Friday, February 27, 2009

Weather or Not

This past week, Vermont and Northern Iowa University killed their baseball programs. That's sad and probably necessary at the same time. We are survival of the fittest types. Teams in the north, just don't always have the enthusiasm or invested time to make it work. Practicing indoors and getting excited about baseball when there is a foot of snow on the ground is tough. That said, here are some basic questions that address the warm weather vs. cold weather states as it relates to baseball issue.

Q. Historically, where are the stronger programs?
A. In the past 20 years, the southern/warm climate teams have had 156 representatives go to Omaha...the Northern teams have had 12.

Q. Why does the south and western state colleges dominate in the College World Series?
A. Outside of foreign born players, the majority of major league baseball players come from California, Florida, Texas and Georgia, so it stands to reason that these colleges would have a strong base of high school players to choose from, making their ability to load and reload easier each year.

Q. Why do baseball baseball players be seem to better in the southern/western states?
A. They play more baseball. They have the ability to concentrate on baseball year round and by high school, have ceased to chop up their season by playing fall and winter sports. Although some people will disagree that year round baseball makes a difference, the realities are that most west coast and southern state players DO play year round and as a result, those states continuously produce some of our nations best players, best college teams and MLB recruits.

Q. Will Northern players ever compete with southern players?
A. Absolutely!!! A great athlete is a great athlete. The difference is commitment. It takes a year round commitment, a love for the sport and a major shift in their work-out habits. Baseball is an outdoor sport, when you can play it outdoors. A great athlete that loves baseball in Schaumburg, Illinois will have to take his game to another level mentally, than the guy in Poway, California. The guy in Poway can play in tournaments, face good pitching, hone his game situation skills, etc. The high school player in Schaumburg has to visualize those situations and work a lot harder indoors to achieve those kind of results.

And, folks that's very hard. Northern players have a distinct disadvantage. It's tough to psyche yourself to play pretend baseball in a cage, gym or on an indoor carpet. But, it can be done and has been done. Prior to 1988, there were teams like Maine and Michigan that used to be regulars in the CWS. A lot of that was due to regionalism and the way they seeded the brackets, but back in the 50's and 60's, Minnesota won three times and Michigan won twice. It just takes commitment and hard work, no matter if you are indoors or out. High School players in the North just need to get used to the idea of getting their reps indoors for 4-5 months.

Northern collegiate baseball seems to be headed in the right direction to address their biggest issue of February baseball. Teams in the Big 10, Big East and other conferences had to travel down south starting as early as Feb. 2nd and play conditioned and outdoor seasoned southern teams from the ACC, SEC and other warm weather conferences. That was a big disadvantage for them since they had little or no outdoor playing experience that early in February.

So, last week the Big East and Big Ten had a pre-season tournament challenge in Florida to kick off the 2009 season. They got their feet wet by playing other northern schools that are in the same situation as them to start off the season without greatly affecting their RPI standing.

We hope this tournament and hopefully others like it, will eventually convince the NCAA that there are solutions to narrow the weather gap and lengthen the season again. As we have written many times on this blog, the condensed season is hard for the STUDENT-athlete. In a condensed season, teams have to play 4-5 games a week early in the season and that makes it extremely hard for an athlete to be a student.

It's all so complicated folks. And, unless this global warming issue gets worse, collegiate baseball will always be be divided by the climatized haves and have-nots. All of you readers that live in the north are probably real sick of hearing about how the south is better than the north...when we all know there are great baseball athletes are on both sides of the Mason Dixon line. The bottom line is the level of commitment and playing time that separates the good baseball athletes from the great athlete and that divide can be closed with a shift in your winter baseball work-outs. It's really that simple.


Anonymous said...

I live in New England and there have been more and more indoor facilities being built (Extra Innings etc) in the last few years. This has lead to more AAU/travel teams being formed as they now have facilities to work at. This will lead to more northern players being used to working out indoors during the winter months as they grow older. It will become the norm to join these teams if you will want to play high school ball in the future as the AAU/travel kids will be ahead of the rec player who hasn't thrown or hit for 6 months. There are even a few multi purpose domes in the area that have baseball tournaments in the winter. None of this equals playing games outdoors against quality opponents but it will help keep the talented northern players in better baseball shape and form. It may also lead to stronger northern college teams as the kids on those teams will have been conditioned physically and mentally to working out indoors all winter and then hitting the field running once the season finally gets going.

Rounding Third Staff said...

That's great news for the Northeast. Nobdody wants to see teams like Vermont or Northern iowa kill their programs...yet if a school fails to invest in facilities, then they don't deserve to have a baseball program. If more schools...(Boston College has one of the worst facilities in collegiate baseball) would look to areas like yours and invest, then high school and college baseball will continue to grow and prosper.

Anonymous said...

Very true on the Boston College facilities.. I also live up North and my son was recruited by BC, NU, ME.. etc.. He decided to go down South and the coaches at these Schools all tried to talk him out of it by saying the Southern teams have large rosters, you'll pitch to much, etc.. Our response was the Northern Schools simply do not take baseball that serious.. They don't invest in the program.. We received double the scholly money by going down South with much better facilities and a real passion for the game..