"A Tip of the Cap" is SimmonsField.com's annual end-of-the-year awards tradition, named in honor of legendary MU coach John "Hi" Simmons' trademark gesture.
While the Tigers' 2008 season ended sooner than the team and the fans had hoped and expected, the season was certainly a success in terms of moving the MU Baseball program forward and upward.
Take me out with the crowd
Building on the exposure from the Regionals last year, garnering attention from the media - both local and national for the team's - and top pro prospect Aaron Crow's - successes, plus a season-long stay in the national polls, Mizzou pulled in fans like never before. The '08 Tigers set - and reset - the record for single-game attendance several times (season attendance details at right). The Nebraska weekend was reminiscent of the 2007 Taylor Stadium Regional, with overflow crowds rocking the ballpark.
A Tip of the Cap to all the people who discovered Mizzou Baseball this season - and to the long-suffering fans who have been there year in and year out.
The road to The Show goes through Simmons Field
Recruiting Coordinator Tony Vitello's job gets easier and easier with each passing year, and 2008 helped even more. All Tony V has to do is point to Major Leaguers like Ian Kinsler, Max Scherzer and Doug Mathis; to the large group of MU alums currently working their way up the ladder in the minor leagues; to Aaron Crow's rise from undrafted high school pitcher to #9 draft pick; and to the attention being given to 1st-round draft prospects like Kyle Gibson ('09) and Nick Tepesch ('10).
Rumor has it, one first round prospect for '11 actually called Mizzou asking to be recruited (and has signed his letter of intent for the Fall of '08).
Leaving the Zou
Here's a Tip of the Cap to the Tigers that are leaving us.
Aaron Crow & Rick Zagone will always be connected in my mind, going back to the two freshmen who turned in back-to-back amazing pitching performances in that Malibu Regional in 2006, and continued to set the pace of the pitching staff throughout their three years.
Jacob Priday also reminds me of that 2006 post-season, stepping up to be the team's catcher. Jake struggled through injury and the long road back, costing him a decent shot in the 2007 Draft. But what a 2008 season, breaking records, leading the offense, and finally getting the scouts' attention
Ryan Lollis has been a stalwart of the Mizzou outfield in his time with the Tigers. At the time of this writing, it's still uncertain whether he'll sign with the pros or return for another season - but we'll miss him when he leaves.
Kurt Calvert and Lee Fischer toiled for the Tigers faithfully - occasionally in a starting role, often in back-up roles. Both got their reward in being picked in the draft. Both will have their eyes on Chicago and the big leagues.
Dan Pietroburgo will also be saying farewell to Mizzou, after 5 years. Always in the shadow of someone else in the depth chart for catchers, always willing to play whatever role asked of him. For long-time day-after-day fans, it's the guys like Dedicated Dan we miss the most. He came in known for being the offspring of a former Tiger star, but left as a vital cog and experienced leader of the team.
Our cap is off for all of you.
A special tip of the cap for another departing member of the Tigers: Christina Walden.
Christina has been a faithful fan of the team during her three years on campus, and has been a valued volunteer in the Baseball office as well, helping out wherever needed.
In 2008 she helped John Lane and others revive the Tiger Bullpen Club, editing the club newsletter and helping with the organization of the Saturday tailgate parties (even at the cost of missing the beginning of the a few games).
Christina also volunteered to help me out with SimmonsField.com, writing her own blog from the fan-in-the-stands point of view, On the Inside Corner. Hopefully, she'll drop us another blog or two from her new job.
Thanks again for all the help and support, Christina, both at Simmons Field and at SimmonsField.com.
(record-breaking crowd in BOLD)
Fri 5/8 ISU 696
Sun 5/10 ISU 512
Fri 3/14 Tol 625
Sat 3/15 Tol 349
Sat 3/15 Tol 339
Sun 3/16 Tol 605
Tue 3/18 SDS 202
Wed 3/19 SDS 395
Fri 3/21 BU 1196
Sat 5/22 BU 1124
Sun 3/23 BU 374
Tue 4/1 WIU 429
Wed 4/2 WIU 546
Fri 4/4 OSU 1433
Sat 4/5 OSU 2205
Sun 4/6 OSU 1321
Fri 4/11 UT 1206
Sat 4/12 UT 1410
Sun 4/13 UT 1016
Wed 4/16 WW 1103
Fri 5/2 KSU 1583
Sat 5/3 KSU 1642
Sun 5/4 KSU 1696
Tue 5/18 CU 589
Fri 5/16 NU 2418
Sat 5/17 NU 3126
Sun 5/18 NU 2547
Total Attendance 30,687
Average Attendance 1,136
Top 10 All-Time Attendance
6/2/07 Louisville (Regional) 3,630
6/1/07 Kent St (Regional) 3,481
6/3/07 Louisville (Regional)3,457
5/17/08 Nebraska 3,126
5/18/08 Nebraska 2,418
4/25/98 Texas 2,347
4/24/98 Texas 2,372
4/5/08 Okla St 2,205
6/4/07 Louisville-MU (Regional)2,199
5/14/05 Kansas 2,143
Past Years' Regular Season Attendance
2007: Total: 14,190 Average: 645
2006:Total: 23,906 Average: 885
2005:Total: 16,965Average: 707
Highlights & Happenings
Definition of switch-hitter Pat Venditte, Jr, the only ambidextrous pitcher in D-1 baseball, is on the mound. Trevor Coleman is on deck, taking practice swings left-handed. The NCAA rule says the pitcher has to declare which hand he will pitch with before the batter chooses which way to bat. Venditte steps up on the mound with his glove on his left hand, and Coleman turns toward the backstop, switches to a different bat, and takes a couple of right-handed practice swings. Hits a 2-run homer on the 2nd pitch.
Kauffman Stadium discovers college baseball The only saving grace about the Tigers' loss to the Jayhawks was that most of the fans missed having to watch the game for 2 or 3 innings while they stood in the unbelievably long lines to get to the incredibly understaffed concession stands waiting to get something to drink. Turns out people will show up for college baseball at the K. Or at least they did this time - wouldn't count on the same crowd next year, unless there are some guarantees of better service.
Jay Bell Award Speaking of Kansas, we pass out an annual award to a Tiger player for outstanding performance against the Jayhawks, in honor of a particularly memorable performance by former Tiger Jay Bell. The 2008 award goes to a pair of performances:
· Kyle Gibson earned the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week for his contribution to the Tigers' weekend against KU: Gibson recorded a complete-game win and a save over last weekend in Mizzou's three-game series at Kansas. On Friday, Gibson entered the contest in the ninth inning with the bases loaded and two outs and struck out the first batter he faced to record his first save of the year. Gibson then posted his second complete game victory of the season as Missouri run-ruled Kansas, 12-1 in seven innings, in the series finale on Sunday. He was perfect through the first 3.2 innings of the game and struck out eight, allowing just one run on five hits to improve to 8-1 on the year.
· Jacob Priday also distinguished himself against the Jayhawks, with a pair of fantastic defensive plays in right field. In game 1, Priday made a great throw from RF to nail a KU runner at home plate for the out. Then in game 2 Jake made a catch in foul territory in deep right with his back to the field, then turned and threw a bulls-eye to 2nd base to nail the runner who had tagged at 1st and decided to take advantage of Priday's rumored poor defensive skills. Uh oh.
Back-swing in motion During the Texas series, Aaron Senne's signature back-swing caught Longhorn catcher Cameron Rupp in the back of the head, knocking him to the ground. Rupp wears a more traditional catcher's mask with the backwards helmet-cap instead of the hockey-style protective helmet favored by many catchers these days.
After taking a couple of test pitches, Cameron stayed in the game. He did not start behind the plate for Sunday's game, however.
Super Senne The Minnesota native had an incredible night at the ballpark - or should I say dome - when the Tigers played the Golden Gophers at the Humphrey Dome in Minnesota. In Game 1 of that 2-game set, Senne, who is from nearby Rochester, tied a Mizzou record with 8 RBIs on the night. Senne went 4-for-5 with two homeruns. He drove in four runs alone in the sixth inning, highlighted by his three-run homer to right field.
"I just want to come in and do as much as I could for these people," Senne said. "For most of them these are the only two games they're going to see me play and I got lucky."
Base Cadet Brock Bond is not around anymore to dominate this award, given annually to the MU player who provides the most entertainment - and groans - on the basepaths. And original base cadet Ian Kinsler actually now leads the Texas Rangers in stolen bases. So someone new has to fill the untied shoes.
Fortunately, there was no player on the 2008 team that was outstanding in being picked off, run down or just plain confused on the basepaths.
Ryan Lollis, however, got our attention during the year on the basepaths. First of all, he led the team in worst base stealing percentage at 61% (8-for-13), which would automatically qualify him for the award.
But "Lollie" also made himself known with his enthusiastic flap-down scampering across home plate on more than one occasion, looking like the cat that just caught the canary (or perhaps the tiger that just caught the jayhawk).
And so, we tip our cap to Ryan Lollis, the 2008 Base Cadet of the Year.
April 11, 2008: By the Numbers
31-12: Final score of the game
4.85: ERA for the Longhorns' pitching staff after the loss, a jump of 0.73.
7 Homers hit by Missouri, including a Big 12-record four by right fielder Jacob Priday.
11 Walks drawn by the Tigers, including seven issued by Longhorn reliever Drew Bishop in 21/3 innings.
26 Hits for Missouri in 49 at-bats.
35 Miles per hour: speed of wind gusts Friday night at Missouri's Taylor Stadium.
228 Pitches thrown by Texas starter Austin Wood and the six relievers who followed him.
1896 The last time Texas allowed more than 31 runs in a game. That year, the Longhorns lost to Dime Box 35-32 and were routed by Sixth Ward 32-3. Because results from the 1895 and 1896 seasons were very incomplete, the results are not included in Texas' all-time record.
50 Runs scored by Nebraska in a 50-3 victory over Chicago State on March 16, 1999. The Cornhuskers set NCAA records for total runs and winning margin in the game, which ended after 61/2 innings.
43 Consecutive scoreless innings thrown by Aaron Crow, a streak which ended in the 1st of this game
60 1/3 Probable NCAA D-1 record for scoreless innings pitched (set by Vermont's George Plender in 1955) . . . IF the NCAA actually kept a record.
And a quote from the post-game show with UT coach Augie Garrido at the end of the 3rd game of the weekend:"We said before this game started, no matter what happens today, we get to go back to beautiful Austin, and they have to stay here"
And for your entertainment, the 31-12 game thread at HornFans.com
Nattering Nabobs of the Press
Our annual tip of the cap for the best job covering MU Baseball in the Media goes to a pair of local sportswriters.
Matt Nestor is the veteran of the pair, which makes him sound older than he is, his receding hairline not-withstanding. Matt has been covering MU Baseball for the Columbia Daily Tribune for a number of years now, and his enthusiasm for the sport comes through in his writings:
The chants of "Over-rated!" that rained down from the stands at Taylor Stadium were directed at the No. 5 Nebraska baseball team.
Of course, that taunt could have been directed at Missouri just a few short weeks ago. The Tigers closed April with a five-game losing streak, including three straight at Texas A&M, that dropped them from fourth to 15th in the Baseball America poll.
Look at the Tigers now.
(Columbia Daily Tribune, 5/19/08)
Even Superman has his Kryptonite. But if there’s something that’s going to stop Missouri ace Aaron Crow, it has yet to be discovered. The junior right-hander took a line drive off his pitching shoulder on his second pitch of the game and still held the best hitting team in the Big 12 off the scoreboard.
With the help of a quartet of jaw-dropping defensive plays and a key home run by senior designated hitter Jacob Priday, Crow’s remarkable run continues. The fourth-ranked Missouri baseball team defeated Oklahoma State 3-0 last night on Simmons Field. Crow’s third complete game in four weeks ran his scoreless streak to 422/3 consecutive innings.
(Columbia Daily Tribune, 4/5/08)
Sam Miles is the fresh-faced rookie, being a student in the MU Journalism school and a writer for the Columbia Missourian. As he wrote in a blog toward the end of the year as he was preparing for graduation, his work-load was a real killer. At one point in the season, Sam first stumbled a bit by inaccurately reporting Aaron Crow's setting of a new consecutive scoreless innings record, but then poured himself into hours and hours of research, with the end result that he unearthed Vermont's George Plender and scooped every other media outlet - except one (SimmonsField.com).
Sam's energy and enthusiasm came through in his baseball stories for the Missourian, making him a joy to read.
Sam got my attention by paying homage to a subject close to my heart, Mizzou Baseball history. On May 3rd he wrote about the Tigers' honoring of Carl E. Bolte Jr.
In mid-April he came out with a well-researched article about the growing influence of the pitch-count, with some great quotes from the Mizzou coaches, including this from Tony Vitello about the pressure to ride the best pitchers past the point where it's healthy .
And here's a quote from his great profile of Tiger senior Dan Pietroburgo:
“There are a lot of guys that want to be the chief. There are a lot of guys that aren’t comfortable being the chief, and would rather be the Indian,” Jamieson said. “He’s a guy that he’s a great leader, but also accepts his role. He’ll do whatever the team needs him to do, but also be a take-charge personality, and that’s a rare ombination.”
Such praise, however, is not uncommon from the coach, who speaks of the fifth-year senior’s character the way that churches talk about saints, and with the same reverence that much of the media reserves for Brett Favre. If he didn’t receive the same type of compliments from his teammates, one might be quick to dismiss them.
“He knows how to do everything the program wants to do,” Priday said. “He’s what they want their players to be like.”
Here's a tip of the hat to Matt and Sam, and our best wishes to the young Mr. Miles as he forward to a great future as a sportswriter.
Best walk-up Song
Dan Pietroburgo brought back memories of Zane Taylor and The Blood of Cuchulainn with his Irish jig. It brought out the foot-stomping and arm-swinging in the Taylor Stadium faithful.
Promoters of the Year
A big tip of the cap goes to the organizers - or should we say re-organizers - of the Tiger Bullpen Club. They took the tiger by the tail and worked to breathe new life into the booster club, sponsoring a tailgate party before every Saturday Big 12 home game, sending out a newsletter, drumming up interest.I don't have a list of the organizers or of the board members, so I will leave somebody out. But we doff our caps to John Lane, Danny Hill, Christina Walden and the others who made it all happen
Thanks again to everyone who sent me tips on news, corrected my errors and just plain surfed their way to making SimmonsField.com possible for another year of Tiger Baseball.
I get to relax a little now, with the Tigers out of the tournament and the draft past us. But keep checking the home page for whatever news and tidbits pass my way during the off-season.
Until next year ...