of providing a sweeping overview of what happened on Signing Day and what teams came out ahead in the process. Check it out here…
7- BEST COLUMN FROM THE TITLE SERIES.
I’m a little late on this one, but while perusing the columns from the College World Series title round, this one is easily the best of the bunch. My home boy Sean Ryan of College Baseball Insider wrote a great piece on the title-winning coach John Savage and his baseball-based family. Check this one out:
8- THE NEW SELECTION COMMITTEE DIRECTIVES.
According to this column from my good bud Jerry Palm at CBSsports.com, the NCAA basketball committee has more leeway in choosing and placing teams in the Big Dance due to the fact that conferences are getting too fuggin’ big.
Of course, the big question is will these new directives translate to college baseball’s Field of 64 as well? If so, it’s probably not a bad thing for ACC and SEC teams to be bunched together in four-team Regionals from time to time, especially since they appear to be set on extending eight, nine and ten bids to these big boy conferences.
Of course, the down side of this new policy is that there’s a pretty even chance that the selection committee for baseball could also pair off Pac 12 teams in the same Regional, even though there may be only four Pac 12 teams in the NCAA Tournament.
THE 9TH QUESTION:
- Do you think there should be a limit on the number of teams from one conference to get bids from the NCAA Tournament selection committee?
10- HOT ON THE CAPE.
Last week I got the chance to catch a few Cape Cod League games on Fox College Sports. So yes, the first thing I must say is “Kudos to Fox College Sports” for televising eight or nine games this summer from the Cape League. Very cool to get a college baseball fix like this during the summer. On Thursday, I saw Falmouth beat Hyannis 8-4 behind Sacramento State’s Rhys Hoskins 4-for-5 day. Hoskins leads the Cape with 37 RBI on the season and is second with seven dingers.
On Friday afternoon, I labored through Falmouth’s 18-3 wipe out of Bourne 18-3. In that game Oregon State fencebuster Dylan Davis collected eight RBI, including a grand slam over straightaway center field and then pitched a 1-2-3 9th inning on the mound. Talk about doing it all. Currently, Davis is hitting .333 at the Cape and is certainly a player to look for a huge year from this coming season.
But he may not have even been the best story of the night. Also shining like a beacon was Arizona shortstop Kevin Newman, who went 6-for-6 at the dish to raise his league-best .364 average. His hot streak continued through the weekend as he now sits at .375. Keep in mind that this is a wood-bat league and he is facing some of the best pitchers in the country. So .375 is pretty incredible.
11- THE 2014 SCHEDULE FEVER CHAMPIONS.
Every year at this time I’m on the lookout for whichever program is the first one to release their schedules for next season. This year’s champion is the LSU Tigers, who released their 2014 slate back on July 15th.
Unfortunately, I’m not going to be blazing any trails to BR to see the Tigers play in the pre-conference portion of the schedule, due to a lack of interest. There is a visit from Virginia Tech, who made the NCAA tournament this past season, but they only play them in a single one-off game: a Friday game in the second weekend of the season. The other big bummer? Vanderbilt is back on the schedule, which is good (remember the two division champions didn’t play in the regular season last year), but they’ll play in Nashville the opening weekend of the SEC season. Seems like these two behemoths would be better off facing each other in the stretch run of early May.
The runner-up to Schedule Fever Champions? Southern Illinois, who released their schedule on August 1st.
12- MY QUOTE OF THE YEAR.
Forgot to mention this in the first lagniappe column of the off-season. But the best quote I heard all season happened in the first weekend of the season. I went out to see the Monday game between Oregon State and UC Riverside. After the game, which OSU won in 11 innings, I caught up with UCR coach Doug Smith, who glossed on about my site a bit (sorry, shameless self-promotion here).
“You know, I love your site,” said coach Smith. “You’re not all stuffy and boring and ‘by the book’ like most baseball writers. I’m serious. What I like is that you write like we talk in baseball. Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you’re funny, sometimes you cuss and sometimes you complain. That’s what we go through every day in our sport.”
An American hero.
13- NO WONDER WAYNE GRAHAM WANTS TO GET THE HOME RUN BACK IN THE GAME.
Actually that was just tongue in cheek, ‘coz I know the Rice coach wants the ball changed for the good of the sport regardless of what happened this summer. But having a pair of home run derby champions certainly doesn’t hurt.
Michael Aquino won the College Home run Derby at TD Ameritrade Park on July 3rd. He beat out an eight-man invitation-only field of competitors. The best line of the write-up from Rice SID John Sullivan was the part where Aquino was quoted as saying, “I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity and even more happy to get the Rice ‘R’ back in Omaha.”
Meanwhile, out on the Cape, at the Cape Cod League Home Run Derby, the Owls’ linebacker-built first baseman Skyler Ewing out-slugged another field of eight, edging Cal State Fullerton’s J.D. Davis to win the Home Run crown. Rice should be well-stocked in slugging percentage for 2014 with these two intimidators. Now, if they were to switch to Easton bats…
Okay guys and dolls, that’s enough for now. More to come soon as I’ve been down in Long Beach to catch the action at the Area Code Games this week. That’s the High School All Star week that we hope is filled chock-full of future big-men-on-campus and major leaguers-to-be. It runs through Friday, so I’ll check in from Blair Field in the next day or two.