Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Tip of the Cap 2009: And the winner is . . .

The Jay Bell Award

We present an annual award to a Tiger player for outstanding performance against the evil Jayhawks, in honor of a particularly memorable performance back in 1998 by former Tiger Jay Bell (96-98).

This year's series at Taylor Stadium against the Jayhawks was full of outstanding performances:

Ryan Ampleman's walk-off homerun to win the game on Sunday (hear Tex Little's call of the HR)

Garrison McLagan torched his redshirt in style, getting the start at DH for all 3 games against the Jayhawks. G-Money got a hit in each of the 3 games, going 3-for-12 for a .250 average and contributing a pair of RBI and a run scored.

• The Academy Award for acting goes to Ryan Lollis, who hammed it up after getting hit in the knee by a pitch, only to pull off a double steal with Greg Folgia that resulted in fan-favorite Buck Affenir (Lawrence city jail ID # 49858736) throwing the ball into the outfield.

But the Jay Bell Award has to go to Superman himself, Greg Folgia:

Mizzou takes game one (PowerMizzou.com):

Just call him Superman.

With two outs in the bottom of the sixth and runners on second and third, a crowd of 1,774 at Taylor Stadium watched a ball smash off the centerfield wall. As the runner neared third, he received the signal to try and complete the inside-the-park home run. With just a few steps to go before reaching home, the exhausted runner sailed through the air with arms spread like Superman. Only this Superman wasn't wearing Jayhawk red and blue. No, this Superman was wearing black and gold and goes by the name of Greg Folgia.

Base Cadet

The annual Base Cadet award goes to the player who earns it by doing the most to make us all chuckle at "interesting" choices or lapses of concentration on the basepaths.

Kyle Mach gets a look due to his team leading stolen base percentage (o-for-4).

But regardless of any other base running adventures during the rest of the season, the other Mach, freshman Conner Mach earned a mention as a Base Cadet for his performance in his first at-bat of the season against Nevada.

Conner pounds a hit off the outfield wall and takes off running. Rounding first base, sure of at least a double, he heads for 2nd base, only to discover it is occupied.

By his brother Kyle. Conner was tagged out.

A Tigerboard poster imagined this conversation:

Kyle: What the h*** are you doing? (smirk on his face)

Conner: I thought you were faster than you really are...

Black & Gold Glove

Ryan Lollis provided several thrills in 2009 with his defense in the outfield, not the least of which was this over-the-fence catch against the Sooners. Roll the video tape: LINK

Most fun to Heckle

Texas Tech's AJ Ramos, aka "Papi Chulo", almost became the first repeat winner of this honor, returning to Simmons Field for another round of spirited heckling, reprising his memorable wipeout in 2007.

Buck Afenir of the Jayhawks was an easy target after he had an altercation with a side mirror on a car last September and then ran from the police, who found him hiding under a bush.

But the best heckling target of the year had to be Sooner star J.T. Wise, who was frequently reminded by the Simmons Field hecklers of his adventures as a high school ballplayer. 'Nuf sed.

Hecklers of the Year

At the SIU-Edwardsville game in mid-March, a pair of young women garnered a lot of attention from the fans, the pressbox, the players (on both teams) and anyone else in the area. They were screaming, yelling, jumping from their seats. I wondered at the time if they had finished off the St. Pattrick's Day green beer from the night before in preparation for the game.

The Missourian's Andrew Dewitt went above and beyond the call of duty as a sportswriter, though, and sought out an interview and photograph with the young ladies, and found the reason for their enthusiasm:

The truth? A broken heart will make you go crazy. The girls ex-boyfriends play for SIU-Edwardsville. I’m disappointed there won’t be a return trip for the Cougars.

A Little Red Whine

Texas Tech tried hard to win the whiners of the year award once again:

"The house of horrors that is Missouri's Taylor Stadium struck the Texas Tech baseball team again." from Tech's bullpen implodes , Lubbock Avalanche Journal.
They've been whining about Taylor Stadium ever since they were no-hit to the tune of 25-0 by Max Scherzer and Mike Cole two years ago.

But the Lubbockites were out-whined by Nebraska Cornhuskers coach Mike Anderson, whose team plummeted to the cellar of the Big 12 this season. On the way, he tried to explain that it really isn't his fault.

Anderson says system led to Husker collapse (Grand Island Independent):

Nebraska baseball coach Mike Anderson attributes his own “honesty and integrity” for a month-long skid that leaves the Huskers on track for their worst season in more than a decade.

“People just look and say, ‘They’re not good this year,” Anderson said. “The reality is, there’s a reason.”

According to Anderson, NU reached this place after his refusal to “oversign” recruits last year when the program was hit hard for a second straight season by the professional draft.. . .

“There’s nobody in the Big 12 who’s endured what we have in the last two years in terms of the draft,” Anderson said. “Nobody. Not even close.”

Anderson, by recruiting more players than he had scholarships available, could have covered himself in case of an exodus to professional baseball. It’s a common practice, he said.

Outstanding performance by an infrequent fan

My friend David Hagemeyer has been to one MU Baseball game each of the last two years, both at my invitation.

In 2008 he was there the night Aaron Crow struggled in the first inning before MU rallied to beat the Longhorns 31-12.

When he came back in 2009 he asked me before the game if he was gong to see as good a game this time around, and I said that was unlikely. I was right. This time the Tigers only scored 18 runs after the Mizzou ace (Gibson this time) struggled early against the Red Raiders, finishing with an 18-7 win.

Coming out party

One of the great joys of following college baseball is watching guys come in as freshmen and seeing them develop through the years, both as players and as people.

I remember coming across a picture of Kyle Gibson when he was just a recruit out in Indiana somewhere. Gibson is probably thankful I lost track of the picture at some point, since it shows him sitting in the dugout hamming it up with his finger up his nose.

My first impression of him as a freshman at Mizzou was that he must have escaped from a Tim Burton movie, all long arms and thin legs and sharp angles. I recall Tex Little referring to him as a "tall drink of water".

Those long limbs stayed long, but they filled out with muscle over his three years at MU, making him the dominant pitcher he was in 2009.

Everyone knew he was going to be great, but he really grabbed the baseball world's attention on the day of his first Big 12 game this season, against the mighty Longhorns.

Missouri's Gibson comes into his own (PowerMizzou.com)

Gibson has made four starts for the Tigers and has struck out 38 and walked eight, while tallying a 0.90 ERA in 30 innings of work. In a 2-0 win over the Longhorns Saturday afternoon, the veteran righty struck out 11 and allowed just six hits in a complete game shutout performance. It was the third complete game of his career.

Color Texas coach Augie Garrido impressed.

"I think his command and overall presence is just outstanding," Garrido said. "He's poised, positive and confident. He dominates the counts and he doesn't get rattled. He's just an excellent pitcher."
. . .
"If you don't have confidence taking the field, you really don't have anything," Gibson said. "I feel like I've got some work to add to the legacy of great pitchers at Missouri. Everyone that has come through here has made a living off attacking pitchers and that's my goal this season. I'm not afraid of anything."

With that, I tip my cap and bid farewell to the 2009 season. Thanks to the team, to the coaches, to the families and to the fans, for your encouragement this season.

Read more of our 2009 Tip of the Cap awards:

Part 1: Success
Part 2: By the Numbers
Part 3: Quotables
Part 4: Johnny Wholeteam
Part 5: And the winner is . . .

And check out our Tip of the Cap awards from years past

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