Thursday, June 4, 2009

TV Hasn't Been College Baseball Friendly

By: Brad Senkiw (Contact)
Anderson, South Carolina
Monday, June 1, 2009

There have been some pretty incredible moments in the regional round of the NCAA baseball tournament.

Texas and Boston College played 25 innings Saturday, the longest game in NCAA history.

Florida State hung 37 on Ohio State on Sunday.

And plenty of regional hosts faced elimination.

However, if you were interested in taking in all seven hours and three minutes of that Longhorn-Eagle marathon or wanted to see the spectacular homer-robbing catches in Greenville, N.C., you had to buy a ticket.

Television is not what you would call “college baseball friendly.”

ESPN’s vast stronghold over all things sports related doesn’t give the aluminum bat game much attention.

In fact, its family network ESPNU, an upgrade channel that not everyone with cable has access to, was the only national place to televise the first week’s action when it showed the Tallahassee and Irvine regionals.

For those that didn’t make it to the Clemson Regional, you were lucky enough to catch the action on Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast. Actually, just the fortunate ones that have Charter cable since neither the Dish Network nor DirectTV satellite companies can carry that channel.

The point is, college baseball’s tournament isn’t treated in near the same fashion as college hoops, or even poker or strong man competitions for that matter.

There’s no gimmicky nickname like March Madness, and Gametracker on the Web is the only way to “watch” many of these games.

I’m sorry, but if I wanted to see computerized dots move around a computer screen, I’d just brake out the Atari.

Luckily, the ESPN networks will up their coverage in the Super Regionals later this week.

However, few folks have seen the teams they’ll watch because regular-season games are barely shown, even regionally.

But, ESPN will serve up plenty of hype for the College World Series, which begins June 22, because it’s shelled out big bucks to broadcast it.

It’ll tell us how great the experience is and how Omaha is the Disney World of college baseball.

Only problem is, the road to the CWS is much less traveled by TV.

While the college game has never claimed the attention of pro ball, it’s the future more now than ever.

San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg has already been featured on TV and in magazines as the next great professional pitcher. In Major League Baseball, Tampa Bay and Baltimore saw recent spikes in attendance for fans dying to see Rays’ future pitching ace David Price, a former Vanderbilt start, and Oriole catcher Matt Wieters, a Charleston native and former Georgia Tech standout.

The old thinking was to draft high school kids early and groom them in the farm systems, but that takes several years. Pro teams are spending more high-dollar draft picks on guys that have college experience than ever before, and they’re impacting teams much quicker.

It’s clear the college game is as healthy as it’s ever been. It’s just a shame we get to see so little of it.


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