Thursday Thoughts - Giving props to the Old Man

I've gotta hand it to my father. There are three things my old man told me that really stuck with me.

1- "Don't be boring."
Anybody can be boring. Think differently.

2- "Just wear jeans and t-shirt."
When you look back at pictures 15 to 20 years later, what you're wearing won't be half as embarrassing as that of other people.

and 3- "You should go to those College World Series games. It's a good event for the city."

So, implanted at an early age, I've got my pops to thank for getting me to this stage of addiction to college baseball. Thanks dad.

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(I went through books and books of these things as a kid, it was like adding sugar packets to Mountain Dew for me)

As weird as it sounds, growing up in Omaha, there were numerous times that pops would take me and a couple of my friends and drop us at Rosenblatt at 10am and then come back and pick us up at 11pm when the day's games were through. See, back in those days, they would play three, sometimes four games in a day (back when it wasn't all about making money and dragging this damn tournament out for two weeks). So we would zoo around the stadium all day and take in games while we were at it.

Bad parenting? Sure. But again, it forged this college baseball thing so strongly into my brain that I can't shake it now as an adult.

Well, now my father lives in Pensacola, Florida where, like everyone else in the panhandle, he bakes in the... er, I mean, basks in the sun every spring. And since the panhandle of Florida also hosts the biggest matchup of the 2008 college baseball season so far, I thought I'd hop a few planes so that I could share a few beers with him, swap some old Omaha stories and also drag him out with me to some games over in Tallahassee.

It's No. 1 vs. No. 2. Miami vs. Florida State. Almost as big as those games we used to go to in June at Rosenblatt Stadium. I just hope I can escape getting caught by stadium security at Dick Howser Stadium just like I used to at the 'Blatt.

And did I tell you about the old College World Series luncheon? That was something they used to do every Friday on the first day of games. All eight teams would gather at this giant ballroom downtown, along with hundreds of media, dignitaries and NCAA personnel and Jack Payne would be the emcee, introducing each of the teams one-by-one to resounding applause. My father used to check me out of school early on that day and take me downtown to the big pre-games gala event.

Of course, the weird thing about it all was that here they were, all eight teams, having a huge steak and potatoes meal and everything, and at 4pm that same day, two of the teams were going to be taking the field after eating a large banquet meal. Oh well, players were tougher back then anyway. And, as I experienced, parenting was a little questionable too. But I turned out alright. (Didn't I?)


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TEN PLACES I WOULD WANT TO BE THIS WEEKEND---
Including one big place I will be at.

1- No. 1 Miami at No. 2 Florida State.
This is the working definition of a no-brainer.

Can. Not. Wait.

Never been to FSU for a game, so this will be an experience. Are the Animals of Section B still around? Guess I'll find out. Lots of eye-popping offensive stars in this one. I've been able to see the likes of Jemile Weeks (.403), Blake Tekotte (.390) and Yonder Alonso (.358) - couldn't be more impressed. But I have never seen Buster Posey (.478), Tony Delmonico (.363) or Jack Rye (.374) in person, only on televised games. That's gonna be so damn cool it's not even funny.

Lots of improved pitching for both sides. Soph Matt Fairel (8-0, 2.38) and J.C. transfer Elih Villanueva (4-0, 3.33) have proven to be solid studs and Ryan Strauss (5-0, 4.34) just got through pitching a complete game in Tuesday's win over Florida - though that does make me wonder about his availability, or effectiveness, for this weekend. The Canes counter with a bit more balance on the staff, led by ace Chris Hernandez (5-0, 2.77). But the part I like about The U is that their bullpen seems a bit more stout, with Kyle Bellamy (5-0, 0.65 in 27.2 inns) and Carlos Gutierrez (2-0, 2.96, 8svs) providing quality relief. And believe me, this series will use a good bit of relievers.

Elsewhere, the matchup seems pretty even.
Records:
Miami: 31-3, 15-1
FSU: 33-3, 17-1

Batting average:
Miami: .344
FSU: .352

Team ERA:
Miami: 3.78
FSU: 3.53

Home runs:
Miami: 55
FSU: 52

Here's the interesting part in looking at these two teams:

Stolen Bases:
Miami: 69 of 85
FSU: 39 of 57

Fielding Percentage:
Miami: .977 (1st in the ACC)
FSU: .953 (last in the ACC)

So you see that Miami not only has a tendency to blast the ball all over the park, and beyond, but they also love to give the opposing team the heeby-jeebies. Pressure. Pressure. Pressure. And the Seminoles have shown to be a little shaky in the fielding department. So keep that in mind as the games drag on to the 7th, 8th and 9th innings, one of these teams seems to crack more often. I'm giving the edge to the Hurricanes because of it.

Hmmm. Now that I think of it, the three-gamer is completely sold out. Wonder how the old man's gonna get in? Ah, no worries, he once got into a sold out Nebraska football game using a woman's student I.D. when I was a kid. He'll make it in.

2- No. 23 Mississippi at No. 9 South Carolina.
You'd think that this is a matchup of the Rebel arms against the Cock bats. And it's true, Ole Miss leads the SEC with a 3.39ERA and 352Ks and the Gamecocks lead the SEC with an intimidating 70 home runs (.308 team average). Reb starters Lance Lynn and Scott Biddle are two of the top three in Ks in the conference with 65 and 71 punchouts respectively. But like Miami above, I like the fact that the Cocks also field at an SEC-best .977. That's good to know going late into games.

3- Oregon State at No. 3 Arizona State.
The Devils already beat the stew out of the Beavers in an early season game 11-0. Also, remember how ASU won all three games up in Corvallis last May, holding the Beavs to just four runs in those games? Edge still goes to the Sun Devils, who are breathing a sigh of relief over finally playing at home again. (Home record: 27-1. Road record: 3-3.)

4- No. 26 East Carolina at No. 7 Rice.
Once again, here's where the Pirates can prove their worth AND start to state a claim for a home regional, which they so desperately want. Let's do the math here, ECU beat Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, two games to one. Rice lost to USM at home two games to one. So, that extrapolates that the Pirates should beat the Owls this weekend, right? Hmmmm. Saturday's game is on CBS College Sports.

5- No. 15 Oklahoma State at No. 14 Texas.
Talk about two teams going in opposite directions. The Pokes have wins over Missouri and Nebraska over the last two weekends. Texas still has the stigma of the 31-12 and 13-3 losses at Mizzou. Plus, did I read right that Kyle Russell is hitting something like .228 or so? Aye-yaye! Have to love what transfers Matt Hague (.359) and Luis Flores (.317) have brought to the Okie State lineup. Have to like their chances in Austin here too.

6- Elon at College of Charleston
The Phoenix got off to a hot start at 19-3, but have hit the skids lately with three straight losses, including getting their ears boxed against Coastal Carolina, 12-0 on Wednesday. Meanwhile, CofC comes in off a pair of hometown wins over Charlston Southern, 5-2 and 4-2. With the Phoenix in 1st at 12-3 and the Cougars in 3rd at 8-4, this will go a long way in deciding the Southern Conference title.

7- Notre Dame at West Virginia.
The Irish have come on lately and are now tied atop the Big East standings, a place they haven't been to in a long time. So Dave Schrage seems to finally have his four-leaf clover going in South Bend. For WVU, I'm rubbing my eyes here, according to the NCAA stats, five Mountaineers are hitting .400+. Five! Among those are SS Tyler Kuhn, who is living up to billing, hitting .438, along with sweet swinging C Justin Parks at .402 and hot frosh Jedd Gyorko at .422.

8- No. 25 Stanford at UCLA
This might be do-or-die time for the Bruins, who are just 18-14 after being a pre-season No. 1 and in danger of being banished to the bottom of the Pac 10. The Trees are tied with Arizona State (who they beat two out of three) at the top of the Pac at 6-3. They rally their offense behind the sizable bat of Sean Ratliff, who has clubbed 10 home runs and has a slugging percentage of .791.

9- Duquesne at Temple.
Hard to believe this is a battle between 1st (DU at 10-2) vs. 3rd (TU at 8-4) in the Atlantic 10, but here we are. All nine starters in the DU lineup hit .300 or better. Meanwhile, Matt Ortega leads the weak Owl bats (.274) with a .314 mark. But I like the arm combo of Matt Mongiardini (5-2, 2.03) and reliever Arshwin Asjes (0-0, 1.64, 5svs) for the Cherry and White.

10- No. 8 Texas A&M at Baylor
One of the best venues in the country sees the hot-handed A&M Aggies bring their Top 10 nine to struggling Baylor. The Brazos River rivalry probably holds more importance for the Bears, if only because they are one of the mystery teams in college baseball this season. So much talent, but BU is only 23-14 and 8-7 in Big 12 play. A&M leads the circuit at 12-3.


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MY MID-YEAR TOP FIVE LISTS---
The other day, the boys over at CBS College Sports Tonight - the nightly Sports Center-type show dedicated to nothing but college sports, which I think is so cool and is hosted by Greg Amsinger and Adam Zucker - asked me to put together some Top Five lists for baseball that they could run each night this week with me over the phone. So this is what I came up with. I'm sure they're not totally agreeable to all of you, but you can't please everyone.

So here they are, and let the arguing begin... riiiiiiight, NOW!

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Golden Spikes Player of the Year:
1- Ike Davis, ASU
Went with Davis because of his value on offense and on the mound, where he's 4-0, 1.22 with three saves for the depleted pen of the Devils.
2- Gordon Beckham, Georgia
Been the main reason the Dawgs are back in the national and SEC picture.
3- Aaron Crow, Missouri
Just third? Yeah, I know, he could be a No. 1. He's been totally bad-ass, tossing out no-hitters like their comp'd rooms in Vegas for partying rap stars.
4- Brian Matusz, San Diego
USD has had some rough spots, but not with the intimidating lefty, who is 7-1, 1.99 with 80Ks.
5- Randy Moley, St. Bonaventure
A wild card at No. 5 (sorry Buster Posey), but anyone who is hitting .561 with .600 on-base % is nails in my book.

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Top Hitters:
1- Gordon Beckham, UGa
Yes, he's been a better hitter than Davis, and against a good schedule too, going .432-16-40.
2- Ike Davis, ASU
It was his invaluable combo of pitching and hitting made him #1 in my POY list.
3- Randy Moley, St. Bonaventure
Again, I love the mid-major guys that put up ridiculous numbers and that's a recipe that "Holy Moley!" has cooked up this season.
4- Buster Posey, Fla. State
What an athlete! Played Shortstop as a frosh and is a catcher now. Also has four saves on the mound too.
5- Ollie Linton, UC Irvine
Only a .333 average, but does so many things well with the bat. Bunts, sacrifices, hits behind runners. Plus he's stolen 24 bases already this season

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Top Pitchers:
1- Aaron Crow, Missouri
Had a string of four straight shutouts prior to Texas coming to Columbia last weekend. Still, 8-0, 2.05 with 71Ks. Damn, that's good.
2- Brian Matusz, USD
Has gone pitch-for-pitch with Crow against a murderous slate. Should be a great pro player soon.
3- Stephen Strausburg, San Diego State
Aaron Fitt calls him the No. 1 pitcher for the '09 draft. Had a complete-game, one-hitter with 23 Ks vs. Utah last week.
4- Joshua Fields, Georgia
This diminutive fire-baller is the main reason the Dawgs are back atop the SEC, he was 1-6 last year. But he's already got 10 saves this year, with 0 earned runs.
5- Scott Gorgen, UC Irvine
He's 6-2 and has only given up an average of five hits per nine innings. Nice work.

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Grades:
(This is a section where they just wanted me to give out various grades on subjects of my choosing, so this is what I came up with.)
1- ACC: A
Miami-FSU are 1 and 2. North Carolina is No. 4. That's gold. But also consider that five of the top 10 in Boyd Nation's RPI rankings are ACC teams. Strong work so far.
2- Pac 10 #1 teams: C-
Arizona, UCLA and ASU were all pre-season No. 1's but the Bruins are just 18-14, UofA is a roller-coaster 22-11 and the Devils finally went on the road and went just 3-3.
3- SEC Schedule makers: D-
Remember last year? Only five SEC teams got NCAA bids, primarily because of weak non-conference slates. Well, other than Georgia's No. 37 ranked schedule, the rest of the conference didn't learn its lesson. Mostly wimpy slates that will come back to haunt them again.
4- Canisius: A
Who would've thought this team would go from 20 wins last year to 28-4 so far this year. Best part? Coach Mike McRae was a former goalie on his college hockey team in Maine. Ya' gotta love a guy with those kind of cajones.
5- Mike Gillespie, coach of UCI: A++
Speaking of shocking, UCI lost its top four hitters, two of three weekend starters on the mound and its head coach. Yet, SoCal coaching vet Gillespie came back from coaching a minor league team on Staten Island and has instilled new confidence in these Anteaters. They are currently the No. 5 in the country.

We also had one more topic to cover, the most improved teams from 2007. But since this feature wasn't slated to run until next Tuesday, I begged them to wait until Monday to do this feature. Because, what if Duquesne or UC Davis goes 0-fer this weekend? Then my analysis of them being a surprise - or on top of their respective conferences - would be dead wrong. So, in order to prove I'm not a total hack, we're going to re-shoot this segment on Monday. We'll see if these teams are still on lock-down mode through this weekend. So here's who I had prior to this weekend...

Most improved teams
1- Georgia
2- Stanford
3- UC Davis
4- Duquesne
5- Canisius
Again, this list may change after this weekend.

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THE (BAD) FASHION OF COLLEGE BASEBALL---
Suffice to say that David Bowie was NOT referring college baseball when he wrote that song about fashion. So here is a quick look at some of the worst uniforms in college baseball, new and old.

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(The awkward looking brown and candy apple red uniforms of Brown University)

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(Arizona State broke out these horrid oldies during last year's College World Series. They were from the Barry Bonds early-80s era.)

USCstockBlack.jpg
(A couple of weeks ago in a game against Long Beach State, USC brought back their "Sunday Black" unis from a few years ago. Never liked how schools got to forcing black into their school colors in the last 10 years or so)

PaulMolitor77.jpg
(Ahhhh! The Paul Molitor era solid yellows of Minnesota. This pic is from 1977, though you do have to appreciate the effort of white cleats.)

FSUbananaUnis.jpg
(And quite possibly the worst uniforms in college baseball history are these Florida State banana yellows, from - believe it or not - the late 90s. Just nasty. Made worse with black cleats.)

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ONE LAST HOMAGE TO MY FATHER BEFORE I GO---
Another thing the old man knew pretty well, was good old fashioned rock and roll. So, in light of that, I'm going to re-hash a clip from who I consider to be the greatest rock and roll singer of all time, Little Richard, before he went all religious and quit being cool. Check out this clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBTakXapwiE

Have a great college baseball weekend. It looks like I might be doing post-game updates from the Miami-Florida State series for the CBS College Sports Tonight show as well. Check 'em out if you can.

G'night.

Comments

Nice article, Eric. Your dad sounds like a swell guy.

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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