July 07, 2008

Sunday Summations- Some Post-Season Extras

Yep, it's up already. Fresh on the heels of the 'Dogs winning the whole enchilada, here's a look at Fresno State's version of "The Intimidator" they've already erected at Pete Beiden Field on the Bulldog campus:

It's now officially been 11 days since the 4th-seeded (in regionals) Bulldogs beat the 8th-seeded (nationally) Dawgs to claim the school's second-ever national championship. So really now, has it "sunk in" with you yet? (I always love that phrase.). Since then, Mike Batesole has picked up a couple of national coach of the year honors, Tommy Mendonca has already made some incredible plays at 3rd base for Team USA and most of us stitch-heads have wished it was still college baseball season.

Damn. Why does the pro season get to last so long?

One thing I've always enjoyed about the Extra Innings gig has been the fact that I have provided a lot of my own photography to the columns you see. It's a very liberating feeling to be the only one out there to actually be able to add self-taken pictures to your game stories (okay, except for SEBaseball's Mark Etheridge, who takes great pictures for his own entries too). Besides, where else would you have been able to see pictures of the streaker from the North Carolina-LSU game in Omaha two weeks ago? Really now Stitch-heads.


So a day or two after I got back from Omaha, I got an Email from somebody at Easton who saw my picture of the back of Fresno State's batting helmet on the Extra Innings site and asked if they could use the pic for a "congratulations" ad to the Bulldogs. So, for an extremely high nominal fee, I agreed. Here's the final product:

Not too shabby huh? I even like the idea, the headline and - of course - the visual. It all works man.

You know how those ESPNers and love to give crazy labels like "Best Ever...," "Greatest Upset...," and that inexplicably stupid "Who's Now...," stuff? Well, before they can say that this 2008 Fresno State baseball team winning the big brass ring was the greatest upset in sports history, let's look at a few things to refute that first.

1- This team had some big-time talent.
Six Dogs were picked in the 2008 MLB draft (five in the Top 16 rounds), including three CWS mound starters. Plus, Soph Tommy Mendonca will be a high-round guy in '09, so this team wasn't exactly full of Rudys here.

2- They just underachieved all season.
Sure, you start to lose count of the "What the?..." losses after a while, but they also beat teams like Long Beach State, UC Davis and San Diego along the way.

3- They were a mis-seeded team playing on an uptick (the Oregon State factor)
What's the two biggest trends in college baseball? 1- The RPI still can't get college baseball ranked correctly (Fresno wasn't your typical No. 4 seed). And 2- The team that wins the CWS is NEVER the "best team in the country," just the hottest.

4- Georgia wasn't exactly playing at the top of its game.
It's almost stunning that the Dawgs made the CWS finals, especially after being so inconsistent in the post-season. Recall their losses to Lipscomb, NC State and escapes vs. Miami and Stanford at the CWS where they really didn't play that great except for the comeback innings. So it almost seemed like Georgia was due for poor play.

5- Look, this wasn't the '80 USA Hockey team, the 1950 Navy team that beat Army or the '72 Russian Basketball team.
This is no slight to the Valley Dogs, they were upset winners, absolutely. But re-read points 1-through-4 and keep it all in perspective people.

Speaking of Fresno State greatness, I happened to catch the documentary on Fresno alum Augie Garrido on ESPN called "Inning By Inning: Portrait of a Coach." It was pretty cool and really well shot. Lots of great moments in that documentary and with Augie, you know you're always going to get lots of great quotes. So here are my five faves from the Zen master of college baseball:

5- On his 2005 national championship team at Texas, "It was about the best players on the team being the hardest workers and having the most fun. They found the fun in the game. They had fun off the field together, they had fun on the field together. They had the right attitude. It was a fabulous balance of competitive genius and boyish fun."

4- On going into pro ball as a manager, "I'm often asked the question 'Do you want to go into professional baseball and managing?' and my answer is no, I don't want to do that. I don't belong there because I've got a teacher's mentality. The only reason I think baseball is important is because we're using the game to help people discover things about themselves and how to develop the skills to overcome what appears to be a crisis or a failure and that's what life is about. We're using a game to help people help themselves. Whereas in professional baseball you're using the people for the betterment of the game. And I don't think the game is that important."

3- On confidence of the players he coaches, "Confidence is fleeting for them because they have had all this success and it's one of the demons that creates the fear, not the confidence. And fear is a stronger power than confidence. Confidence has to fight like mad to win the battle against fear. Confidence is a lot more fragile. It's like putting a 245-pound lineman against a 185-pound running back, confidence is faster... but not as strong."

2- Mike Batesole, the head coach of national champion Fresno State, "When you look at all the coaches... we all love him. He's beaten more of us in NCAA baseball history and we all love him. He's like the guy you take to the poker game and at the end of the night he's got your car keys and yet you ask him back the next week so he can take the deed to your house. He buries all of us and we still love him. That's what really separates him. He can stick it to ya', and you still love him."

1- In a post-game speech to his team after a loss to San Diego, "I love baseball. You know why? They don't have one guy on that team that could play for us and they kicked the ever-lovin' shit out of us." (Quick flash to scoreboard to show that USD won 4-2). "The score does not even reveal the difference in these two teams. If this was a fist fight or a gang fight, which none of you know one f****n' thing about, we would be dead right now."

As a post-script to that USD post-game tirade, the Toreros ended up winning all three games from Texas that weekend and my guess is that plenty of those guys could've played for Texas (Brian Matusz, Josh Romanski, Jordan Abruzzo, etc.) but I get the message Augie was conveying to his team.

And by the way, is there anything cooler than having Austin native Richard Linklater as the director for this documentary? That's the same dude that directed the brilliant "Dazed and Confused" in 1994, a movie shot in and around Austin. If only they could've run this on HBO or Showtime instead, all the bleeped out cuss words became a little bothersome.

(Augie in one of the most poignant moments in the documentary, reading his team the Riot Act after a series loss at home to Nebraska in 2006. In the words of former reliever Buck Cody, Augie only "let loose" in anger five or six times in his four years.)

Usually at this time of the calendar year we can always count on a few Southern or West Coast teams already posting their schedules for the next season. But I have found none so far this summer, except for one. Our boy George Horton already has his slate done and ready for next February. Here it is:


Only problem with this schedule is that Cal State Bakersfield's Bill Kernan's expected season-opening tournament that he was hoping would include his new program and the Ducks, isn't going to include them after all.

What's the best way to nearly guarantee a team WON'T make it to the College World Series the following year? Have a media bloke like myself pick them to make it through the Super Regional round 11 months in advance.

I have to admit, I have fallen squarely into that trap. I went 1-for-8 in picks for Omaha back in July of 2007. In fact, between myself, Aaron Fitt and Kendall Rogers, our picks went just 4-for-24 in making it to Omaha.

None-the-less, I decided to carry on and provide another list of teams to look for next June in Rosenblatt Stadium. (Usual disclaimer here, this isn't a Top 8 pre-season list or a list of who I expect to be national seeds for the NCAAs, etc., etc., you get the picture.):

- North Carolina
Mike Fox has put together one of the most impressive runs in modern college baseball. Alex White, Matt Harvey, Dustin Ackley and Tim Fedroff will lead them back... again.
- Miami
Look beyond the losses, there's a hell of a lot of talent back. Especially Frosh All American Chris Hernandez and hitters like Adan Severino, Ryan Jackson and Mark Sobolewski.
- Texas A&M
Four names to keep in mind: Brooks Raley, Barrett Loux, Travis Starling and Rob Childress. The first two are great Soph-to-be arms, the next is a solid relief ace and the last is a great architect.
- Cal State Fullerton.
What? You thought Fullerton would be away for long? Not with Coach Serrano taking over the top program in SoCal. SS Christian Colon and OF Gary Brown are huge future stars.
- Missouri.
Will lose ace Aaron Crow, sure. But there was a lot of good Soph talent here, including Kyle Gibson on the mound and Aaron Senne and Trevor Coleman at the dish.
- Rice.
This one's a gimme, really. The Owls are never far off anyway. Friday ace Ryan Berry and left side infielders Rick Hague and Diego Seastrunk will make up for some losses.
Don't laugh. You think Fresno was expected? Yeah right. Don't even look for the Trojans to win the Pac 10 either. But Grant Green is still one of the best SS's I've seen and C Robert Stock and P Brad Boxberger will rise.
- Baylor.
The Bears will be next year's Georgia-type team: classic underachievers that suddenly "get it" and make a huge run. But that great Frosh class of 2007 MUST deliver.

Went to the House of Blues to see Dallas-based Reverend Horton Heat on Saturday night. Always a great live band, the rockabilly perfectionists put forth an 18-song, hour forty-five minute set of pure quality roots rock with a 50s tinge. Though I love the original stuff the band puts out, the highlight of the show had to be their cover of Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock."

But I have to admit, I was a little miffed about the crowd doing the mosh pit thing. I mean really now, how do you mosh to a cover of Roger Miller's "King of the Road?"

Good live band. Check them out if you get the chance. The opening acts for the show were Nashville Pussy - which I'm saddened to report does NOT include former Duke roundballer Cherokee Park's 6'4" sister Corey on bass guitar any longer - and The Supersuckers. Both of those bands were hilarious and offered lots of good rockin' stuff.

(Jim Heath tearing up that Gretsch guitar of his - dig the suit too - and Jimbo Wallace slapping his upright bass.)

Now I know how Will Smith felt in that film. I am, in essence, the last person still manning the CSTV site. Mainly because the Extra Innings site is still technically part of the CSTV.com website. But it never has gone through any staffers before my entries got posted, so that's why it's not a true CSTV column (and why I can cuss like a sailor in here).

If you're still finding and reading these posts, it's probably because you've bookmarked it or did some kind of google search. Because as you've noticed, when you type in CSTV.com, you're taken straight to CBS College Sports TV site. And the CBS site hasn't carried my Extra Innings columns except for a couple days during the CWS, and even that was difficult to find.

As for the future, I have to be honest with you guys, I'm not sure what the boys at CBS have in mind for next season. I'm not sure if there will be any additional college baseball coverage as CSTV has been doing the last few years or not. I really hope they do, because nobody out there covered college baseball like CSTV.

I will say, when Doug Kroll and I would do our nightly on-field video recaps and previews during the College World Series (http://www.sportsline.com/video/player/play/collegebaseball/2XqD5XisWOQ4jFDjlOB_zubUJP6nZLOA), I was referred to as the "national baseball writer for CBS College Sports." So you never know.

But I will say this: Our sport is as popular as it's ever been and there should be no reason for LESS coverage at this point. But they haven't said anything to me about it one way or the other. So I don't know with any certainty where I'll be doing the college baseball thing next season. Just know that you'll see my stuff somewhere, hopefully with CBS College Sports. As you know, I'm a freak for this sport, so if not there, it'll be somewhere I'm sure. Even if I have to write more of the - gulp! - boring type of stuff you see everywhere else.

If you have any ideas, opinions or rough drafts for a sequel, feel free to pass them along.

I've been meaning to tell you guys that right before the College World Series I was informed that the CSTV.com site would be shut down on the first Monday of the CWS - yes, really bad timing, I know. Then, when Tuesday came around, that's when I noticed that going to the CSTV site meant you were immediately sent to the CBS College Sports TV site, which really just had information about the network on it.

So I pleaded with the CBSSports people to put a link to my Extra Innings site on the CBSSports.com baseball site. They agreed to do so, albeit it was a really tough thing to find since the college baseball page is pretty buried on the site. But I was still grateful for it.

I think I'm going to answer the reactions to the "64 Things That Will Happen in 2008" that I wrote back in February. THAT should be interesting. Look for it in two weeks or so. I'm too lazy to do it before then. Until then Stitch-heads...



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