Friday, February 26, 2010

Open Letter to the Media

RT Staff Note: I am passionate about College Baseball. I want it to become as popular as football and basketball. So, lately I have been sending letters to metropolitan sports departments and their editors about giving college baseball more coverage. The only areas I didn't write were the towns in the Southeastern part of the U.S. They already get it. This particular letter was sent to the San Francisco Bay Area media. It's a real significant market given all of the D-I schools nearby. Similar letters were sent to all of the major California, Southwest, Midwest, and Northeastern markets.

Last week, I picked up a San Francisco Chronicle and was pleased to see coverage of the line-up of college baseball games last Friday touting opening weekend. I thought that finally...the local newspapers and media get it...College baseball is getting it's due. However, that was just a cruel tease.

Despite Stanford's success in dominating the #4 ranked team in the nation...there was no further articles or mention of any of the local games in the paper or any of the local media. I repeat...Stanford beat up and swept a three game series from #4 Rice...a top rated college from a state that the California baseball community loves to hate. (There's a lot of trash talking in the baseball community between California and Texas teams that date back to youth tournaments and showcases. No love lost between the states. That alone makes for an interesting story line.)

College baseball is on the precipice of becoming a major revenue producing sport at many colleges around the country. Athletic Directors in the Big 12, SEC, PAC 10, Big West, C-USA, Missouri Valley and ACC have convinced the local media to embrace the sport and as a result the fans have been flooding the gates. Despite the unseasonably cold weather in most parts of the country, attendance was up, TV coverage and ratings were at all time highs and message boards across the country have reached football like numbers.

College baseball is very, very relevant. We need newspapers like the Chronicle, Mercury News and all TV and radio stations in the metro area to recognize that. There really is no excuse to ignore baseball any longer...There are 9 major D-I colleges with rosters filled with local high school players that compete in the greater Bay Area from some of the top conferences in the country. Stanford and Cal in the Pac 10...San Jose State and Sacramento State in the WAC. Santa Clara, USF and St. Mary's in the WCC, UC Davis and UOP in the Big West. No other metropolitan area in the nation outside of Los Angeles can boast that type of local talent. Yet, it goes completely ignored.

The irony is that there are well over a hundred local high school players playing on these teams and the teams that they host. Did you know that last weekend, there was a re-match of sort between two pitchers that often faced each when they were WCAL rivals? That's a good story line.

Santa Clara has a two time USA Baseball participant, Bellarmine HS Grad and former CCS player of the year is back from elbow surgery. Santa Clara has 10 local players.

St. Mary's vs. San Jose St had a lot of local flavor as well. One of St. Mary's top players was a freshman All-American last year from Foothill high school. In fact players from DeLaSalle, Wilcox, Palo Alto, California and Antioch High schools don the Gaels roster.

San Jose State has players from St. Francis, Bellarmine, Valley Christian, Serra, Leigh, San Benito, Monte Vista, Logan, O'Dowd, Logan, Arroyo, Branham, and Newark Memorial. Do you know many baseball alumni from those schools would like to follow those players? You are probably talking thousands of interested readers and viewers that would boost ratings and subscriptions if they knew you covered college baseball regularly.

Other conferences and metro areas around the country have realized the unlimited potential that college baseball brings to the table. This past weekend, the top 30 schools attendance wise, drew over 304,000 fans to their opening weekend series. As is usually the case, LSU was the attendance leader averaging 10,992 over 3 games. That's well over 32,00 fans for the weekend, or about a typical weekend for the Tampa Bay Rays.

It was pointed out on Rivals College Baseball that it was just over a decade ago that LSU would have been happy to draw just over 400 fans to a game. How did they change the fan dynamic so quickly? Dedication and extensive media coverage. Their coaches and athletic director had a plan, stuck to it and are now the standard by which all college teams should emulate. Don't take my word for it. Media coverage can take most of the credit for this past weekends attendance during opening week, despite cold temperatures. Here's the schools and their average attendance over a three day weekend. (note: some schools only played 2 games due to weather).

By Average fans Per Game (min. 1,200)
1. LSU 10,992
2. Arkansas 7,300
3. Ole Miss 7,171
4. South Carolina 7,072
5. Texas 6,020
6. Mississippi State 5,848
7. Clemson 5,727
8. Texas A&M 5,164
9. Florida State 5,049
10. East Carolina 4,974
11. Southern Miss 3,512
12. Florida 3,484
13. Hawaii 3,355
14. Miami, Fla. 3,172
15. TCU 2,934
16. Tulane 2,837
17. Arizona State 2,780
18. Louisiana-Lafayette 2,758
19. Baylor 2,679
20. Fresno State 2,607
21. Cal State Fullerton 2,465
22. Auburn 2,439
23. Texas Tech 2,328
24. Stanford 1,921
25. Vanderbilt 1,917
26. Long Beach State 1,908
27. Georgia Southern 1,847
28. Georgia Tech 1,720
29. Cal Poly 1,246
30. North Carolina 1,217

Sports departments, it's time to give college baseball it's rightful place in your programming and columns. ESPN, CBS, FOX, Cox, Charter and Comcast have committed big dollars to TV coverage this year. The College World Series and it's new digs in Omaha will be huge news this year. You can talk all you want about March Madness and it's impact on college basketball players, but to a college baseball player, Omaha is just as significant...especially after a long, hard fought 56+ game season.

ESPN has televised the baseball draft for two years now and it's gaining more and more interest. It is being discussed in MLB circles that as more and more college players get the top picks in the draft, players will start to be introduced and identified by the college they attended...just like football and basketball players.

And, one of the reason we want College Baseball to gain more media coverage and subsequent fan support is to show College Administrators that baseball can be a major revenue producer. It is presently an underfunded sport...but it doesn't have to be.

Right now, because of Title IX and other regional factors, baseball has only 11.7 scholarships to hand out over a 30 man roster. Yet, baseball players are THE HARDEST working athletes in all of collegiate sports. They have 45 NCAA sanctioned practice and scrimmage days in the a longer strength and conditioning season that starts on the first day of school and doesn't stop til the last. They play more games than any other sport...56 in regular season and more if they have play-offs or NCAA tournament games. Then, they are required to play in collgiate summer leagues in either Alaska, Northwoods, Cape Cod, Cal Ripken, Jayhawk and a multitude of other leagues around the country. The Northwoods League, as an example, plays 70 regular season games in the summer. Therefore, a college baseball player ends up playing over 120 games for an average of a 33% scholarship. I often refer to college baseball players as the minimum wage workers of collegiate sports.

This is baseball we are talking about...not some fringe or country club sport. America's Past Time at the amateur level...Compared to amateur football and basketball and using that as a measuring stick, baseball could be just as popular as the pro game. Scratch will be as popular...with your help...I hope to see more coverage soon.

Rounding Third Staff


Rebelution34 said...

College baseball is all over the news here in Oxford. Our weather here has been awful, but that doesn't keep fans away. TV, newspapers, and radio stations promote the heck out of it. Who needs pro ball.

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