Wednesday, June 30, 2010

South Carolina Celebrates First national Championship

As pro-college baseball as we are, it is only appropriate from our way of thinking that the University of South Carolina won its first ever National Championship in any sport yesterday...and it was baseball that put South Carolina in the company of Champions.

Lou Holtz tried, Steve Spurrier couldn't do it and basketball has never even come close... but Ray Tanner did it and swept what most thought was an overwhelming favorite in UCLA. He had his team ready to play and boy, what a great final game it was.

Whit Merrifield singled home Scott Wingo in the bottom of the 11th inning, lifting South Carolina to a 2-1 win over UCLA, clinching the National Championship for the Gamecocks.

Wingo led off the final frame with a walk, moved to second on a passed ball, advanced to third on a bunt by Evan Marzilli and scored on Merrifield single to right.

The two starting pitchers, South Carolina's Michael Roth and UCLA's Rob Rasmussen locked up in a tight duel, but neither was around to figure in the decision. Roth allowed one run on six hits over 5.0 innings, while Rasmussen scattered six hits and four walks over 6.0 scoreless frames.

UCLA broke the scoreless tie with a run in the top of the fifth. Trevor Brown led off with an infield single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Niko Gallego's RBI single to left.

The Gamecocks finally tied the score in the bottom of eighth. Pinch-hitter Brady Thomas led off the frame with a solid single to center. Pinch-runner Robert Beary went to second on a ground out and scored when Bobby Haney's grounder ended up in right field after being misplayed by UCLA first baseman Dean Espy and eluding second baseman Cody Regis.

Matt Price (5-1) worked three scoreless innings of relief for the win.

Jackie Bradley Jr. was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. He was joined on the All-Tournament team by Christian Walker, Evan Marzilli and Brady Thomas.

The Gamecocks finish the season with a 54-16 record, while UCLA ends its campaign with a 51-17 mark.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bertman says college baseball getting better

RT Staff Note: College baseball getting better?? It's about time someone noticed!

By The Associated Press (AP)

OMAHA, Neb. —
The surest sign that schools are investing more in college baseball these days can be found in the list of the most recent College World Series champions.

When UCLA and South Carolina complete their best-of-three championship series, it will mark the third time in five years that a school will be a first-time winner in Omaha. And, former LSU coach and athletic director Skip Bertman thinks that's a great thing for the sport.

"Administrators are seeing the value and the economics of baseball," Bertman said. "It may cost a million and a half to run the program, but you're eventually going to make money. Right now, there are probably 60 great programs in America. Soon, there will be 90."

Oregon State won back-to-back titles in 2006-07 and Fresno State broke through in 2008 before longtime power LSU won it all a year ago.

TCU of the Mountain West Conference made its CWS debut this year, and South Carolina and UCLA are both going for their first national titles in baseball.

"I think this year's field, as it was last year, and I'm sure the years before that, do have the surprises," said Tim Weiser, chairman of NCAA's Division I baseball committee. "Last year, Southern Miss was a surprise, certainly TCU making it this year for the first time ever.

"And the fact that we have seven teams that are in this year's field that weren't here last year also speaks to kind of the diversity of college baseball and the growth that we've seen in the game."

Dave Keilitz, executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association, said the state of the game is better than ever.

"There's more good teams, there's more good coaches, there's more good players, there's more teams that have an opportunity to get here than any time in the history of Division I baseball."

Weiser said college baseball does have problems that need to be addressed. Among them is the 11.7 scholarship limit.

"I think the majority of our committee members would talk more about scholarship limitations," Weiser said, "and trying to find ways to increase the commitment that we make to baseball from a scholarship standpoint."

Dennis Poppe, the NCAA's director of baseball and football, doesn't see it happening and said he doubts the baseball tournament field will expand from 64.


NO THANKS, YANKS: UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole told the New York Yankees in 2008 that he wanted to go to college and wait on pro baseball. The Yankees drafted him in the first round anyway.

Cole told the Yanks thanks, but no thanks, again.

"It was an extremely hard decision," said Cole, who grew up a Yankees fan. "When you're put in that situation with that kind of opportunity, you have to really sit down and think. And my family and I had a goal, and that was to play college baseball. And I've always dreamed about coming here to Omaha and playing in the College World Series.

"So in terms of that's what I really wanted to do, that's where my heart was."


BRUINS GO HOLLYWOOD: Even though some of the best college baseball is played in southern California, there's a dearth of media coverage because the Dodgers and Lakers, among others, dominate the sports scene.

UCLA coach John Savage says he and his players feel like they're in the big-time in Omaha, where ESPN's cameras and other national media are always around.

"We get much more attention when we leave Los Angeles," Savage said. "That's why our players are so grateful of the attention that they're getting here. We don't have an SEC tournament. We don't play a Pac-10 tournament. It's Los Angeles and there's a lot more to do than come to a college baseball game. I wish more people would pay attention to it."


STADIUM SWAN SONG: It hasn't been lost on South Carolina coach Ray Tanner that the Gamecocks and Bruins will be the last two teams to play in a CWS at Rosenblatt Stadium. The CWS will move to a new downtown stadium next year.

"Before I came here as a coach, I used to think, 'Is it everything you dream of? Is it really?' And then when I got out here a few years ago, it really was," Tanner said.

"It's got to be at the top of the list for NCAA championships. I can't imagine a bowl game or Final Four in basketball being any greater than this stage. It's wonderful. The television coverage, the city of Omaha, the people that come watch games at Rosenblatt. It just doesn't get any better."

SHORT HOPS: South Carolina players and coaches and the rest of the team's travel contingent got a rude awakening when the fire alarm at their hotel went off at about 1:30 a.m. Monday. Firefighters found no fire. Evacuated hotel guests were allowed to re-enter the downtown Embassy Suites after about 20 minutes. ... Eleven participants in the 1950 CWS championship game _ nine from Texas and two from Washington State _ were introduced before Monday's game. Texas beat the Cougars 3-0 in the first CWS final played at Rosenblatt Stadium. ... South Carolina is attempting to become the first team since Oregon State in 2006 to come back from losing its first game in Omaha to win the national championship. Southern California in 1998 is the only other team to do it since the two-bracket system started in 1988. ... If UCLA wins, it will join the school's softball team as a national champion _ the first time that has happened in NCAA history.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 28, 2010

UCLA writes its own Omaha chapter

Bruins write their own chapter in California's storied history at the College World Series

By Ryan McGee

Rosenblatt Stadium isn't located in California. Sometimes it just feels like it.

Despite the state of California's storied history at the College World Series, UCLA only picked up its first win this year.

But if one College World Series legend had gotten his way, the event would have moved to L.A. from the Big O more than four decades ago.

Since The 'Blatt first welcomed the College World Series in 1950, no state has sent as many teams as many times as has the Golden State, a total of 13 different teams for a whopping 73 CWS appearances. Only nine times in 60 years has the eight-team field not included at least one school from California. In 1988, half of the CWS field came from the one state.

Just the mere mention of most Cali colleges can immediately cause sports fans to think of Omaha: Southern Cal, Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State and Stanford.

UCLA? Um, not so much.

Yet now here are the Bruins, the final representative of the nation's greatest college baseball state in the final days of college baseball's greatest stage. They sit squarely in the catbird seat of the winner's bracket with more pitching arms stockpiled than anyone else in the field and three days of rest before starting Friday's semifinal round. The Bruins are the final national seed standing and now the favorite to be the last team standing at the end of the tournament.

Who woulda thunk?

"Wouldn't that be something?" said Fred Lynn, a USC alum and 1969 All-CWS outfielder. He chuckled as he contemplated the thought of a Bruins title. "USC is really the program and the team that propelled the College World Series and Rosenblatt Stadium into what it is today. That would really be an interesting twist if it was UCLA that won the last series played at Rosenblatt."

Some are calling it Johnny Rosenblatt's last great gag.

Southern Cal owns a dozen national championships, including the second-ever CWS, played in Kalamazoo, Mich. Fullerton owns four CWS titles, followed by Cal and Stanford with two each. Even Pepperdine and Fresno State own one championship each.

UCLA? Zero.

USC has made 21 CWS appearances, followed by Stanford and Fullerton's 16, Cal's five, and Long Beach State and Fresno State with four apiece.

UCLA? This is just its third CWS berth ever. The first came in 1969, when the Bruins were swept in two games. The next came in 1997, when they again went two-and-'cue. So yes, that means that their victories over Florida and TCU brought the Bruins' career CWS win total to two.

USC has 74.

The man who led the USC dynasty was head coach Rod Dedeaux, a charismatic Cajun who migrated west and played baseball for the Trojans in the 1930s. He was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers as an infielder and played in all of two games, back-to-back contests in 1935, and owns one career big league RBI.

He returned to Los Angeles to work for his college coach, Sam Barry, at USC. When Barry was shipped off to fight in World War II, Dedeaux took over the team. Barry returned and they served as co-coaches on the '48 championship team. Two years later, Barry died and Dedeaux was wholly in charge.

This is where you're tempted to say "and the rest is history," but that statement isn't strong enough to describe what Dedeaux did with the Trojans. Before his retirement in 1986 he won 11 more championships, including five consecutive from 1970-74. He retired as the winningest coach in college baseball history with a record of 1,332-571-11 and coached dozens of big leaguers, from Tom Seaver and Roy Smalley to Mark McGwire and Randy Johnson.

He also worked as baseball's consultant to Hollywood, helping actors with their theatrical swings and befriending nearly every A-lister in Tinseltown. Meanwhile, he worked tirelessly to grow college baseball into a big-time sport that could run alongside football and basketball. It was a hard sell in his city, let alone the nation.

And that brings us to the moment when the College World Series nearly bolted for SoCal. Meaning that the CWS wouldn't have merely been a frequent destination for schools from California, it would've been a home game.

Frustrated with the event's lack of growth over its first 15 seasons in Omaha, Dedeaux made a power play in 1964 to have the event moved to Los Angeles. He promised a first-class facility, media coverage, bigger crowds, and was backed by a support group that included some very heavy Hollywood hitters, most notably Walt Disney.

"Can you believe that?" said the late Jack Diesing Sr., shaking his head in disbelief as he discussed it in 2007. "That lit a fire under some people. But Dedeaux? It's hard to imagine the man who became the face of the College World Series in Omaha thinking it should have been somewhere else."

Using Dedeaux's proposal as a motivational tool, Diesing, a local Omaha business leader, convinced the city to start taking the Series more seriously. In 1967, he formed the not-for-profit College World Series Of Omaha Inc., which reorganized the event, refurbished Rosenblatt, and promised the NCAA a bigger piece of the financial pie (as in most of the money). CWS of Omaha is still in charge of the event today.

Omaha's signature event was saved and the memories of Dedeaux's power play soon faded. The coach became a staple of the city and the stadium even years after his retirement. Before every College World Series game he could be seen making his way through the yellow seats in the lower level of the Rosenblatt grandstand, leaning on a walking cane fashioned from a Louisville Slugger and signed by dozens of his former players. He passed away on Jan. 5, 2006 and received a moment of silence in his honor at that June's first College World Series game.

"Rod did for the baseball program at USC what John Wooden did for basketball at UCLA," said former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, a good friend to both coaches. "You have to put Rod Dedeaux on the same level with John Wooden."

During this Series, being played just three weeks after Wooden's death, the baseball Bruins are on the field at Rosenblatt with the initials "JW" inscribed on their uniforms. It's no surprise that they would honor of the memory and legacy of the Wizard of Westwood.

But what the UCLA team may not have realized is that they are also honoring the memory and legacy of Rod Dedeaux, the man who built California's first collegiate baseball dynasty.

Who knows? Perhaps we are seeing the start of the next one.

Ryan McGee is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine. His book, "The Road To Omaha: Hits, Hopes and History at the College World Series," which chronicles the excitement and passion of the CWS, is now available on paperback.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Belief in Bradley

RT Staff note: Great Story...

By Sean Ryan Co-Founder

A thousand miles from Omaha, Neb., a high school baseball coach sat in an Atlanta hotel room and watched as South Carolina’s Jackie Bradley Jr. (right) stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 12th inning against Oklahoma.

“I’m sitting here thinking there’s no way in the world I’m going to pitch to him in that situation with a guy on second base,” said Mickey Roberts.

Roberts is the longtime coach of Prince George High School in Prince George, Va. (about 30 miles south of Richmond), where Bradley played on the Royals varsity for four years. Roberts, in Atlanta with a 14-U travel team playing at the same East Cobb complex where Gamecocks coaches first spotted Bradley, had told his wife a couple innings earlier to “look for him to end the game here.”

Bradley didn’t, and stepped to the plate in the 12th wearing an 0-for-5 collar as South Carolina’s last hope. With Robert Beary on second and the Gamecocks trailing 2-1 with two outs, the sophomore center fielder worked the count and ripped a 3-2 pitch down the right-field line to score Beary. After a walk to Jeffery Jones, Brady Thomas, also 0 for 5 entering the 12th, singled up the middle to score Bradley and save the Gamecocks’ season.

“They pitched to him, and he burned them,” Roberts said. “It didn’t surprise me when he got the hit.”

Roberts has seen it plenty of times before.

Bradley was a part of a Prince George team that was among the better teams in Central Virginia. Joining him in the outfield was John Bivens, who attended Virginia to play football and this season played baseball at Virginia State and was drafted in the 12th round. Bradley, Bivens and Roberts’ sons – Mike Roberts (VMI) and Sam Roberts (VMI) – pushed each other hard.

Roberts remembers Bradley, who threw a mid-80s fastball as a pitcher in high school, as often trying to pull the ball too much. But as he matured, he learned to use all fields.

“I knew he had tremendous drive,” said Roberts of Bradley, a roughly 4.0 student in high school. “He really wanted to succeed and really wanted to do well. I knew he was going to be good. I knew coming out of high school he would have a chance at professional baseball.”

The rest of the college baseball world is getting to know Bradley in a big way.

The smooth-swinging lefty launched a mammoth homer to right in South Carolina’s College World Series opening loss to Oklahoma (the homer came on Father’s Day, and Bradley told his father in a note that he would hit a homer for him). He then ripped a three-run shot to left-center as the Gamecocks eliminated top-ranked Arizona State on Tuesday.

“The kid has worked so hard,” Roberts said. “He deserves everything he’s getting now.”

What he’s getting is the ride of his life.

Bradley and the Gamecocks will face Clemson, needing two wins over their bitter rival to reach the CWS national championship series. All eyes back in Prince George, Va., will be watching.

So will a proud high school coach.

“It doesn’t surprise me he’s doing as well as he’s doing,” Roberts said. “The kid really wants it.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wood Bats Belong In College Baseball

RT Staff Note: We were watching a summer collegiate league baseball game over the weekend and realized just how nice it was to hear the crack of the bat from these young, talented college players. I watched dozens of college games this year and I got so used to hearing the PING, that I almost forgot what it was like to hear wood in the close confines of a college stadium. So we dug up an article that ran yesterday that mirrors our thoughts on wood bats. Enjoy.

by Eric Dorval

“Ping! Ping!” That’s the sound baseballs make when they come off the bat during college games. But why does it have to be this way? Why does college baseball still not use wooden bats?

The answer is simple: money. There are two issues here. The first is the cost of the bats and the second is endorsements. Many top college teams and coaches have lucrative endorsement deals with metal bat manufacturers. In addition to providing bats, these top schools receive additional money for advertising.

We are led to believe that college baseball teams would break a dozen bats per game and be forced to buy hundreds of bats per season. This is simply not true. Obviously bats will break over the course of the season, but wooden bats are less expensive than metal bats. A good metal bat starts around $250, while good white ash and maple bats are roughly $50 and $100, respectively. You can buy several wooden bats for the price of one metal bat. In fact, when the state of North Dakota outlawed metal bats in high school play, the average bat cost per school decreased.

The other issue revolves around the endorsement deals that the big universities have. But wouldn’t wood bat companies provide the same deals as those making metal bats? Louisville Slugger makes both.

The NCAA has allowed the use of metal bats in college ball since 1974, so this is certainly nothing new. Sure, allow metal bats in high school ball, but college is different. Who cares if everyone can’t hit the ball 400 feet? Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

The College World Series is always held in the Omaha Royals’ Stadium. They are the Triple-A affiliates of the Kansas City Royals. Over the past few seasons the fences have been pushed back when the College World Series comes to town. This is due to the fact that the metal bats used by college players are simply too powerful for the stadium. Does it make sense that a professional ballpark has to remodel in order to accommodate college hitters?

All major college sports are different than their professional counterparts in one way or another. College footballs and basketballs are both smaller than the ones the pros use. In college football, the hashmarks are wider than in the NFL, which definitely changes the game. In college basketball, the three-point line is closer than in the NBA.

But baseball is different. Going to a baseball game is a very sensory experience. The smells. The sights. The sounds. Watching a sporting event is about more than the players. In baseball, one of the most recognizable characteristics is the sound a ball makes when it strikes a bat or pops into a glove. By using metal bats, it alters the way the game sounds, a difference not to be taken lightly.

Nike had a famous commercial with Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux talking about how “Chicks dig the long ball”. While it is true that everyone loves a home run, this is just one facet of the game. Baseball is about much more than smashing balls all over the ballpark. Just ask Ozzie Smith, who made the Hall of Fame even though he only hit 28 home runs in 19 seasons.

The wood-metal difference also makes it extremely difficult for scouts to compare college players to their pro counterparts. And it prepares them poorly to make the professional transition. Are we far from seeing MLB push for the college game to make the switch? Perhaps not.

The choice is clear. Metal bats change the game more than just on the scoreboard. They change the sound and feel of the game, which is what sports are all about. It’s like instant replay. Instant replay can break up the flow and change the feel of a game.

Bring the sound and feel of real baseball back to college. Bring back the wooden bats.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A College Baseball Hater Goes to Omaha

RT Staff Note: Found on Gobbler Country -the Virginia Tech Hokies community with a bullhorn, a bottle of whiskey and a dream. Goes to show you even a non-college baseball fan can appreciate the CWS.

by furrer4heisman on Jun 22, 2010 5:54 PM EDT

I like to think I have an open mind. I'm willing to have any and all preconceived notions I have demolished by actual experience. Last year, I went to Atlanta thinking the Crimson Tide faithful would be among the worst college football fans I'd ever have to deal with and I couldn't have been more wrong. Hell, there's even a Wahoo who I consider to be a decent human being.

So it was with an open mind that I traveled to Omaha, Neb., to see the College World Series with Winfield of From the Rumble Seat, Willy Mac of Block-C and a friend of mine who, since he's from Seattle, we'll refer to as "Pearl Jam" because Pearl Jam is awesome. My mind was open to the idea that college baseball wasn't a complete abortion and that its national championship tournament would be worth the drive.

I left Omaha not completely convinced that college baseball itself is enjoyable to watch, but completely convinced that the CWS offers one of the best atmospheres in sports.

No matter how you choose to drive to Omaha, the trip is likely to be surrounded by flat (that's right, I just used flat as a noun) with corn and farmland as far as you can see. It's far from the most exciting drive in America, but at least the scenery will occasionally change, unlike a lot of the drives in the South where the highway is just lined with trees for hundreds of miles.

It's one of those drives one route can actually take an hour less, but FEEL two hours more than an alternate route. Lubbock, Texas, is the same way but with cotton instead of corn.

But when you finally get to Omaha, the payoff is worth it. You exit I-80 and go South on 13th Street, slowly creeping up a hill in the middle of gridlock. But when Rosenblatt Stadium comes into view, it's easy to be taken aback by the sight because there is just people everywhere: In the stadium, on the hill outside the stadium, on the streets, lining the streets. Just. Everywhere.

Rolling down 13th, past Rosenblatt itself, you see that you've stumbled into College Sports' Lost Party. Every bar and restaurant has a beer, merchandise or beer and merchandise tent set up for consumption. The ballpark is in a residential area so every lawn and driveway has been turned into a temporary parking lot and tailgate.

All you want to do is to park and get the hell out of your car as quickly as possible so you can take part in the festivities.

This is the one place where college sports still have the college atmosphere. It's the one place where the fans make the rules and Corporate America has to abide by them. Most of the prime tailgating locations along 13th have been occupied by the same groups for the better part of three decades. They made deals with the property owners long ago and simply keep coming back under the agreement that the same spot will be saved for them next June.

This isn't like the Final Four, Frozen Four or BCS Championship Game where the championship is held in a large pristine stadium or arena. Where the prime seats are given to sponsors who get their choice of where to put their tents in the parking lot or the area around the venue.

The CWS is held in a minor league ballpark, the home of the Pacific Coast League's Omaha Royals and put right in the middle of a residential area. The fans control the parking and the party and that's why the fun has to end. Look, I can see why the NCAA (and the Royals) want out of Rosenblatt. The place really is a dump. But the response from the college baseball fans I talked to was universal, "Yeah, but it's OUR dump."

Next year, the College World Series moves to the new TD Ameritrade Park Omaha (hey, at least they let them put the word "Omaha" in there) which is about four miles North of Roseblatt, still on 13th in downtown Omaha. It's not surrounded by houses or the zoo, it's surrounded by hotels, parking garages and chain restaurants. The park, the parking and the party will officially be sponsored in 2011 as the NCAA will finally wrestle control of its Lost Party from the fans.

What happens to the atmosphere will be the biggest question facing the event. It was made by college baseball fans and the city of Omaha, who took ownership of it and made it what it is today. Will the die-hards stop coming back? If they do, it will be a shame. The atmosphere for the College World Series is a lot like the Frozen Four in that the people there REALLY care about the sport they're watching. They're almost fans of the sport first and their schools second, which for the most part is unlike the Final Four and BCSCG.

The crowd at the CWS made college baseball fun to watch for a non-college baseball fan. The outfield bleachers are the main attraction, inhabited by people who paid $10 ($10!) and stood in line for hours to get into the general admission seats. They yell at each other, yell at the people in reserved seats and try to keep beach balls out of the hands of security. They still know the game and appreciate good plays, but they are the primary suppliers of fun at the CWS.

The guys in the bleachers were needed for the first game Pearl Jam and I went to, a nearly four-hour game between UCLA and Florida. If I started to find myself bored during a pitching change, I could always look over and see what they were doing. It would be a shame if those $10 GA tickets disappeared next year as some at the tailgates speculated. It would price a lot of fans out of the CWS and be a huge blow to the game atmosphere.

The baseball itself wasn't spectacular. I saw a lot of unnecessary steps off the rubber, walks and catchers with bad arms, but I did see college baseball at its best. I also saw Florida's centerfielder make one of the best defensive plays I've ever seen, a sliding over-the-shoulder catch at the warning track. At this level, the baseball itself was more than tolerable.

The people and the atmosphere were what was spectacular. No matter where we went we ran into people who wanted to talk to us, drink with us and talk baseball with us. The CWS was one of those rare sporting events that's more of an experience than anything else.

I came away so impressed with the CWS that I'm already making tentative plans to be there next year, hopefully with Winfield, Willy Mac, Pearl Jam and a host of others. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether next year's experience can come close to matching this year's.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Have a Mission Statement

If players want to become a top player, and have a great career in high school, college or wherever they want to take their game, they need to come up with a mission statement. Start by brainstorming with team mates and make it a collaborative effort, because baseball is a TEAM sport. If there isn't any participation in establishing it, there won't be any dedication in upholding it. Keep in mind that it's much deeper than "I like baseball". Players need to think what it is they like about the game and WHY they work so hard to be a better player. For Instance...

Is It The Competition?

The Feeling Of Excelling at Something Few Others Can?

The Feeling Of Pushing Themselves To The Limit?

The Feeling Of Control?

The Personal Challenge Of Wanting To Do Better Than The Year Before?

The Desire To Break Records?

Because They Love The Social Aspect Of It?

The Passion For The Sport?

Is It The One Place They Feel Confident And At A Total Peace With Themsleves?

The Prestige And Attention?

The Scholarship They Receive?

A Mission Statement is a personal statement or creed representing why it is a player does what they do. Every team, and player needs to have a mission and a reason for being. It is what is going to be the fire that keeps you players and teams working and achieving together. Each players personal mission statement will help them individually stay pursuant of the things that will make them better athletes, an in turn contribute immensely to the team. A mission statement is going to set the tone for everything a player and team does. so players need to make sure they are comfortable with it and wholeheartedly believe in it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Going Amateur

There has been an ongoing discussion on whether or not the NCAA has a right to restrict a high school payer from getting drafted or not and dictating when any college student can enter the draft. Are they given too much power. No doubt that power is about protecting self interests. But rules are needed for the good of the sport. In order to protect the integrity of collegiate baseball, there has to be limitations or you'd have the Wild, Wild West.

I think College basketball has become that. The One and Done rule is stupid. College coaches risk a lot recruiting that lottery pick for one year and if they don't perform or go deep into the NCAA tourney, the chances of getting another One And Done is tough. It's hard for a coach to teach a player their system in just one year. Frankly, I think College basketball at the very least needs to restrict the NBA from drafting players until after their sophomore year.

College Baseball would be far more profitable and a TV ratings booster if a Bryce Harper or similar type of player was incentified to go to a 4 year and face top competition. I know he went the JC route...but that's watered down competition. You can argue all you want about JC's being an alternative, but the level of competition is not even close in the big baseball states or conferences. I want to see Harper face Garret Cole or Jungerman...maybe he'd get the best of those pitchers...maybe not...I'd pay a lot to see that though...Could a California or Arizona JC beat a small Northeastern Mid Major? Yes! Could Saddleback CC beat UCLA or anyone else in the PAC 10, Big West or WCC...Not once in a hundred contests.

D-I colleges have to make it enticing to want to go to a 4 year. That is only done through increased scholarships..You give 25 full rides and you'll get a lot more top prospects beating down college admission doors.

Many say that student athletes, if forced to go to college, would put the sport before their school... Yes, many kids are just taking simple basic electives, just to get by and be academically eligible to play baseball...sociology, geography,writing 101, etc..., but it's more about the total disciplinary routine that college can offer to a young mentally and physically growing boy that's important here.

In college, a young baseball player has a pretty tight schedule...up at 6:30 for strength and conditioning, class from 8:00 til noon...break for lunch...on the field from 1:00-5:00pm...dinner and then mandatory study hall till 9:00 or 10:00 depending on the school. And that's just the non-game days, fall and spring...and whether or not he is just there to stay academically eligible or not...he has learned at the very least...time management skills and a strict discipline about life that is invaluable for his future as a well rounded human being.

If he doesn't make it as a pro...he knows the routine already to go back to college and get that degree. That's the type of men college can help build. You can never convince me that a high school kid will get that type of daily support, discipline and time

As it stands right now, MLB is just cherry picking all of the top HS pitching prospects first and that's why Sunday and Tuesday NCAA games resemble a pin ball game. Not enough pitching to go around. A third of the games would be so much more meaningful if those HS prospects matured and warmed up to the game, travel and the discipline of a college atmosphere for a few years before making a career out of the sport.

Look at the High School kids drafted in the first round below...How many of you college fans out there would love to see those kids playing for your school? Longhorn fans would have loved to see Jameson Taillon and Zach Lee in Austin. What a fight it would have been between Georgia and Georgia Tech to try to land Delino DeShields, Jake Skole, Caleb Cowart, Chevy Clark and Cam Bedrosian. Christian Yelich and Dylan Covey can't go wrong with any of the college choices down in Southern California (except for USC). This is what it's all about folks...School pride, fight songs and the old college try. We are all here on this board because we love the college game. Ask any of today's pro stars if they benefitted by going to college and unanimously they would say YES! Ask players out of HS if they may have liked to go to college first and I think you'd get another high percentages of Yes's.

Here's the list of HS First Rounders..Imagine them on your college team...

# 1. Bryce Harper, C/OFCollege of Southern Nevada, Fr.
# 2. Jameson Taillon, RHPThe Woodlands HS (Texas), Sr.
# 3. Manny Machado, SSBrito Miami Private School (Fla.), Sr.
# 8. Delino DeShields, CFWoodward Academy (Ga.), Sr.
# 9. Karsten Whitson, RHPChipley HS (Fla.), Sr.
# 14. Dylan Covey, RHPMarantha HS (Calif.), Sr.
# 15. Jake Skole, CFBlessed Trinity HS (Ga.), Sr.
# 17. Josh Sale, RFBishop Blanchet HS (Wash.), Sr.
# 18. Kaleb Cowart, RHPCook HS (Ga.), Sr.
# 19. Mike Foltynewicz, RHPMinooka Community HS (Ill.), Sr.
# 23. Christian Yelich, 1BWestlake HS (Calif.) Sr.
# 27. Jesse Biddle, LHPGermantown Friends School (Pa.), Sr.
# 28. Zach Lee, RHPMcKinney HS (Texas), Sr.
# 29. Cam Bedrosian, RHPEast Coweta HS (Ga.), Sr.
# 30. Chevy Clarke, CFMarietta HS (Ga.), Sr.
# 31. Justin O'Conner, CCowan HS (Ind.), Sr.
# 32. Cito Culver, SSIrondequoit HS (N.Y.), Sr

Friday, June 18, 2010

Here's your CWS Omaha itinerary

Here's your CWS Omaha itinerary

By Ryan McGee

For six decades, college baseball fans and those simply wanting to experience a living, breathing American institution have made their way to the heart of our nation for the NCAA Men's College World Series.

This year, the good people of Omaha are expecting a larger-than-normal number of CWS rookies, anxious to come and pay their respects to Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium during this, its 61st and final edition of the NCAA championship. Next year the event will move uptown to new skybox-laden, $140 million digs.

To those newbies, their gracious hosts have one piece of advice.

"Don't just buy a ticket, go through the turnstiles, take your seat and watch the game," says Steve Rosenblatt, son of Johnny and a former Omaha city politician. "Arrive early, hours early, and soak up the atmosphere around the stadium. Talk to the people. Get something to eat. Take it all in."

The Blatt sits tucked in between the graph paper-like streets of South Omaha, suddenly rising out of the rows of homes originally built for employees of the city's once-unparalleled meat packing industry.

Now those homes play host to thousands of fans, providing front-lawn parking spots, bottles of water (and other beverages) and faces that have become familiar after more than a half-century of baseball. When I wrote my book "The Road To Omaha" I referred to that atmosphere as simply The Neighborhood, and it is as much a part of Rosenblatt Stadium as anything you'll find inside.

So, what are the can't-miss experiences that everyone must hit during this, the final pilgrimage to The 'Blatt? Read ahead as we present the must-dos, must-sees and must-tastes for anyone rolling to the Big O to say one last goodbye.

1. Drink a cold one at Stadium View Sports Cards … hey, it's free.

There are plenty of great spots to hit along 13th Street, the main thoroughfare that runs along the third-base side of Rosenblatt, from the classic rock of Starsky's Bar and Grill, to the aluminum tinks of the Nike Baseball House to the impromptu shopping mall of souvenirs spread out on the lawn of the old Rosewater School, now home to apartments.

But the heartbeat of The Neighborhood is Stadium View Sports Cards, a red, white and blue frame house directly across the main pedestrian walkway from the stadium. Owner Greg Pivovar ("Piv") bought the old storefront in 1992, moved in with his legendary collection of sports memorabilia, and greets CWS week customers with "Welcome … wanna beer?" He's serious. So serious that he sells updated T-shirts each year with the number of brews he's given away.

In 2009 he wrestled his way through a bout with throat cancer to make it out for the Series, and this year he plans to let his customers, old and new, sign their names to the outside of the 112-year-old building as a way to say goodbye.

2. Boo a Rosenblatt Stadium ball girl.

No one is real sure when this tradition started, but it's been around as long as anyone can remember. When foul balls loop back and land in the giant net behind Rosenblatt's home plate, they roll back down and hit the cable that suspends the net and then drop back onto the field.

It's up to a rotating team of ball girls, most current or former college softball players, to chase those balls and keep them off the playing surface. If they catch a ball cleanly off the net, they are applauded for their effort. If it hits the ground, they are booed by the 20,000-plus fans. Judging from the scabs and dirty shirts, they are willing to go to any length to keep from being heckled.

"It takes some getting used to at first," admits longtime vet Kathleen Brown, now the women's softball coach at Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville, Va. "But I've had fans tell me that they come to the College World Series just to play the ball girl game. That's pretty cool."

3. Blow a kazoo at the Professional Tailgaters' "Hooding Ceremony."

Mark Samstead is an Omaha native living in Florida, but he hasn't missed a College World Series in … well … ever. He and his CWS Professional Tailgaters (which is trademarked) are easily identifiable by their pink flamingo decorative motif, and they always set up shop near the bend on College World Series Boulevard at the southeastern corner of the Rosenblatt parking lot.

It's there that Samstead presides over the "Hooding Ceremony," which takes place roughly 30 minutes after a team is eliminated from the eight-school CWS field. Eight plastic pink flamingos, one per school, line the thin strip of grass that Samstead's crew calls home for the two weeks. As each squad is sent packing, their flamingo is surrounded by dozens of fans, Samstead says a few words, lays dead flowers at the bird's feet, pours a beer over its head, and then tires a black hood around its neck. All while "Taps" is played on kazoos.

Having a hard time visualizing this? See this video that I shot last year.

4. Sip a double fudge milk shake from Zesto.

First of all, it's Zesto … not Zesto's. And as the sign claims, it is indeed "nationally famous" thanks to decades of unpaid promotion from many an ESPN play-by-play man who has made a between-games run to grab a malted shake from the nearly endless list of flavors. (I'm looking at you, Mike Tirico.)

Located at the corner of 13th and D Streets, the ice cream and hamburger stand is one of the last remaining stores of a once-gigantic national franchise. The most famous Zesto of them all is currently owned by Sue and Ron Tremble, who also own the beer garden in the adjacent parking lot and live in the house next door. During the two weeks of the CWS, they employ more than 20 people and will sell more than 1,500 cheeseburgers, cooked 50 at a time.

The biggest rush is always during the between-games break on two-game days. If you're standing in line, be sure to bring sunscreen and keep your head on a swivel. Spotted in line at Zesto in recent years -- Robin Ventura, Orel Hershiser and UNC basketball coach Roy Williams.

5. Hang with the teams by the bus.

In a world where college athletes are shuttled in and out of major championships like they're Rihanna doing a show at the Staples Center, the teams of the College World Series are brought in by bus and unloaded directly into the middle of the crowd loitering in front of the main gate and snapping photos in front of the iconic "Road To Omaha" statue.

The players make their march to the locker room through that crowd in uniform, carrying their bat bags, old-school style.

Fans aren't discouraged from interacting with the stars of college baseball (not to mention future stars of the big leagues). They are, in fact, encouraged to do so. Few CWS experiences can match that of watching Omaha residents waiting by the bus to give pats on the back and words of encouragement to a visiting team that has just lost a big game.

"We were so disappointed when we were eliminated in 2008," FSU-turned-San Francisco Giants slugger Buster Posey told me last year. "But it was really something to see how the locals were there for us to make us feel better. I'll never forget that."

6. Eat genuine Cajun gumbo with the Boudreaux Thibodeaux Boys.

Down below the outfield grandstands, right along Bob Gibson Boulevard, flies an odd mix of LSU Tigers, Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns and Nebraska Cornhuskers flags. This is the home of the Boudreaux Thibodeaux tailgate party, held by an unlikely group of friends who met by chance in this same parking lot.

A decade ago, Louisiana natives Stan Evans and Jeff Hyde just happened to park next to local Randy Workman and Larry Berray. They quickly hit it off and started exchanging tips about the fine art of tailgating. Now the quartet, along with several dozen additional friends, spend each year cooking beneath a tent city, supported by an army's worth of trailers packed with stacks of 100-quart coolers packed with everything from Cajun crawfish to corn-fed Nebraska beef.

If you stop by and introduce yourself roughly 90 minutes before the game, they'll tell you the story of how they met and how they are now lifelong friends, and they'll even feed you, too. But be sure to visit before June 25; that's when the Louisiana contingent has to head back home.

7. Visit the Henry Doorly Zoo.

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Rosenblatt have been friendly neighbors since the ballpark opened in 1949. When the wrecking ball hits the stadium this fall (the Triple-A Omaha Royals have to finish their season first), the zoo will be the biggest beneficiary, as it will expand into the empty space.

To honor its fallen neighbor, the Doorly Zoo will be incorporating what will be called "The Infield At The Zoo" into the new area of its park. Remembrances of The Blatt will include a bronze marker where home plate now rests, markings to indicate where the basepaths once were, keeping the original foul poles in place, and scattering some of the ballpark's trademark multicolored seats throughout the zoo.

In the meantime, it's a great place for fans to visit before current CWS games. And if you're looking for fans of 2010 participant Clemson and longtime CWS stalwart LSU, go down to the tiger cage.

"Every year we have fans ask us to borrow the animals that represent their mascot," zoo director Daniel Morris said to me in 2008. "We're always flattered, but no, we can't let them borrow a tiger."

8. Catch a foul ball at an official CWS off-site practice.

Each team takes batting practice before each game of the College World Series, which always leads to a madhouse in the outfield bleachers as fans scramble for the rain of home run balls. However, there is a better, quieter and free-of-charge place to round up as many balls as one could want.

Each morning, Omaha's official College World Series website posts the practice schedule for the teams not playing at Rosenblatt that day. There are three primary locations -- Creighton University's downtown stadium, the legendary Boys Town School west of the city, and perhaps the best location of them all, Bellevue East High School, just 15 minutes south of The Blatt.

Down at Bellevue East, the locals are always there to greet the teams each year, including Marilyn Ralston, aka The Gatorade Lady, on hand with a cooler full of drinks for the visiting players.

9. Listen to America's last great ballpark organist.

Lambert Bartak has been tickling the ivories of his 1935 Hammond Organ at Rosenblatt Stadium since, well, he doesn't like to say exactly, but it's "somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 years." As a teenager, he played his accordion for the troops during World War II and as an accompanist to childhood friend Johnny Carson as his buddy did card tricks.

Now he sits in a glass room in the massive Rosenblatt press box, surrounded by banks of computers that run the giant left-field video screen. And in between blasts of Van Halen and Kanye West he slides in some "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and "You Are My Sunshine." For some reason, he is surrounded by sheet music (he never looks at it, calls it "a crutch") and when the "90-something" gets his nightly shot on the Jumbotron, he waves and gets a standing ovation … every time.

10. Talk to a Rosenblatt Stadium legend.

Just inside the main gate, off to the left before you hit the main concourse, is the entrance to the Rosenblatt Stadium press-box elevator. No one's asking you to be a stalker, but if you keep your eyes open, you can catch the attention of the constant flow of Blatt legends as they file in and out of the tower above.

There'll be Bartak and official scorer Louis Spry, who has kept the book for every CWS since 1981 and was in attendance for many more before that. Head groundskeeper Jesse Cuevas has been on the job since before he was a teenager. And across the way in the ticket office is Eddie Sobczyk; along with his son Mike and grandson Jay, Sobczyk has run the Series ticket office for 50 years.

You'll also see ESPN's Mike Patrick and Sean McDonough, who have called play-by-play for the CWS for decades now. And because this is the final go-round for the old ballpark, there will also be a parade of legends, from LSU's Skip Bertman and Texas coach Augie Garrido to players such as Dave Winfield and Nomar Garciaparra.

Don't hesitate to stop them and ask for their best tales from Rosenblatt. Or just thank them for what they've built, an American sports institution that can never be torn down, even if its ballpark will be.

Ryan McGee is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine. His book, "The Road To Omaha: Hits, Hopes and History at the College World Series," which chronicles the excitement and passion of the CWS, is now available on paperback.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Top college coaches prefer metal bats to wood

RT Staff Note: HUH?

By ERIC OLSON (AP) – 16 hours ago

OMAHA, Neb. — If coaches at the top U.S. college baseball programs have their way, the ping of the aluminum bat will forever remain a part of the game.

According to an Associated Press survey of 24 coaches whose programs have won 1,000 or more games since 1985, 17 said they preferred aluminum and that there was no need to study the possibility of going to wood bats.

"I just don't see the aluminum bat hindering our game in any way," Mississippi State's John Cohen said. "In an ideal world, wood would be cheap, very cost efficient and it would be totally equitable. That can never happen."

Five coaches said they like wood better, but all acknowledged that aluminum probably is here to stay. Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said he had no opinion on the question and Arizona State coach Tim Esmay declined to participate in the survey as both teams prepared for the College World Series, which begins Saturday with TCU, Florida St., UCLA, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Clemson also in the field.

Proponents of metal argue that all 301 Division I programs play with the same thing and there's no risk of having top programs playing with better wooden bats, potentially skewing the results. They also like the scoring boost and say a $300 aluminum bat can last an entire 56-game season, while $100 wooden bats can break at any time.

Still, wooden bats have appeal. They allow the game to be played as it was intended, the argument goes, with the hit-and-run, base stealing and bunting all emphasized. Plus, college players would in theory be better prepared to move to professional baseball.

Earlier this year, Division II commissioners began studying the possibility of going to wood, perhaps as soon as 2012.

Ty Halpin, the NCAA associate director of playing rules administration, said Division II made the move in part to address length-of-game concerns. Aluminum-bat games generally take longer because there is more offense.

The length of games also is a concern in Division I. The NCAA does not track the time of games in the regular season. But in 1973, the year before aluminum bats, the average College World Series game lasted 2 hours, 19 minutes. Last year, the average was a record 3:38, with four games stretching longer than 4 hours, and since 1996, the average CWS game has been under 3 hours just once.

Aluminum bats were seen as a cost-saving alternative to wood when they were introduced at the college level in 1974, and the extra offense they produced added excitement to the games.

Advances in technology and design in the 1980s and '90s fueled an arms race of sorts where companies tried to make the liveliest bat.

The result: an integrity-of-the-game crisis that peaked in the 1998 College World Series, when there were a record 62 home runs in 14 games. Southern California's 21-14 championship-game win over Arizona State, which featured seven home runs and 39 hits, was a turning point.

The NCAA began taking steps to tone down aluminum bats and make them perform more like wood, a process that continues 12 years later. In 2011, a new standard will be implemented to bring the performance of metal bats closer to that of wood.

Previous bat testing emphasized the speed with which a ball exited the bat, but there were discrepancies with different lengths of bats. Researchers for the NCAA believe the new formula will offer a more direct measure, using wood-bat performance as the baseline.

Renewed calls for wood came up last year when it was discovered that some composite-barreled bats had been tampered with to circumvent NCAA bat standards. Composite barrels — which contain varying amounts of graphite, fiberglass and resilient plastic — were banned for 2010 but will be allowed in 2011 if they meet the new standards.

Wood, of course, remains legal at all levels of college baseball. Just don't count on ever seeing it in Division I, where bat makers' have long-standing relationships with the top programs.

Manufacturers such as Louisville Slugger and Easton provide free bats and other gear to elite programs and pay coaches — sometimes six figures — for agreeing to use their products.

Paul Mainieri, coach of 2009 national champion LSU, has a clause in his contract that calls for him to receive $150,000 a year from the school's athletic booster club and equipment deals. His contract does not break down how much of that money comes from Easton, the Tigers' bat supplier.

Asked about the bat issue, Mainieri said only that he prefers aluminum.

"He is concerned about saying anything that might affect his relationship with his bat company," LSU baseball spokesman Bill Franques wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Besides the coaches' paychecks, many programs save thousands of dollars a year in equipment costs because bat manufacturers supply bats for free.

"I think there's some traditionalist in all of us," said South Carolina's Ray Tanner, whose contract calls for him to receive $120,000 a year from Easton. "That being said, aluminum bats are in college baseball because of costs. I'm not sure that wooden bats would ever be possible again."

Oklahoma's Sunny Golloway, who prefers wood, said economics won't allow Division I to go away from metal bats, which set the college game apart from pro ball.

"If we all of a sudden are swinging a wooden bat, there's a good chance we are not the showcase anymore," he said. "I'm realistic enough to know you're not going to ask coach A or coach X to not accept his 100K check this year so they can try this wooden bat."

Louisville Slugger spokesman Rick Redman said it would be a challenge, but not impossible, for bat companies to supply college teams with wood bats. A switch would have to be phased in, he said, because manufacturers would have to ramp up production over several timber harvest cycles.

Even then, he said, "I can tell you that college baseball programs would not get the best wood."

Redman said his company reserves its best timber for the major leagues and the next-best grades for the minor leagues and pro leagues in other countries.

"College baseball would likely come after all that," he said.

An Easton publicist, Marcey Brightwell, said the company had no comment.

Cal State Fullerton coach Dave Serrano said even though he prefers wood to aluminum, he sees no reason to change, not with the new bat standards coming next season.

"College baseball's popularity is probably the highest it's ever been. The numbers show it," Serrano said. "How many people attend the College World Series and keep watching it on ESPN? If it's not broke, why fix it?"

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Finale: Rosenblatt at bat for last time at College World Series

By Andy Gardiner, USA TODAY
OMAHA — After a 61-year run, college baseball's mecca is closing.

When Florida State and TCU meet in Saturday's opener of the eight-team NCAA College World Series, the excitement that surrounds this annual two-week championship will be tinged with melancholy.

Next June, the competition will move a few miles up 13th Street to TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha. Rosenblatt will be razed so the city's popular Henry Doorly Zoo can expand.

Most of those involved with college baseball have accepted the change and appreciate the upside that will come with a state-of-the-art, $128 million facility. They are heartened the tournament will remain in Omaha, which has become synonymous with the CWS.

But that won't hold back the sadness of knowing the end of an era is at hand.

"Rosenblatt is college baseball's Yankee Stadium, and accepting that its time is over is difficult," said Stanford's Mark Marquess, one of 12 men to play and coach in the CWS. "I mean, it's always been there, this hulking stadium on this wonderful perch up on a hill with the light stands shining.

"Even for guys in the major leagues, playing at Rosenblatt was a big deal. At that time, it was the biggest thing in their lives, and Rosenblatt was the most special place in their lives."

Dennis Poppe, the NCAA vice president for baseball and football, has been the CWS tournament director since 1987. His family holds an annual reunion at Rosenblatt, and he has experienced firsthand the attraction the stadium holds for fans.

"I don't know how many times people have come up to me and talked about how their father brought them to Rosenblatt and now here they were with their son," Poppe said.

"There is a county fair atmosphere — the smell of popcorn, the sound of the organ. It's a nostalgic slice of Americana. Rosenblatt is at the center."

The stadium also has stood as an iconic symbol of achievement.

"In college baseball, we talk about the 'Road to Omaha,' and we do it with respect because we know how difficult it is to travel that road," said five-time national champion coach Augie Garrido, whose Texas Longhorns were knocked out in the super regionals. "And that road ends at Rosenblatt Stadium."

Rosenblatt's beginnings

Rosenblatt began in 1948 as Municipal Stadium, a 10,000-seat park in South Omaha built to bring professional baseball back to a city that had been without a stadium since 1936.

The CWS arrived in 1950 after spending its first two years in Kalamazoo, Mich., and one year in Wichita. Johnny Rosenblatt, a former semipro player and local businessman, was instrumental in moving the event to a city whose baseball history had been rooted in the minor leagues.

The first CWS attracted 17,805 fans over 10 sessions, and the event lost money nine of its first 14 years. But the NCAA was pleased with the city's support, and when a group of Omaha businessmen agreed to cover any deficits, a marriage was made.

Rosenblatt, elected mayor in 1954, led the enthusiasm. The stadium was named for him in 1964.

That year, the non-profit College World Series of Omaha Inc. was formed to serve as the event's local sponsor and completed a three-headed partnership with the NCAA and the city to guide the tournament. The event has turned a profit — which the NCAA and city split — every year since.

Rosenblatt remained relatively unchanged from its original structure until 1987. The lighting was improved, a new press box was built and bleacher seats were added to bring capacity to just over 15,000.

"I thought it was a huge stadium, and it was half the size it is now," said Marquess, who played in the 1967 CWS for Stanford. "I had never played on a field that special before. But looking back, I guess there was room for improvement."

The tournament continued to grow in popularity, helped in large part by exposure created when ESPN began televising games in 1980. Spurred by hints from then-NCAA president Walter Byers that it might move the CWS to another city if major improvements weren't made to Rosenblatt, the city undertook a $3.4 million expansion plan in 1987, the same year Poppe became the NCAA's point man.

"I remember it was a somewhat rocky relationship then. I was booed the first time I was introduced as the NCAA representative," Poppe said. "I soon learned that the city and the fans of Omaha were very protective of the CWS. ... I think President Byers wanted to take it to another level. So did Omaha."

Over the next decade, 8,000 seats were added, and a new press box was built along with expanded dugouts, fan suites and parking lots. A new playing field was installed with an upgraded drainage system.

Rosenblatt has averaged crowds of at least 20,000 for every day since 1996, and the last four World Series have totaled more than 300,000.

"Rosenblatt was actually a pretty dirty old stadium at the beginning," Poppe said. "Now people think of it as Omaha's 'Diamond on the Hill.' Those of us who have been along for the ride take a sense of pride in that."

Keeping it in Omaha

For Dan McConnell, who played in the CWS for The Citadel in 1990 and coached Louisville to its first Rosenblatt appearance in 2007, it was Omaha that made the event.

"The stadium was great, but what's important to me is that the World Series is still in Omaha," McConnell said. "It's not Rosenblatt that makes it special as much as the city and the people."

Omaha has joined the A-list of host sites for amateur athletic events, energized in 2003 by the opening of the 18,300-seat Qwest Center downtown.

The new arena attracted the 2008 U.S. Olympic swimming trials (they will return in 2012) and brought NCAA regional and national tournaments in volleyball, wrestling and men's basketball.

But the city's track record of support, proved over 60 years with the CWS, is as valuable as any arena.

"What separates Omaha from other sites is the community's connection to the events," Poppe said.

Warren Morris struck what is considered the most dramatic hit in CWS history when his two-out, two-run walk-off homer lifted LSU to a 9-8 victory against Miami (Fla.) in the 1996 title game.

What he remembers more than that is the people of Omaha.

"We were treated like rock stars," Morris said. "You're the big thing going on in town, and the people just embraced you. That's not going to change."

Steve Pivovar is a South Omaha native who has covered every CWS since 1982 for the Omaha World-Herald.

"Omaha has nurtured this event since its infancy," Pivovar said. "Our loyalty to it, even in the tough times when you could fire a cannon through Rosenblatt and not be in danger of hitting anyone, has helped it grow into what it has become. I think that a lot of Omahans feel that this is our event."

The 25-year agreement to play in the new park (for which TD Ameritrade paid $20 million for 20 years of naming rights), on top of 61 years of history, says the NCAA agrees.

"We've never done this with an NCAA championship before. We move those around," Poppe says. "This is so unique for us, but if anybody has earned that level of commitment, Omaha has."

The final game of this CWS will come during the best-of-three championship series. The final out will be recorded, the lights will dim and Rosenblatt's tenure as the home of college baseball's ultimate tournament will end.

"This is more than just another facility to me," Poppe said. "I'll take it in and enjoy it because how many times in your life do you have a benchmark moment that you know will change things forever?

"We hope it's going to be better, and we think it will be better. It's not going to be the same, and it's not going to be easy. The physical structure will be gone, but you'll never lose the memories."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

CWS Field is Set

The College World Series is played as two four-team, double-elimination tournaments with the winners meeting in the best-of-three final series.

Games are numbered in order played at College World Series. All times Eastern.

College World Series: Bracket One

Florida State
#3 Florida

Saturday June 19
Game 1: TCU vs. Florida State, 2 p.m., ESPN
Game 2: Florida vs. UCLA, 7 p.m., ESPN

Monday June 21
Game 5: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 4:30 p.m., ESPN2
Game 6: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 9 p.m., ESPN2

Wednesday June 23
Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6, 7 p.m., ESPN2

Friday June 25
Game 11: Winner Game 6 vs. Winner Game 9, 4:30 p.m., ESPN2

Saturday June 26
Game 13: Winner Game 6 vs. Winner Game 9, 2 or 7 p.m. ESPN, if necessary

College World Series: Bracket Two

#1 Arizona State
South Carolina

Sunday June 20
Game 3: Oklahoma vs. South Carolina, 2 p.m., ESPN
Game 4: Arizona State vs. Clemson, 7 p.m., ESPN2

Tuesday June 22

Game 7: Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 4:30 p.m., ESPN2
Game 8: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 9 p.m., ESPN2

Thursday June 24
Game 10: Winner Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8, 7 p.m., ESPN2

Friday June 25
Game 12: Winner Game 8 vs. Winner Game 10, 9 p.m., ESPN2

Saturday June 26
Game 14: Winner Game 8 vs. Winner Game 10, 7 p.m., ESPN, if necessary

College World Series: Championship Series
Bracket One winner vs. Bracket Two winner

Format: Best of three series.
Game 1: Monday, June 28, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 2: Tuesday, June 29, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 3: Wednesday, June 30, 7:30 p.m., ESPN, if necessary

Monday, June 14, 2010

TCU Clinches First College World Series

AUSTIN, Texas -- Jim Schlossnagle watched last year's College World Series on a TV in his office between sessions teaching future Horned Frogs hopefuls at baseball camp. His sophomore center fielder, Aaron Schultz, spent June traipsing through North Carolina playing summer baseball in front of modest crowds.

Brendan Maloney earned its first-ever trip to Omaha by beating Texas in the Austin Super Regional.

Schlossnagle won't get to watch much of the event on TV this year. None at all, if things go his way.

Schultz will trade the East Coast for the cornfields of Nebraska and sold-out crowds of 25,000-plus.

With a 4-1 victory over Texas in front of 7,356 fans at UFCU Disch-Falk Stadium, TCU is going to its first College World Series.

"Omaha's the pearly gates of my profession; it's the pearly gates of college baseball," said Schlossnagle, who has built a Mountain West juggernaut in seven seasons in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs have won the conference the past four seasons, and they won Conference USA twice before that.

"To be the first at something is incredibly special … to be somewhere where it's never been done before and do it, that's what we've been preaching for seven years of recruiting, and it's finally come to fruition."

It's more than just the first World Series for TCU. It's the first series for sophomore pitcher Kyle Winkler, who allowed just five hits and struck out six in 7 2/3 innings Sunday to earn the win. It's the first series for sophomore left fielder Jason Coats, who poked a single through first and second base in the bottom of the fifth inning to put the Horned Frogs up 1-0.

And it's the first series for Schultz and senior catcher Bryan Holaday, who slammed rare home runs off star reliever Chance Ruffin over the left-field wall toward the really cheap seats. The group of Longhorns fans set up in the back of four truck beds to see the action inside the stadium showed their displeasure by tossing one of the home runs back onto the turf at the stadium they affectionately call "The Dish."

"It's a historic day for TCU," Schlossnagle said.

Schultz's ninth home run of the season came in the bottom of the seventh, and he followed it up by robbing Texas' Tant Shepherd of a leadoff hit in the eighth with a running, over-the-shoulder catch to keep the bases empty.

"Even though my body was worn down from this season and the hot weather," Schultz said. "My legs just felt great because all that adrenaline was running … I felt like I was flying."

A year after their season ended on the same field at the hands of their in-state rival, the Horned Frogs capped the super regional with a traditional dogpile in an untraditional location. The Horned Frogs relocated their celebration to center field, on top of the Longhorns logo that represented the cause of their sorrow from last year's Game 3 loss in the Austin Super Regional. Teammates handed out countless hugs before singing the fight song with two pockets of purple inside the orange-clad stadium while the Texas fans sang a broken-hearted version of "The Eyes of Texas."

"This year, we just wanted to come back here and let them know how it feels, and have them see us go to Omaha," Schultz said.

The emotion slipped out from the start of Sunday's decisive Game 3. Thrice after escaping jams with his shutout intact -- including in the first inning -- Winkler ran back to the dugout with fist-clenched, red-faced screams, determined not to let last season's failure repeat itself. That or Saturday's game, when the Longhorns got to starter Steven Maxwell early and forced Game 3 with a 14-1 win.

"There are some programs out there that it seems like it's their birthright to get to go. But if we wanted to go, we were going to have to go earn it," Schlossnagle said. "I could see it in their face yesterday; they kind of got kicked in the rear end, and we didn't handle it that well. We backed off, and I'd never seen us be like that. And I said, 'You better grab on to your shoestrings and your jockstrap, pull them a little tighter, step in that box and be ready to fight.'"

The Sunday game's final out, a routine grounder to second base that Jerome Pena fielded cleanly and tossed to first base, was captured from the dugout on a handheld camera by a team manager intent on immortalizing the program's finest moment in one of the game's most difficult venues. But with a handful of wins in Omaha, the Horned Frogs' celebration in the Austin sunset could become a distant memory.

"I don't know what it's like to win a national championship; I've never been a part of that," Schlossnagle said. "But if there's anything better than this, it's certainly that."

David Ubben covers college sports for

Friday, June 11, 2010

Baseball head coach not satisfied with college world series format

Ryne Sulier
Issue date: 6/10/10

Head baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle voiced his dissent against the seeding format of the NCAA College World Series after TCU secured it's chance to play Texas in the super regional round for a berth to the College World Series.

"I think our sport has grown enough to where the best teams should end up in Omaha, NE," Schlossnagle said. "The best teams that earn their way through the regular season should have the best opportunity to get there."

Schlossnagle said the NCAA should seed more than eight teams, as he went even further to advocate a 64-team format.

He had support from Baylor head baseball coach Steve Smith after the Bears fell 9-0 to the Horned Frogs in the Fort Worth Regional championship game.

"The things that not right about this regional stuff has everything to do with the number two seeded (team) in the country getting matched up with what would have been the nine or 10 seeded team… in basketball," Smith said. Since we don't seed this tournament past eight, you basically have a regional bias in this tournament.

"Probably TCU and Texas will both be better than some body that makes it to Omaha."

Smith noted that about 98 percent of the NCAA's budget goes to the NCAA basketball tournament, but that college baseball is the NCAA's second-largest revenue producer.

"I think our kids got t-shirts," Smith said.

"There is another fully seeded NCAA tournament that loses anywhere from $8-12 million dollars annually," he said. "You could get a lot more t-shirts."

Baseball Schedule Biased Against the South and West

Schlossnagle said baseball should be played in the summertime, not in early spring. He called for starting the season in early April and ending in August.

Smith said that northern schools lobbied to push back the start of the season because of weather, but that it makes it particularly difficult during the regional rounds in the South and West because of the heat.

"If the NCAA and the presidents would allow our sport to grow the way it has the potential to do so, we could really do some special things across the country and also have a lot of growth and have the best teams end up there," Schlossnagle said. "It's not fair."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Brackets Are Set For Super Regionals

It's been an exciting and very competitive post season thus far...and some favorites are starting to emerge. Arizona State and UCLA have flexed their muscles...especially UCLA, which emerged unscathed in the nations toughest regional. Texas demolished their opponents and two marathon regionals have made Miami and Coastal Carolina a bit tougher for the long haul. Here's this weekends match-ups...

No. 1 Arizona State (50-8) vs. Arkansas (43-19)
Where: Packard Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
Game 1: Saturday, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 2: Sunday, 10 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 3: Monday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2), if necessary
Winner plays Clemson winner at College World Series

Clemson (41-22) vs. Alabama (41-23)
Where: Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson, S.C.
Game 1: Saturday, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 2: Sunday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 3: Monday, 1/7 p.m. (ESPN2), if necessary
Winner plays Tempe winner at College World Series


No. 2 Texas (49-11) vs. TCU (49-11)
Where: UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin, Texas
Game 1: Friday, 3 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 2: Saturday, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 3: Sunday, 4 p.m. (ESPN), if necessary
Winner plays Tallahassee winner at College World Series

Florida State (45-17) vs. Vanderbilt (45-18)
Where: Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.
Game 1: Friday, 12 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 2: Saturday, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 3: Sunday, 1 p.m. (ESPN), if necessary
Winner plays Austin winner at College World Series

No. 3 Florida (45-15) vs. Miami (Fla.) (43-18)
Where: McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.
Game 1: Friday, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 2: Saturday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 3: Sunday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2), if necessary
Winner plays Los Angeles winner at College World Series

No. 6 UCLA (46-13) vs. Cal State Fullerton (45-16)
Where: Jackie Robinson Stadium in Los Angeles
Game 1: Friday, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 2: Saturday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 3: Sunday, 10 p.m. (ESPN2), if necessary
Winner plays Gainesville winner at College World Series

No. 4 Coastal Carolina (55-8) vs. South Carolina (46-15)
Where: BB&T Coastal Field in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Game 1: Saturday, 12 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 2: Sunday, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 3: Monday, 1/7 p.m. (ESPN2), if necessary
Winner plays Charlottesville winner at College World Series

No. 5 Virginia (50-12) vs. Oklahoma (47-15)
Where: UVa Baseball Stadium in Charlottesville, Va.
Game 1: Saturday, 3 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 2: Sunday, 4 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 3: Monday, 1/7 p.m. (ESPN2), if necessary
Winner plays Myrtle Beach winner at College World Series

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Five things we learned from the major league baseball draft

SECAUCUS, N.J. --By Ted Kieth- Sports Illustrated
Five compelling storylines from baseball's annual First-Year player draft, and just the second to run in primetime.

1. National treasure

The past year for Bryce Harper has been rather eventful -- his appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated, his leaving high school two years early to make himself eligible for the draft, his dominant season at the College of Southern Nevada -- but all of it was merely a prelude to this night, when the Nationals made him their second consecutive No. 1 overall selection. The massive hype surrounding Harper has reached Strasburgian levels, and he did nothing to dispel those comparisons with a college season that was every bit as impressive as Stephen Strasburg's was before the Nats took him at No. 1 last year, albeit against different levels of competitions. Yet despite Harper's gaudy stats -- a .443 average, 31 home runs and 98 RBIs -- he remains a 17-year-old whom not everyone is convinced will be the superstar he's being projected as. Dave Perkin, a former major league scout now with Baseball America, said Harper will now be exposed to much more difficult scouting and pitching than he ever has. "He has a major hole -- outside corner at the knees," Perkin says. "Unless he proves he can hit that stuff, he's going to be a bust."

2. Pitching, pitching, pitching

Once Washington dispensed with the formality of making Harper the No. 1 pick, the draft began revealing itself as the call to arms it often is at No. 2, when the Pirates took high school pitcher Jameson Taillon. In all, five of the top nine picks were pitchers, as were 11 of the top 19 and a full half of the 32 first-round picks. "Everybody wants pitching," said Jack McKeon, a fomer big league manager and general manager who is now a Marlins scout and attended the draft as one of Florida's representatives.

McKeon was right, to a point. What everybody really wants is pitching that can help them win, the sooner the better, and to that end the players taken remain a question mark. Taillon has drawn almost universal praise in the days leading up to the draft, but he is still in high school and will need his share of seasoning in the minors. The next three pitchers taken -- lefty Drew Pomeranz from Ole Miss and righties Barrett Loux of Texas A&M and Matt Harvey of North Carolina -- were all college pitchers who have had the exposure of pitching against tougher competition, but by the end of the first round that trend had long since ended. The final four pitchers selected in Round 1 were all prepsters and some of them came with question marks that had nothing to do with their age.

3. Signability

Jesse Biddle? Mike Foltynewicz? Cito Culver? All three of those mostly anonymous pitchers snuck into the first round (as did Loux, who was chosen No. 6 overall despite not even being among the more than 200 players listed among potential draftees in the official draft media guide) despite being on few, if any, first round draft boards. One scout said that there were at least 10 right-handed pitchers better than Foltynewicz when he came off the board at No. 19 to the Astros. Biddle, whom the Phillies took at No. 27, and Culver, the Yankees' pick at No. 32, are both local products who may be easier for their clubs to sign, which may be a telling sign that even big-market clubs like those in Philadelphia and New York are worried about signability.

4. Hidden stars

Beyond Harper -- and, to a lesser extent, Taillon and prep shortstop Manny Machado, who went to the Orioles with the No. 3 pick -- this draft had a much-discussed lack of likely future stars. The one player, according to Perkin, who could wind up being the best player taken Monday night was Cal-State Fullerton outfielder Gary Brown, who was chosen by the Giants at No. 24. "They usually go for a quick-to-the-majors pitcher, like a Tim Lincecum, but I think Brown is a great pick," says Perkin. "He has electric talent, he's very fast, he's an impact player and he projects to be a much better hitter than people think. I think he'll be the one people will look at 10 years from now and ask why there were 23 players picked in front of him."

If there was a falling star Monday night, it may have been Louisiana State pitcher Anthony Ranaudo, who began the year as a popular top-five projection but his struggles, as well as elbow concerns and the dreaded "signability" issues, caused him to drop all the way to the sandwich round, where he was finally grabbed by the Red Sox at No. 39.

5. Not ready for primetime?

For much of Monday night, the scene inside MLB Network Studios seemed less about the stars of the future than it did the stars of the past. While the corridors were littered with familiar faces -- over here a pair of former NL MVPs in Jeff Bagwell and Barry Larkin, over there World Series-winning managers like McKeon and Tommy Lasorda, and over there Hall of Famers and future members like Billy Williams and Roberto Alomar -- Studio 42 was noticeably absent of any of the players whose names were being read every five minutes by commissioner Bud Selig. The continuing college baseball season, the potentially prohibitive cost of traveling to the draft, the advice of their agents all conspired to keep the first-year player draft devoid of any, you know, first year players.

On a night when both the NBA and NHL finals were not around to distract television viewers from tuning in to MLB's proceedings, such absences counted as both a missed opportunity and a disappointing reality for those who have tried, with much success, to help turn the MLB draft from a mid-day afterthought followed only by the men whose jobs revolve around it into something resembling the media events enjoyed by the NBA and NFL. But while those sports are able to parade a series of players already famous to the American sports fan across their stages on draft night, baseball has neither the familiar faces to hype going into the draft (Harper was surely the only player drafted who would resonate with a casual sports fan) nor any whom they can introduce to the world via photo op with the commish. Nor, for that matter, a proper stage, as the proceedings are still taking place inside the relatively cramped TV studio. Like much else about the draft, it is an improvement over just a few years ago, but still far short of being the must-see TV of its competitors' versions.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wait Till Next Year

What a great year it has been for baseball...Two Perfect Games...Three...if you are a fan of instant replay..I am not...for the record. And then in college, there's Garrett Wittels who was on track to break the all time consecutive game hit incredible feat. Good story on ESPN...

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Rockin' Robin will have to wait until next season, but Florida International shortstop Garrett Wittels can now identify a bit with Joltin' Joe.

Wittels extended his hitting streak to 56 games on Saturday -- the same number of Joe DiMaggio's major league-record hit streak in 1941 -- but the Golden Panthers were eliminated with a 15-9 loss to Dartmouth in the NCAA Coral Gables regional.

Top Division I Hitting Streaks
FIU's Garrett Wittels' 56-game hitting streak is just two games shy of Robin Ventura's NCAA record, which he set with Oklahoma State.
Streak Player
58 Robin Ventura, 1987
56* Garrett Wittels, 2010
47 Phil Stephenson, 1981
45 Roger Schmuck, 1971
42 Chuck Abbott, 1996
* -- active

Wittels hit an RBI double in the first inning, leaving him two games shy of the Division I record set by Oklahoma State's Robin Ventura in 1987. Wittels, a sophomore, will attempt to break the mark when he resumes the streak next season.

"It definitely means a lot," Wittels said. "Joe DiMaggio is one of the greatest players of all time."

Wittels went 3 for 5 and finished the season with a .417 average and a FIU season-record 100 hits. He broke the previous school mark of 98 by Kenny Aderley in 1986.

"There are a couple of balls that I have kept [during the streak]," Wittels said. "This is one I'm going to keep."

Wittels began the streak with a bunt single in the Golden Panthers' season-opening game against Maryland on Feb. 19.

"I've seen a lot of great things but this is a streak of consistency," FIU coach Turtle Thomas said. "Just imagine, this is June 5th and he's gotten a hit every game he's played. That's pretty strong."

FIU (36-25) failed to provide Wittels another game to extend the streak this season after squandering an early four-run lead against Dartmouth.

Jason Brooks put Dartmouth (27-18) ahead for good with a tie-breaking grand slam in the sixth for a 12-8 lead.

"I was looking for an off-speed pitch and the pitcher hung a changeup," Brooks said. "Even when we went down there was no worry or panic."

Cole Sulser (8-0) allowed two runs in five relief innings for the win. Nick Polizanno (4-5) took the loss.

The victory was Dartmouth's first in a regional tournament since 1987.

"The reason this feeling is so good is because of the kids I coach," Dartmouth coach Bob Whalen said. "Our kids were incredibly tough and poised."

The Big Green will play a second elimination game Sunday against the loser of the Miami-Texas A&M game later Saturday.

Dartmouth erased a 6-2 deficit with a five-run third and chased FIU starter Aaron Arboleya. Zack Bellenger's two-run home run off Polizano gave Dartmouth a 7-6 lead.

Bellenger tied it 8-all with his second home run in the fifth. The Golden Panthers had gone ahead in the top of the inning on Yoandy Barroso's home run and Sean Reilly's run-scoring single.

FIU scored five runs in the second, keyed by Tim Jobe's two-run home run.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Greatest Coach

RT Staff Note: John Wooden was the greatest coach of all time in all sports. His quotes are seen in football, baseball, soccer and any sport locker room worldwide. he was a genius...a motivator and one of the greatest sports father figures of out time. Below are some of his greatest quotes...All apply to baseball...

A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.
John Wooden

Ability is a poor man's wealth.
John Wooden

Adversity is the state in which man mostly easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.
John Wooden

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.
John Wooden

Be prepared and be honest.
John Wooden

Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights.
John Wooden

Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.
John Wooden

Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.
John Wooden

Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.
John Wooden

I'd rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent.
John Wooden

If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?
John Wooden

If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes.
John Wooden

It isn't what you do, but how you do it.
John Wooden

It's not so important who starts the game but who finishes it.
John Wooden

It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.
John Wooden

It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.
John Wooden

Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters.
John Wooden

Never mistake activity for achievement.
John Wooden

Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.
John Wooden

Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It's courage that counts.
John Wooden

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.
John Wooden

Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.
John Wooden

The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.
John Wooden

The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones.
John Wooden

There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer.
John Wooden

Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.
John Wooden

What you are as a person is far more important that what you are as a basketball player.
John Wooden

Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.
John Wooden

You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one.
John Wooden

You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.
John Wooden