Thursday Thoughts - The 1500 Horsepower Machine

Texas Tech baseball coach Larry Hays doesn't strike me as the kind of guy that would grant one of those Katie Couric interviews where she tilts her head to the side and asks softy, "How did that make you feel?" Because there he was on Wednesday in front of a throng of media cameras and microphones getting asked how it felt to get win number 1500 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and he wasn't exactly reaching for the box of tissues.

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(This is all the acknowledgment Coach Hays gave after the 1500th win of his career on Wednesday)

"You know, they're all the same." Hays said bluntly about the milestone win. "Really, I'm being honest, they all mean the same to me. Just because one of them has a number on it doesn't mean anything."

Sure, the guys with the cameras and recording devices kind of paused for a second... but then when Hays just kind of stood there stone faced, there was no snickering. Eventually another guy piped up, "Really coach, milestones tend to have a way of lingering for a while, are you glad to get this one out of the way?"

"No. I mean, we didn't think about it. We had other interests like getting (Chris) Richfield and (Jason) Seefeld back."

Then he was asked, "You going to do anything nice tonight? Anything special?"

"No, just the same old deal. Nell's going to have to put with me again." Coach said, referring to his wife of 43 years.

The on-field interview hit a crescendo when coach was asked if he remembers his first win. "Yeah. I remember that." What do you remember? "We won... (laughs)... I remember a kid named Paul Russell hit a three-run homer."

So the native of Dora, New Mexico remembers a lot about the game he's been in charge of for all these years. But he never loses sight of what's important. "The thing is, I'm worried about the next one. Friday's a key game for us for a lot of reasons."

Well, noteworthy or not, the Red Raiders didn't look like they were going to get this "special" win early on. CC's Cory Blair had Tech hitless into the 5th inning with his offense backing him up with a 3-0 lead. But after getting an out and giving up a hit, Tanner Rindels pulled Tech within 3-2 with a blast to left field. After that, Blair got pulled and the Raiders started piling it on, flooding the Islanders with eight runs before the third out was recorded. The go-ahead runs were provided on a bases-loaded, 3RBI double by SS Chris Hall.

From there, the outcome was never in doubt as Tech cruised to an easy 10-5 win, despite getting out-hit by the Islanders 13-7.

And, against his nature, Coach Hays did reflect for a moment after the win - be it ever so brief - thinking about what he'd say to his ex-players. "I guess I'd say 'thank you' to all of them. I mean, you don't have the time to thank everyone. But then I'd definitely thank Nell first for letting me do all this."

But he thought quickly enough to snap back into form almost immediately. "You know, you guys got me on this. I mean, I didn't want to get on this subject, but I'm a grateful person and I really appreciate the opportunity to do this. Because every game is special."

And how many wins did Coach Hays say he had left in him? "I hope at least one more... on Friday."

That's powerful stuff, man.


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THE HAYS FILE---
- Hays becomes just the fourth coach to reach the 1,500 win plateau.
The others:
Texas' Augie Garrido - 1,648 wins
Wichita State's Gene Stephenson - 1,627 wins
Florida State's Mike Martin - 1,511 wins.
- 38th season as head coach, 22 at Texas Tech and 16 at Lubbock Christian.
- 805 wins at Tech. 695 wins at LCU.
- Picked up his 800th win at Tech vs. Texas on March 21, 2008.
- Winningest coach in Texas Tech history.
- Only one losing season since taking over in 1987.


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JohnCandyVacation.jpg
"SORRY FOLKS, PARK'S CLOSED"---

Here's my Clark Griswold moment for this week. (Cue the "Chariots of Fire" song)

As part of my cross half-country trek from Los Angeles to the Final Four in San Antonio, I planned on stopping in Lubbock, going to a Texas Tech game and, most importantly, going to see the College Baseball Hall of Fame. See, when I met John Askins, the former president of the College Baseball Foundation, back at the Houston Classic in February of 2007, for some reason I came away with the impression that the Hall of Fame would be up and operational within a year. So here I was, pulling into Lubbock in my family truckster after a long journey, expecting to see this glimmering new building that was a shrine to the sport we love. But instead, like John Candy did in Vacation, I got stopped before I could even get to the door. But not that I couldn't visit, but because it hasn't been built yet.


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A HALL OF FAME LUNCH INSTEAD---
So instead of seeing the College Baseball Hall of Fame, I was hooked up with Mike Gustafson and the group of people that are in charge of building and developing the Hall of Fame. A great group of people, might I add. (Or am I just saying that because they paid for my lunch?... no really, they're totally cool.)

We met up at a restaurant called Rudy's Bar-B-Que, which ironically is where the whole idea for starting the College Baseball Hall of Fame began. Great food too. I got stuffed.

So here are the members of the committee I got a sit-and-eat with:

Mike Gustafson, Co-chair Hall of Fame Committee
Chris Snead, Chair Hall of Fame Committee
Raymond Richardson, Wallace Award Committee
Randy Robbins, Treasurer Hall of Fame Committee
Jeff Chase, Co-Chair Hall of Fame Committee
Andrea Watson, Publicity Chair

MikeGust.jpg
(Mike Gustafson of the Hall of Fame committee standing outside of Rudy's, the restaurant where the whole idea of a College Baseball Hall of Fame came to fruition on the "back of a napkin" as Chris Snead put it.)

Since I had the ears and eyes of the Hall of Fame committee, here's the info and talking points I could glean from them:

1- How the idea got started.
One day, a couple of the guys were at Rudy's - the very restaurant I ate at - and they decided to start an award for middle infielders, sort of like the Johnny Bench Award. Well, eventually the idea grew into the Wallace Award, which they have now had for four years. Eventually, the group started talking about the kind of things they could do to help expand the game of college baseball even more. So one of them thought about starting a Hall of Fame. But Mike said, "We all were like 'pfffft. Somebody's gotta have that already.' After we looked into it, we saw that there wasn't one, so we pursued the idea."

And now, the committee of can-doers has got the ball rolling and it's well on the way to making this a reality.

2- Why it will be in Lubbock, Texas.
Simple. Nobody else thought of the idea.

Apparently there were inroads into Omaha housing a Hall of Fame a couple of years ago, but studies done by the big-wigs up there decided it wasn't a money-making ordeal. So, it got shelved. (Damn money. Always a problem.) Then, when this Lubbock band of college baseball brothers (and one sister) came up with the idea, it was there for the taking. So they hit the ground running on it. In fact, if you want to complain about it being in Lubbock, just remind yourself that it's either in Lubbock or nowhere.

3- The plan.
The idea is to have a good sized building that will be right next to the Buddy Holly Museum in downtown Lubbock. It will be the centerpiece of a huge downtown revitalization project that will make for a refurbished area of downtown. There are no blueprints or concrete plans yet, and there is even an existing building that will need to be razed first, but it's all intended to be first class with an upper crust feel to it.

4- What will be there.
A lot. According to Mike and Chris, there is a whole storage area of college baseball memorabilia that is already stocked up and good to go. The other interesting thing about the group is they are attempting to get pieces of history "as it happens" if you will. For instance, they've already contacted Georgia Southern about getting one of the bats they used in their 14-homer game from a few weeks ago. They also collected the baseball from Larry Hays' 1500th win on Wednesday.

They other thing that Jeff was telling me how they also plan on making it more interactive. Their hope is to use actual voices of the Hall of Famers in the displays to "bring them to life" more than just a static display of a hat and a ball, for instance.

5- Why it should work.
Unlike the college football Hall of Fame in South Bend, which is barely afloat, the guys emphasized to me that their goal is to fully endow the building and get further endowments for upkeep, utilities and operating costs before they even open the doors. That way, the monies brought in by visitors and gifts, can be icing on the cake.

On top of all that, the city of Lubbock has really bought into the idea of having the Hall of Fame as one of its center pieces and is even donating the land that the building will be on and the offices of some of the people that were with me at the lunch table on Wednesday.


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NOW, HERE'S MY FEELINGS ON IT---
- Lubbock, Texas?
Yeah, I'm not real crash-hot on the college baseball Hall of Fame being so far off the beaten path. But these people are legit and are dedicated to making this thing fly. And again, it's not like any other town stepped up to make this thing happen. (Remember, Omaha chose to embrace the College World Series 58 years ago, so you see what can be done with passionate people). Let me put it this way, I'm not crazy about it being in Lubbock, but I'm glad that these people are handling it. Because this group I met with are pure college baseball through-and-through and their passion for the game was obvious. You could feel that just sitting there with them for 45 minutes. So I've go no problem there.

- Having a Hall of Fame to begin with.
As you guys might recall from my thoughts on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 2008 inductees a few weeks ago, I've never been real crazy about HOFs for the most part. Mainly because there are so many snubs of deserving people that it makes it tough (or in the case of Madonna and Leonard Cohen making it in, there are also those inductees that are ridiculous to include). As stated in that write-up, if you're going to have a HOF, make it only for the upper, upper crust of the sport. To make an analogy, no career .280 hitters like some of the players that have made it into Cooperstown.

Having cool memorabilia is awesome and it makes a Hall of Fame worth checking out, but make it tough as hell to get inducted into the Hall. That's all I ask.

- The building being named after George H.W. Bush.
Okay, I know. He played for Yale in the first College World Series and all. But one of the things I love about college baseball... it's about five million miles away from politics and politicians. I would nix this, even if he opens up his checkbook for the place. Please no politicians.

For more info on the Hall of Fame, go here:
http://www.collegebaseballfoundation.org/catView.php?catID=2

Now on to some stuff for the coming weekend of college baseball:


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NON-FINAL FOUR PLACES I'D WANNA BE THIS WEEKEND---
The Atlantic Coast Conference steps to the main stage this weekend and is definitely the place to be. Three matchups between ranked teams will do a lot of shaking up to the rank-and-file of the East coast power conference. Should be a blast. Here's what we've got.

1- No. 17 Clemson (18-10, 6-6) at No. 2 Miami (23-2, 9-1).
I've got the Jim Belushi one eyebrow up on the Tigers. They lost badly twice to South Carolina, got routed at Georgia on Tuesday (11-3) and have lost weekend series with Wake Forest and Boston College. No. 17? Really? Show me something here Tigers.

2- No. 19 Cal State Fullerton (16-9, 2-1) at No. 5 UC Irvine (19-3, 2-1).
Dave Serrano returns to Anteater Ballpark to take on the team I called "the biggest surprise team in the country" on the CBS College Sports Tonight show. Who would've thought that after losing most of their best pitchers, most of their best hitters and their coach, that the Anteaters would be No. 5 in the country now? Incredible.

3- No. 12 Virginia (24-6, 8-4) at No. 3 Florida State.(25-3, 11-1)
Say what you want about the Seminoles, but they are the No. 1 team in the Boyd Nation RPI right now. And this matchup also pits the second best pitching team in the ACC (UVa with a 2.83ERA) against the best hitting team in the ACC (FSU at .358)

4- No. 6 Vanderbilt (19-7, 5-3) at No. 27 Ole Miss (17-11, 4-5)
Can these two be labeled a disappointment? Possibly yes. I mean both were pre-season No. 10, but both have some curious losses, including this week's Commodore L to Southeast Missouri. So far the 'Dores haven't been very good on the road, including a series loss at Alabama. So Swayze Field is no place to try to right the ship.

5- No. 25 Georgia Tech (24-5, 8-4) at No. 4 North Carolina (23-5, 8-3).
It's neat to see the Yellow Jackets are featuring the third-best team ERA in the conference (3.14) and are hitting only .295. It's usually the other way around. But UNC is the complete package at .330 and an ACC-best 2.34ERA.

6- No. 1 Arizona State (25-1, 3-0) at Stanford (13-8, 2-1).
Sun Devils players say, "So this is what a suitcase looks like?" as they make their first venture out of the Valley of the Sun all season. And the arms of Jeremy Bleich (2-2, 1.38) and Jeremy Inman (3-0, 1.44) may be as good as any they've faced this season.

7- St. John's (20-5, 5-1) at Louisville (15-10, 3-3).
This is a great road test for surging SJU, who has won 13 of 14 since I saw them play at Cal State Northridge. UofL has been very up and down, as you might expect from a team with so many new faces. But Justin McClanahan (.433-5-24) and Chris Dominguez (.381-7-24) are still swinging mean sticks.

8- No. 23 Oklahoma State (18-8, 4-5) at No. 10 Missouri (21-6, 4-2).
Okay, who here wants to put a 10 dollar bet that Aaron Crow gets the victory on Friday night? Anyone... anyone... that's what I thought. OSU better concentrate on getting Ws on Saturday or Sunday.

9- Minnesota (12-11, 2-2) at Ohio State (13-8, 2-2).
This is a battle between two teams that are probably the only hopes for the Big 10 to get an at-large bid beyond Michigan. Though even that could be remote, since the Gophers are just 12-11 and the Bucks are 12-8. I do commend the Big 10 Network in choosing to televise this series.

10- East Carolina (19-8, 3-3) at Southern Miss (19-8, 4-2)
Great Conference USA matchup at Taylor Field. The crowds should be in the 4,000+ range and in raucous mood. But look quick, yes, that's the Eagles atop the league, above Rice, whom they just beat 2-of-3 last weekend. Barry Bowden (5-1, 1.47) and Justin Bristow (4-1, 2.18) are second and third in the conference behind Shooter Hunt of Tulane.

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UNDER THE RADAR---
They won't make headlines on the New York Times ('coz you know college baseball always does) but these will be big matchups this weekend as well.

- Charlotte (21-4, 6-0) at Temple (13-11, 5-1).
It's the 6-0 49ers traveling up to Philly to take on the surprising 5-1 Owls. Considering they hold wins over South Carolina and Wake Forest and TU is coming off of bad losses to Lehigh and Rider, you'd think UNCC would be the overwhelming favorites here. But ace Matt Mongiardini has gone 4-1 with 1.53 in his last five starts.

- Missouri State (17-8, 4-2) at No. 8 Wichita State (22-3, 3-0)
After a few years in hibernation, it appears the Bears may have the goods to challenge the top of the Missouri Valley again. A tough 10-inning loss to Arkansas on Tuesday should have them fighting mad going into Eck Stadium. Since losing three at Long Beach, the Shockers have had no problems, ripping off 19 straight wins.

- Jackson State (20-10, 8-3) at Southern (10-11, 8-4).
The two division leaders in the SWAC square off at Lee Hines Field on Saturday and up in Jackson on Sunday. And strangely, these games don't count in the SWAC standings, but will be the only time these two face off this season.


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THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS---
While Arizona State is making its first road trip all year, the following teams will finally be playing their first home games of the season this Friday:
- Maine. Will host New York Tech (if the weather cooperates)
- Albany. Will host Hartford to open AmEast play
- Central Connecticut State. Will open NEC play by hosting Quinnipiac.


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HERE'S WHY GRACELAND IS A GREAT PLACE TO VISIT AND ALSO SHOULD BE THE NO. 1 TEAM IN COLLEGE BASEBALL TOO---
The 9-18 Yellow Jackets of Graceland College (Iowa) are officially my daisy chain No. 1 team in all of college baseball. Here's how the daisy chain works on this one:
- March 21st. No. 1 Arizona State loses to Northern Colorado 6-3.
- February 26th. Northern Colorado loses to Air Force 5-3.
- April 1st. Air Force is routed by Doane College 11-1.
- February 9th. Doane College is routed by William Woods 11-1.
- March 9th. William Woods loses to Avila University 2-0.
- March 29th. Avila loses a double-header to Graceland 10-6 and 6-5.


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KEEP AN EYE ON---
Speaking of off-the-beaten-path places. These teams are worth watching this weekend.
- North Carolina-Wilmington (22-4)
This weekend: at Northeastern.
Why to watch: Barely cracking the rankings at No. 30 and, at 21 games, the Seahawks still have the longest win streak in D-1. But the trek up to Boston against a decent Husky squad is no gimme. NU's Mike Lyon is hitting .440 and is second in the country with a .893 slugging percentage.

- Canisius (20-2)
This weekend: vs. Rider
Why to watch: Well mainly because it's freaking Canisius with a 90% winning percentage. When's the last time you could say that about the Griffs? Plus, top hitter Kevin Mailloux (.439-5-21) just got done smashing a three-run homer in the 9th to beat Merceyhurst on Wednesday. As a team, the Griffs are hitting .352.

- San Diego State (17-11)
This weekend: vs. New Mexico
Why to watch: It looks like Tony Gwynn finally has a team to call home about. The Aztecs have won 6-of-7, including a clean sweep of a good Houston team last weekend. And yes, ace Stephen Strausberg has been all the rage, with a 50-7 K-BB ratio in 41 innings so far.

- Washington (18-8)
This weekend: vs. Arizona
Why to watch: Well, it's not like the Huskies are going to win the Pac 10 or something, but they've been on my radar ever since four of their last 11 wins have been shutouts. Plus, if they want to announce their arrival in the media's mindset, beating struggling Arizona this weekend will be a big first step. Plus, game one of the series will be played at Safeco Field, home of the Mariners.


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JUST THOUGHT I'D THROW THIS OUT THERE---
- Quit giving us attendance figures that are flat out lies.
Case in point: LSU's attendance for the Wednesday game with Centenary is "officially" listed as 6,634. But the actual attendance was a paltry 612 patrons.


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UNTIL THE COLLEGE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME GETS BUILT, HERE'S WHERE YOU SHOULD GO IN LUBBOCK---

BuddyHollyMuseum.jpg

As a great monument to the roots of American music, the Buddy Holly Center kept me enthralled for an hour and a half on Tuesday when I first drove into town. It's not a big museum, but it's got a lot of neat artifacts from Buddy's life. I couldn't tear myself away. Listening to that drum roll on "Peggy Sue" was hypnotic. And kudos to the special timeline of the history of rock-n-roll that had me reading word-for-word, from Blind Lemon and Robert Johnson to Gene Vincent and Elvis. Eventually, five o'clock came around and they had to kick me out of the joint.


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TRIVIA ANSWERS---
Here are the three answers to last week's Alabama-based questions.
1- Bama QB Jeff Rutledge's worst day?
At Nebraska, 1977, where he threw five INTs and No. 2 ranked Tide lost 31-24. Rutledge would later call it "a nightmare in broad daylight."

2- Bama roundballer known as "Bodily" Hurt?
That would be 6'9", 250-pound Bobby Lee Hurt, who played for Wimp Sanderson in the early 80s. Some of the LSU players he played against still bear the bruises.

3- The home-run machine that was at-bat when Bama had the bases loaded vs. Long Beach State in '98?
G.W. Keller. He hit a screaming line drive that Dirtbag 2Bman Scott Redfox snow-coned at the apex of his jump to secure the win and a trip to Omaha for the Beach.

Nobody got them all correct. Nobody wins the free turkey or the home version of Extra Innings.


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WHATEVER HAPPENED TO---
Florida State's Richie Lewis?
As seen below, the 5'9" mighty-mite pitcher, never without a large chaw in his cheek (now outlawed by the NCAA) and without a Skoal can outlined in his back pocket (yep, outlawed too), was an All American pitcher from 1985-87 for Mike Martin at Florida State. He threw 202 strikeouts in his sophomore season of 1986, second in the nation to Seminole ace Mike Loynd, who had 223 Ks. What a combo!

RichieLewis.jpg


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SPECIAL THANKS TO MY SEARCH COMMITTEE---
A "Mighty Boss of You" thanks goes out to fellow stitch-head Mike Egleston for pointing out to me that former Arizona softball assistant coach Nancy Evans is now coaching for Cienega High School in Vail, Colorado. (Hmmm, my brother lives in Vail. Maybe I should go visit him soon.)


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I'm riverwalkin' out of here. You guys have a great college baseball weekend. Just a head's up here, I may skip Saturday's Statements in this forum this weekend because of all the Final Four hoopla. But don't worry, I'll still try to placate your ravenous college baseball appetite on Friday and Sunday at least.

Did I mention I hate this late night, central time stuff?

G'night.

Comments

Eric,
Thanks for stopping by Lubbock. Hope you can make it to Pittsfield on Saturday to commemorate the Birthplace of College Baseball.
BW
Trustee
College Baseball Foundation

Eric,
I sure enjoy your articles. Thanks for being a college baseball fan!
Steve Sheely
from Stillwater, Startkville, Austin and Fayetteville

Believe me BW, if I could wrestle the CSTV corporate jet away from the big-wigs who think it's more important to go on another junket to Barbados, I would be there in Pittsfield. As you might see in my Thursday Thoughts for this week, that's my No. 1 place to be in college baseball this weekend.

And speaking of the road, Steve, it sounds like you've put a lot of asphalt under your tires too, being from all those college towns. Thanks for writing in, and yes, that's all I am, is a big college baseball fan. That's why I write from the perspective of a fan too.

cheers,

Eric

Sorry Brother, rumor is that Nancy Evans is coaching at the Vail H.S. in Vail AZ, not Vail CO. Vail AZ is east of Tucson,AZ.....

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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