Thursday, June 18, 2009

What a Great Game This Is

I am a West Coast apologist. I make no bones about that. I live, breathe and fanatically defend the undeniable talented college and youth teams and players in the baseball states west of the Rockies. Baseball participation (from players and not always fans), is as big out here as football is in Florida and Texas and basketball is in North Carolina and Indiana.

So, when my West Coast favorites take a hit in the showcase events like the CWS, I take it personally and am left scratching my head as to what happened. Maybe it’s because on average, 475 or more players get drafted from the western states, draining schools of maintaining a consistent balance of power. This year, a lot of high draft picks were high school pitchers, further watering down the talent of bullpens across the western conferences. But then again, a high percentage of Texas, Florida and Georgia players get drafted every year as well.

Maybe the tough conference schedules take a toll throughout the season. The conferences here are brutal…but then so are the SEC, ACC and Big 12 conferences.

So what is it? Maybe there’s nothing wrong. Maybe it’s just that college baseball teams all around the southern and western parts of this country play darn good baseball and that it’s just the luck of the draw. Could anybody have predicted with a straight face that Fresno State would win the National Championship last year? Did anyone think that Oregon State would win not one, but two CWS Championships back to back? Can anyone really predict who will win this year? No.

However, we all can agree that each team that was and still is in Omaha , fit the bill of a formidable competitor and all deserved the chance to wear that crown. Some tried, but didn’t live up to that billing and some are still trying. But baseball is a game of an infinite amount of numerical chances and the more the experts try to break it down, the more the predictions break down.

Tuesday night’s game between Arizona State and Texas could not have been more wrongly assessed. Some will tell you that both starting pitchers grossly underperformed, others will say that the hitters over performed and others will say that one coach out-smarted the other. The debates will never end and I absolutely love that part of the game.

I say…THAT’S BASEBALL. Embrace it, love it, and support it…just the way it is.

The more I think about it, the more I feel how proud we should be of how far this extraordinary game of college ball has evolved. I couldn’t be happier that we are having heated discussions on which conference is better than the other and who has the best OOC, RPI, ISR and other alphabet soup measures of success. It means that we CARE about this great game and the implications of a prestigious series, conference or national tournament win.

Those are the kind of emotions that helped popularize and propel football and basketball into hugely profitable sports. The same can and will happen with college baseball as long a s there are outlets like ESPN, CBS Sports/Gametracker, Rivals, and other regional message boards helping stir up the controversial issues and feeding us the games.

And the greatest thing about college baseball is that seems to never end. After the last out of the final CWS game is recorded, the attention switches to the collegiate summer leagues in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, Alaska, California , Mid Atlantic, Northwest and the Plains States.

If you are lucky enough to ever be in Cape Cod, go to a Cape League ballgame. If you live within a two hours drive of Madison, Wisconsin, you will be amazed at the 5,000 or more in attendance at those contests. A couple of days ago 2,679 saw the Bend, Oregon Elks lose to the Bellingham Bells, of the West Coast Collegiate League 9-5.

The game is growing and growing and so is the debate, the pride, the loyalty and the passionate cries of my school is better than your school.

Texas teams can derail the legitimacy of California leagues and California schools can beat their chest about their brand of baseball.

Meanwhile Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Oklahoma can scoff at the rest of the countries claim to superiority.

Bring it all on, because that can only mean great things ahead for the great game of collegiate baseball. Be a part of college baseball today and never let go. Good Luck to the remaining teams in Omaha!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I prefer college baseball to pro baseball, at least until my son gets drafted. Even then, my son and I will always have a loyalty to his college. Ole Miss has given him the opportunities to succeed and play against the best in the country. Good article.