Saturday Statements - The What, you didn't go to a college baseball game today? version

This new common start date is absolutely the best thing for college baseball. Especially when I decided to drive down to San Diego to see an NAIA game between No. 2 ranked Azusa Pacific and Point Loma Nazarene. I mean those poor boys had to play a double-header under Mother Nature's fury of bright sunshine and biting cold 74-degree temperatures.

HomePlateViewPLN.jpg
(Point Loma Nazarene's Carroll B. Land Stadium. Yes, that's the Pacific Ocean beyond the fence.)

Yes, I was Jonesing for college baseball so bad I decided to make the horrid drive down the 5 Freeway to "America's most scenic ballpark" at PLNU. In case you didn't know it, that's the moniker given to Carroll B. Land Field by a writer from the San Diego Tribune in 1993. It literally does overlook the Pacific Ocean beyond its outfield wall as you can see the surfers lining up to ride the tubes in the breakers below. Nice joint to say the least.

CarrollLandStadium.jpg

Game one
Azusa Pacific 000 100 010- 2 8 0
Point Loma 000 003 14x- 8 15 0

Game two
Azusa Pacific 201 003 0- 6 14 1
Point Loma 010 003 0- 4 8 1

A pitcher by the name of Jonny Bravo got the win in game two for APU to improve to 2-0 on the season. And the 5'7" dynamo threw pretty hard too. The guns were reading mid-90s on his fast ball. It seemed like he was throwing somewhere in the upper 110s. Guess it's been a while since I've been at a game, so I chalked it up to that fact.

johnnybravo.jpg
(Okay, just so you know. This is Johnny Bravo, the character from The Brady Bunch episodes of the mid-70s)

JonnyBravo.jpg
(Not to be confused with Azusa Pacific's Jonny Bravo, who threw fire today in game two)

I got to the stadium today just as the first game was ending. Then took in the view beyond left field in between games to watch the line of surfers and stayed for game two.

Was particularly interested in seeing APU's 1B Kirk Nieuwenhuis, the MVP of the Alaska League last summer, and PLNU's SS Jesse Gill, who Baseball America named as the No. 10 pro prospect in the Northwoods League.

Nieuwenhuis was intentionally walked twice and also sliced a 1st inning single and laced a line shot that was caught in a diving fashion by the Point Loma left fielder.

Gill was a stout fielder and got on base all three times at the dish, including by error and a pair of singles. His last at-bat was a two-run single that pulled the Sea Lions within 6-4 in the 6th inning.

The star of the game turned out to be APU catcher Stephen Kohatsu, who hit a two-run homer in the 1st, a gap single in the 3rd and another single in the 6th. He also blocked the plate on a play at the dish to stem a Point Loma 6th inning rally.

PlayAtPlatePLN.jpg
(Azusa's Stephen Kohatsu making the defensive play of the day)


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Two weird factoids about NAIA baseball---
(Yes, Bob Broughton, otherwise known as the King of NAIA baseball, I should've known about these already, but I didn't. My bad.)
1- The Courtesy Runner.
When the catcher gets on base, NAIA rules allow for a pinch runner. And the catcher doesn't have to leave the game. He can resume his spot in the lineup. It's referred to as a "courtesy runner" for the catcher. Know why they have this rule? Because apparently, the rules-makers felt it was a way to keep the game moving quickly. See, by doing this, the catcher could go back to the dugout and start putting on his fielding gear. (Oooookay...)

2- Intentional Walks
If a team wants to intentionally walk a batter, the pitcher doesn't have to throw four balls, he can merely tell the umpire "intentional walk" and off the batter goes to first base. I LOVE this rule. One of the saddest scenes I'd ever seen was in the 2005 Super Regionals when Arizona State's Zechry Zinicola balked home the winning run for Cal State Fullerton in game one while attempting an intentional walk.


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I know. I know. Where's the preview stuff?---
One of the things I liked about CSTV's plans for college baseball previews is that the boys in the New York office decided to wait 'til this coming week to start posting my conference write-ups and a lot of other pre-season features. (Some sites started their "pre-season coverage" with features before Christmas. Really, peeps.That's like those college football magazines that start hitting the stands in late May.). So don't worry, the goods are on the way and when they get here, you'll dig it. In fact, I believe there's a money-back guarantee.

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My Hall of Fame ballot---
I find voting for the latest class of the College Baseball Hall of Fame nearly impossible. You're given 67 names of great coaches and players and asked to vote for anywhere from 6 to 12 of them. So, thanklessly, arguably and after much consternation, here are the 12 names I put on my ballot:

1- John Winkin, coach of Maine
Anybody who can lead a team from Maine to the CWS six times (and two 3rd place finishes) is a miracle worker to me.

2- Gary Ward, coach of Oklahoma State/New Mexico State
10 straight CWS berths? 14 straight Big 8 titles? Good goshawmighty!

3- Steve Arlin, Ohio State pitcher
CWS record 20Ks in a game.

4- Danny Goodwin, Southern Catcher
Only player ever to be drafted as the No. 1 pick on two occasions.

5- Mickey Sullivan, OF and coach Baylor
Hit .519 in 1954 and also led Baylor to its first two CWS berths in 1977 and 78.

6- Paul Molitor, SS Minnesota
Led the Gophers to a No. 1 ranking going into the 1977 CWS.

7- John "Hi" Simmons, coach Missouri
Put up with college aged dudes from 1937 to 1973. Won national title too.

8- Mike Smith, OF Indiana.
Only player ever to win the college triple crown in 1992.

9- Owen Carroll, Pitcher Holy Cross.
Went 50-2 as a pitcher back in the early 1900s (one of my two Veterans list picks)

10- Billy Disch, coach Texas
Won 22 conference titles. And had the stadium at UT named after him... until some corporate sponsor took over.

11- Jeff Ledbetter, OF Florida State
Hit 42 home runs in 1982, then a national record. Broken by Pete Incaviglia in '85.

12- Greg Swindell, Pitcher Texas
One of only six players to be named 1st team All American in three seasons.

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Who I left on the "How can you leave them off?" list---
There were an endless number of worthy Hall of Fame candidates that were hard as hell to leave off. Here are a select few of note.
- Jackie Robinson, UCLA
The civil rights pioneer only hit .097 in his lone college season in Westwood.

- Branch Rickey, Ohio Wesleyan/ Michigan, player/ coach
The Dodger G.M. changed the sports world, but didn't do enough in college to merit a vote.

- Ben McDonald, LSU pitcher
The Tiger hurler began the trend of stud pitchers who met tough times in Omaha.

- Al Ogletree, Pan American coach
Anyone who could win 1,200+ games in Edinburg, Texas is a hero.

- Dick Howser, Florida State player and coach
Inspirational former coach who FSU's stadium was named after.

- Eddie Bane, Arizona State pitcher
Probably my most egregious leave-off. But I think he'll probably get voted in anyway.

- B.J. Surhoff, North Carolina catcher
One of only two numbers retired on the Boshamer Stadium outfield wall.

- Neal Heaton, Miami pitcher
The Heat. A great college pitcher in Miami's heydays under Ron Fraser.

- Barry Larkin, Michigan
Led Michigan to two CWS appearances. Played 20-some odd years in the bigs - all for the Reds.

- Dave Roberts, Oregon 3B
Drafted No. 1 by San Diego and went straight to Jack Murphy Stadium the next day. No minors for him.


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The Steroid Boys---
Two players that were included on the College Baseball Hall of Fame candidates list were Mark McGwire (USC) and Rafael Palmeiro (Mississippi State). Just in case steroids played any part in their college success too, I decided to leave these liars off of my list.

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Oregon's baseball stadium---
Seen the artist renderings of that bad boy yet? Ho-chee-mama! It looks freakin' immaculate. Here's a link to an article from the Oregon Daily Emerald on the new digs:

http://media.www.dailyemerald.com/media/storage/paper859/news/2008/01/31/Sports/Oregon.Unveils.Duck.Baseballs.Field.Of.Dreams-3179596.shtml

Only beef? The location.

Instead of having it on campus, they've decided to build in on the Northwest shoulder of Autzen Stadium. Not a bad location, mind you. I mean, they will have access to the weight room and indoor Mashovsky Center facilities. But if you look at the Google Earth view of the campus, you'll see the open, unused area between the softball field and the famous Hayward Track stadium that I thought would've been a perfect place for the baseball stadium. Especially during those numerous spring track meets where the fans could mosey by the baseball stadium between events and take in a few innings. Meanwhile, the Autzen Stadium location is a couple of miles away from the heart of the Eugene campus.


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Okay, it's getting late. And the start of the season is just six days away in Honolulu. See you when the preview stuff starts. Hope you dig it. Also, I'll be posting "The 64 things to watch for in college baseball this season" in the next few days. Don't worry, it won't be your normal boring "just the facts" stuff. It will be fun.

G'night.

Comments

Strong work, especially the account and pictures from the NAIA game. I'm sure it will get all of us college baseball fans pumped for the season that's right around the corner. Do you think George Horton will still be able to keep a pencil wedged behind his ear in the damp conditions of the Pacific Northwest?

Eric! Thanks for including your Hall of Fame ballot and line of thinking. Also, great point on the location of Oregon's stadium -- college baseball is a game where fans can mosey by for three innings, while on campus for other reasons. I tell people this all the time -- just take an hour and enjoy the national pastime. You and the teams will both be glad you did. Enjoy the season!
-Brad

Thanks Brad.
I freakin' love doing the Hall of Fame voting, but it's always a drag to leave off people that deserve some recognition. Good point about the UO field location. Like the column says, I concur. Thanks for writing in.
-E.

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert