Thursday, April 2, 2009

Opening Day Was Months Ago

Entire sections of newspapers, thousands of Internet pages, hours of sports newscasts will be dedicated to the opening day of Major League Baseball this week. We like the MLB. We just like College Baseball much better.

Yesterday, I had a conversation with an old timer about the state of the game. This guy is as crusty as they come. He is retired, so he sees his share of high school, college and the local Single A games to satisfy his urge for baseball. He’s not much interested in going to the pro games. Too rich for his fixed income. So, he watches the up and comers. It’s much easier on the budget to spend a few Washingtons on a college game than it is an Ulysses S. Grant.

He prides himself on his innate ability for eyeing talent. He follows these kids throughout their young careers and assesses whether or not they have what it takes to make it to the bigs. If they do, he will shower his audience with a smattering of I told you so’s. If they don’t, he will tell you that he knew this kid didn’t have the heart. Of course, there are no charts, data or video to back up his conclusions. You just have to take the old fart at his word.

But that’s what makes the amateur game so intriguing. The what if’s…the flashes of brilliance in these youthful athletes that give us glimpses in what could be. And as MLB games get more expensive, will the next generation of retirees take to the amateur game like our crusty friend? The next gen of old timers just happens to be the largest population bubble in the history of mankind…the baby boomers.

The baby boomers are also the largest group of college graduates to date and it would seem that a lot of collegiate pride could factor into the support of their alma mater. If you live in the San Francisco/ San Jose/Oakland Metro Bay Area, you follow either the Giants or the A’s. However, there are literally dozens of allegiances to their college favorites. Just in the Bay area alone there are 7 Division-I schools within an hours drive of the metro core….However, most local students don’t attend locally. Many want to experience school in the southern half of the state or in neighboring states to the north and east of California. In California, there are 24 Division-I schools that have great baseball. So in any given city, you could have as many as two dozen allegiances to their local collegiate club.

That’s just one state… In Texas, there are 19 D-I baseball powerhouses. North Carolina has an amazing 18 D-I baseball schools and Florida has 13. The college crowds are getting bigger and the available high school talent that is available to get recruited to these schools is getting much stronger.

Cal State Fullerton is a beast right now and is garnering much deserved national attention as the team to beat. North Carolina is on a quest…After repeated visits to Omaha without a title, look for them to play with reckless abandon at Rosenblatt this June. Texas and the great Augie G. has something to prove to the rest of the nation as does Texas state rival Rice and the Bayou Bombers of LSU. Even off the mainland, there is a up and coming ranked team that is trying to make noise by telling the rest of the baseball world that there is great ball in Hawaii.

And across this great country, there are graduates of these schools with an eye open to their favorite colleges' baseball conquests. Thanks to CBS Gametracker for bringing the games a bit closer to our attention. Thanks to Yahoo/Rivals for daily chatter on the teams and conferences to watch. Special shout-outs to The College Baseball Blog for bringing the world of college baseball a bit closer by posting a variety of news releases in one convenient web site.

So when you read about the rite of spring and opening day…well…I already had my opening day. It was February 22nd…and 30 games ago. Oh, I’ll be tuned into the Giants broadcast and the smooth, soothing tone of the great Jon Miller…but I will also have my laptop with me as well, tracking my favorite college team on Gametracker. Yeah, I’m crazy…......about baseball.

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