Sunday, September 30, 2012

SEC Fan's Guide to Mizzou Baseball: Taylor Stadium @ Simmons Field

Rollins Field, 1954
On the back side of the MU football field
Taylor Stadium is what used to be considered a good college baseball stadium.  A step up from your average high school ball field.  A decent locker room and practice facilities for the ballplayers. Significantly more capacity than the average crowd, so that there's room to fit a really good crowd for special games.  Within the past few years they've even added a decent video score board.

I'm really quite pleased with Taylor Stadium.  A great deal of my satisfaction with the current stadium comes from the fact that I spent many years watching the Tigers in the old ballpark.

Simmons Field "grandstand" and
press box, mid 1990s
Simmons Field was opened in 1959, named for legendary Mizzou baseball coach John "Hi" Simmons (the ballpark is occasionally referred to as "Johnny Hi".).  It was renovated in 1992.  Light towers were first added in 1985.

The capacity of Simmons Field was around 2,000.  The press box was a cramped collection of booths not much larger than a closet.  The stairway leading to the press box was a hazard to life and limb.  The men's restroom (I was never in the women's) featured a single toilet, a communal trough-style urinal, a single small sink and an electric plug-in space heater.  For larger crowds they brought in a couple of port-a-potties.

Simmons Field 1960s
The barbecue grille for the tiny concession stand stood directly below the press box and sent its aromas - and its smoke - directly into the seating area.

All of the seating in Simmons Field was on aluminum bleachers, with open air between the seat and the foot rest.  Considering the ballpark was built on one of the highest elevations in Columbia, at the top of a steep hill (see The Summit, below), the wind would whip through Reactor Field at the bottom of the hill, rush northeast up toward the ballpark and, unhindered by any walls or enclosed bleachers, would deliver a constant chilling breeze (or gale) upon the seated patrons, maintaining the aluminum seating at a chilled temperature, and turn the playing field itself into a wind tunnel that produced some incredible wind blown home runs.

Taylor Stadium crowd
Taylor Stadium was built around the original playing field of Simmons Field, and opened in 2000.

The capacity is expanded now to around 3,500.  The front row seating is closer to the foul lines and home plate than before.  There are 537 bucket-style chair-back seats in the lower sections.  The rest are bleacher style - enclosed bleachers.

The walls around the sub-seating area baseball office, concessions, restrooms (heated), and home club house serve as more of a wind break than the previous wide-open construction did.

Simmons Field seen from
Taylor Stadium press box
The press box is much roomier, nicer, and certainly sturdier.

All in all, a great improvement.

Of course, D-1 Baseball has changed, and now there are more and more college ballparks that are built more like a Double-A Minor League park (many of them ARE minor league parks).

The average attendance at SEC games in 2012 was larger than the maximum capacity of Taylor Stadium.

Taylor Stadium
There are improvements to Taylor Stadium in the works.  With the move to the SEC the Mizzou Athletic Department has said there will be facilities upgrades that will focus primarily on Football, Baseball, Softball and Tennis.  The last three are up-and-coming programs that badly need facilities upgrades.  The first because, well, it's football.

The Columbia Tribune reported in June on MU facility improvements specified in document
The University of Missouri will request approval of $72 million worth of athletic facility improvements at tomorrow's meeting of the UM Board of Curators in Columbia.
The article includes a link to the actual MU Facility Improvement document. Here are the sections of that document speaking directly about Taylor Stadium renovations:
The University of Missouri-Columbia requests approval of Bond Financed Intercollegiate Athletics Projects totaling $72 million and Architect Selection for the Memorial Stadium East Side Addition and the West Side Press Box Renovation. The $72 million in debt financing will fund the Memorial Stadium Est Side Addition, the Memorial Stadium West Side Press Box Renovation and six small projects and are described below in three sections.
. . .
Section 3 of the Document: There are six other projects, each less than $5 million project cost funded by the remaining $16,175in revenue bonds:

Taylor Stadium Renovation will include the addition of team lockers-players' lounge, toilets-showers-sinks, additional storage and three coaches' offices to the McArtor Baseball Facility. Spectator field boxes are planned to be added along the third base line.
Mizzou Network has a video interview with Coach Tim Jamieson about the expansion plans.  Check out the video  . . . and check out Tim Jamieson's personal renovation in preparation for the SEC, growing what appears to be a Colonel Sanders beard and mustache.

♦ The Summit
There is a hill behind Taylor Stadium in Columbia, Mo. The beast is located in line with home plate, parallel to Providence Road. It is so steep that, on game days, Missouri athletic department officials use golf carts to shuttle fans to the gates from parking lots below. It is a place Missouri baseball players want to avoid. The Summit makes them pay. Future major league pitchers who struggled with their command were sent there. Players with sagging body language, too. They had to sprint the brutal incline in 27 seconds "It's a hard 27 seconds," said Tony Vitello, former Missouri pitching coach as they toiled over their mistakes with calves burning like a brush fire. A typical date with the monster lasted six to eight repetitions. Some went 20. One was enough. "It sucked," said former Missouri pitcher Aaron Crow, now in his first year with the Kansas City Royals. "It was not fun."
. . .
The hill brings them back. Though Scherzer, Crow and Gibson have moved onto mounds under brighter lights, their time spent on the Summit has marked them. The lessons will never leave. "If you were falling behind hitters, you ran the hill," Scherzer said. "It enforced the importance of working ahead against hitters, because that makes you successful." Said Crow: "One time, when I was a freshman, I was supposed to run 15 or 16. I quit after 12." Added Gibson with a laugh: "I think that was half my motivation to sign after my junior year." Success binds Missouri's pitching lineage. Drive and discipline connect the players forever. (Yard Barker)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mizzou Baseball Scout Day: Unis & Positions

The photos below provide a quick look (through the imperfect lens of my iPhone) of the new Nike style of the practice uniforms.  The actual game day unis may be different, but this gives us an idea what to expect.

I'm partial to the grey (Nike anthracite) jersey myself.  But then, I'm such a fun guy, my favorite color is grey.

I posted the official Fall Roster earlier today, but here's a closer look at the positions the coaches assigned the players for today's game.  It was hard to keep track because the printed rosters and positions for the game did not match what was on the field at times, as players did not necessarily play the same position throughout the game.  But this is my best recording of what the printed rosters said plus what I observed while I was there.  Other players may have gotten into the game after I left.

C - Ivory, Quintanilla, Kelly
1B - Stark, Lester, Steele
2B - Everett, Meyer, Keeton
3B - Segovia, Moore
SS - Keeton, McGraw
LF - Munson, Sommerfeld
CF - Belfonte, Champagne, Pearson
RF - Pearson, Opel, Sommerfeld
DH - Ullrich, Byrd

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mizzou Baseball Diaspora: MLB Futures


Max Scherzer unsure if he will pitch again this season due to deltoid strain (Bless You Boys)
Due to what is being called a deltoid strain, Max Scherzer has been scratched from his next scheduled start, Friday night in Minnesota. Rookie Drew Smyly will step into Scherzer's spot in the rotation.

Scherzer's status for the rest of the season is now in question. There is no structural damage to the shoulder, but Scherzer will likely not throw again until deemed healthy.

"It’s just tough to say. I want to be able to, but at the same time, when you have a recurring injury like this, you can’t go back on the mound until you’re 100 percent."
Royals Bullpen of the Future Has Arrived (Royals Review)
Crow and Herrera's peripheral numbers are similar as well, with Herrera's numbers being slightly better in both categories. . . Crow has improved this season compared to last, despite a lower ERA and an All-Star appearance in 2011. Crow's walk numbers last season were similar to Collins and Holland's this season without the absurdly high strikeout numbers to offset the walks. His HR/FB percentage has halved from last season, something all Royals fans should hope will continue.

SxSE: War Eagle

Aubie the War Eagle Tiger
Photo by Auburn Alumni Association
♦ Samford Stadium At Hitchcock Field At Plainsman Park
  • Opened: 1950, frequent renovations since
  • Capacity: 4,096
  • Named after: Billy and Jimmy Hitchcock, brothers who became two of Auburn's most noteworthy athletic performers during the 1930s
♦ Auburn's Plainsman Park, rated by Baseball America in 2003 as the top baseball facility in the country, was last updated in 2004. Auburn has board approval to renovate Plainsman Park, paid for through private funding.

"We need to improve the player amenities and development areas for our players," said Pawlowski, who isn't certain when construction will begin. "We're trying to do stuff with the locker room, batting cages, and practice infield. You look at some of the best facilities in the country and they happen to be in our own league." (, 5/22/12)

♦ If there's a college rivalry more fierce than Mizzou vs. Kansas, it would be Alabama vs. Auburn.  The baseball teams meet for an annual non-conference rivalry game called the Capital City Classic in Montgomery, Alabama, at Riverwalk Stadium, home of the AA Montgomery Biscuits.

♦ Auburn University Plainsman Parking Lot ( is, without a doubt, my favorite internet site in all the SEC.  Perhaps I like it so much because it's the only other true fan blog (besides I've found in the SEC.  The AUPPL blogger-in-chief does a lot of opinion blogging, plus a lot of stat analysis.  Good reading.  In August, Kevin Ives, the AUPPL blogger, joined the newly minted College and Magnolia, the new Auburn blog on the SBN Network.  So we may be seeing more of his commentary at the new place.

A Love Song for (Auburn) Baseball (Auburn University Plainsman Parking Lot)
The closest temple where I can express my love for the game remains at the corner of Donahue and Heisman. The oddball on Auburn’s campus. It’s the last bastion of the common fan; all-inclusive and a place where everyone and anyone can watch a game. College students have begun filling up the parking deck; catching a game without a ticket while enjoying libations and the liberation of a sunny Saturday. I sit in my normal spot inside the stadium where I just chuckle and think that, when I was a student, that would be exactly where I would be. I’d be perched in that concrete stack like bats in a cave. Also from my seat, I can look out past the outfield and see kids playing on the grassy hill. Blankets laid out for couples. A grill fired up. A radio turned to Rod and Andy. Sitting in a unique spot. If Plainsman Park is the sun and all of my personal fandom revolves around it then these fans are the corona. Just on the outside. Still halfway in the game and halfway enjoying just another day. Flaring up bright and hot as the game itself gets more intense.

The hill is flanked by two uniquely different but disarmingly similar features of Plainsman Park: the mini-Monster and the “K Korner”. Even the most casual baseball fans recognize the Monster and it’s homage to its big brother in Fenway. Personally, it’s the last line of armor for Auburn’s defense. An opposing player may have just knocked a bottle rocket to left field, surely it’s gone and it will be runs on the board, but the Monster has other ideas. It wants the Left Fielder to have a chance. So, with a mighty DONK he spits the ball back in to play…where some lazy runner is tagged out at 2nd Base.

The “K Korner” sits on the opposite end of the outfield. Another turret of protection. Housing only the truest of Auburn baseball fans. Sometimes loud and rowdy. Often polite and knowledgeable. They serve a greater purpose of providing fan interaction and getting into the minds of opposing right fielders
♦ Best joke: When a minor fire broke out at Auburn’s football dorms, about 20 books had been lost in the fire. This prompted Steve Spurrier to reply “the real tragedy is that 15 of them had not been colored yet.”  (

♦ Auburn's mascot is the Tiger, but they also pay homage to "The War Eagle".  There's at least four different stories explaining the origin of the War Eagle, which is the subject of the official Battle Cry and Fight Song:

War Eagle!
War... Eagle, fly down the field.
Ever to conquer, never to yield.
War... Eagle, fearless and true.
Fight on, you orange and blue.
Go! Go! Go!
On to vict'ry, strike up the band.
Give 'em hell, give 'em hell;
Stand up and yell, Hey!
War...Eagle win for Auburn,
Power of Dixie Land!

This is Auburn Baseball

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tim Jamieson's contract extended

In a HUGE vote of confidence, Mike Alden and the MU Athletic Department have extended Tim Jamieson's contract through 2015.

Jamieson's contract had been scheduled to conclude at the end of the current 2012-13 season, leaving room for speculation that his job security was depended on performance in the Tigers' first year in the tough Southeastern Conference.

But the AD apparently believes that the coach who led his team to the Big 12 Tournament title in 2012 deserves more of a running start in the SEC.

Jamieson Extended Through 2015 (
The Mizzou Department of the Athletics and Athletics Director Mike Alden are proud to announce a two-year contract extension for Mizzou head baseball coach Tim Jamieson. The three-year deal will keep Jamieson, who is the school's longest current-tenured head coach, at Mizzou through the 2015 season.

"We're so pleased with the job Coach Jamieson is doing with our program" director of athletics Mike Alden said. "Coming off of the Big 12 Championship, we are looking forward to the challenges ahead in the SEC. Tim, his staff and our students are a tremendous reflection of the core values of the University of Missouri."
. . .
"Coach J has successfully led our baseball for 18 seasons and we are excited he will continue during such an exciting time," executive associate athletic director Tim Hickman said. "I am thrilled to be able to work with Tim in a time where we will be transforming our facility and entering the best league in college athletics."

SxSE: Auburn, Alabama

Toomer's Corner
Photo by Carolina Hornig
Our South by Southeast Virtual Road Trip swoops into Auburn, Alabama this week.  The Tigers have been here a couple of times in the past few years, playing the Aeburn Tigers in non-conference games..

♦ Auburn is the 8th closest SEC town to Columbia, 733 miles away (582 air miles).  Auburn is in the SEC West Division.

Fun Facts about Auburn, AL:
  • 2010 Population: 53,380 (Metro area: 135,833)

  • Auburn was initially established as a center of education, and it has been a true college town ever since.  It's economy is almost entirely centered around the university.

  • The city and the university name of Auburn, as well as the mascot "Tiger" both come from a 1770 poem. The Deserted Village, by Oliver Goldsmith.  Auburn the city and university are often referred to simply as "the plains".
Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain, 
Where health and plenty cheer’d the labouring swain, 
Where smiling Spring its earliest visit paid, 
And parting Summer’s lingering blooms delay’d;
. . .
Where crouching tigers wait their hapless prey,
And savage men more murderous still than they . . 
Taylor Hicks
Auburn drop-out
♦ There are 4 Chik-fil-a locations in Auburn

♦ According to, in Auburn Alabama it is illegal to:
  • spit on the floor of a church
  • bike, roller skate, skateboard or inline is a commercially zoned area
  • deflower virgins
The SEC Guide to Auburn's Home Turf ( lists many options for places to eat and relax between games in Auburn, AL:
When in town you have to walk around downtown South College and visit Toomer's Corner, not only to see the infamous oaks but also pay a visit to Toomer's Drugs on the corner. They have the worlds best lemonade there. Rumor has it Abe Lincoln even drank it once. Samford Hall, probably the most iconic building on the Auburn campus is only a one or two minute walk from Toomer's Corner and you can't beat the sight of the blue sky overhead on a nice fall day with tailgaters abound.
Toomer's Corner is a busy intersection where students traditionally festoon the trees and anything else not moving with toilet paper - sometimes so densely that traffic comes to a halt.  Auburn is the only city in the world whose city budget includes a line item for toilet paper removal.'s SEC Bucket List: Auburn
#100 Momma G's Nachos: Those Auburn Tigers fans out there are familiar with Momma Goldberg’s Deli. Momma G’s, as the locals call it, has terrific sandwiches including the Momma’s Love and Turkey Delite, but we are focusing on the Momma’s Nachos.
KFRU's The Closers talked to an Auburn beat writer about the town of Auburn and Auburn traditions.  Listen to the podcast HERE on RockMNation.  Also listen to a podcast of their conversation about Auburn with RockMNation's Bill Connely.  Just fast forward past the boring football stuff.

♦ One of many interesting photos from Auburn, AL, at, of Toomer's Corner in full bloom:

This is Auburn Baseball

Sunday, September 23, 2012

2013 Schedule: Update

We've been piecing together the 2013 schedule from various bits of information picked up along the way.

A fan on drew my attention to the posting a week ago of Southeast Missouri State's schedule, which includes a Tuesday, April 30th visit to Columbia to play the Tigers.

♦ The Columbia Tribune today reported MU baseball to play series at Southern Miss. Tex and Hunter mentioned on the air toward the end of the 2012 season that MU's opening series in 2013 will be in the middle of SEC country at Southern Mississippi, a pretty good Conference USA team (32-24 in 2012)

♦ SEC Schedule: The SEC released their 2013 Baseball Schedule a couple of months ago (unlike the Big 12, which has always kept such information tightly held)

♦ Mention has been made this past season that both the San Francisco series and the Memphis series are home-and-away agreements that will bring USF to CoMo for a weekend in 2013 and send Missouri to Memphis for an away weekend series in 2013.  Memphis has released their official 2013 schedule, which verifies the February 22-24date of Mizzou's series with Memphis as we previously posted on the schedule below, and San Francisco also has posted their schedule, confirming the March 8-10 series we had previously posted.

♦ Because of the length of the SEC schedule, there will only be 4 weekend non-conference series at the beginning of the season. Since MU usually plays on the road until March, we can expect only 2 home series prior to the beginning of SEC play.

♦ A follower of reminded me that Tex said the home opener will be March 1st against Northwestern.  That fills in the last question mark for the weekend series schedule.

♦ 2013 Weekend series dates
2/15-2/17 - @ Southern Mississippi
2/22-2/24 - @ Memphis
3/1/-3/3 - Northwestern
3/8-3/10 - San Francisco
3/15-3/17 South Carolina at Missouri
3/22-3/24 Missouri at Tennessee
3/29-3/31 LSU at Missouri
4/5-4/7 Missouri at Georgia
4/12-4/14 Missouri at Vanderbilt
4/19-4/21 Florida at Missouri
4/26-4/28 Auburn at Missouri
4/30 Southeast Missouri at Missouri
5/3-5/5 Missouri at Texas A&M
5/10-5/12 Missouri at Alabama
5/16-5/18 Kentucky at Missouri 
5/21-5/26 SEC Tournament

SEC Fan's Guide to Mizzou Baseball: You Might Be a Long Time MU Baseball Fan if . . .

Simmons Field pre-Taylor Stadium
You might be a long-time Mizzou Baseball fan if . . .
  1. You see jersey number 41 on the field and the first name you think of is first baseman Cody Ehlers, not pitcher John Miles.
  2. You show up for a game at Taylor Stadium with the temperature in the 80s and you layered up and  brought an extra jacket
  3. You saw Tiger Baseball games coached by Gene McArtor.  Extra points if you saw John Hi Simmons coach.
  4. You remember Phil Bradley as a hot-hitting outfielder more than as a league-leading quarterback.
  5. You've ever been nervous walking up the rickety stairs to the old pre-Taylor Stadium press box
  6. You've watched a game from under the grandstand during a rain shower
  7. You have listened to someone other than Tex Little do play-by-play of Tiger Baseball on the radio.
  8. You remember when Pietroburgo was a pitcher who was drafted by the Seattle Mariners, not a catcher who became a Mizzou assistant coach
  9. You were a fan of Big 8 baseball.  Extra points if you were a Big 7 or even Big 6 fan.  
SEC Baseball Fan's Guide to
Mizzou Baseball
You might be a Mizzou Baseball newbie if .. .
  1. You show up at a game when the temperature is in the upper 60s, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and are surprised how cold it is.
  2. You park in the middle of the main parking lot so you'll be close to the gate, and then come out to see a baseball-sized hole through the windshield.  Of the car next to yours.  You hope.
  3. You ask, "Who's that guy yelling, Let's Go Mizzou!  Let's Go Mizzou!?"
  4. You believe the Event Staff when they tell you the lower section is only for reserved seat season ticket holders
  5. You're surprised when the Event Staff won't let you take in the sodas you stashed in your bag.  And you haven't learned the tricks for getting them in anyway.
  6. The attendance is over 2,000 and you wonder why the crowd is so small.
  7. You don't get excited when the Tigers beat a bad Kansas Jayhawks team.
  8. The numbers 195415, 33 and 34 mean nothing to you.
  9. You're surprised at how much fun you can have at Simmons Field.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

SxSE: Alabama Rolling Tide Baseball 1892-2012

Since 2000 Alabama has been an NCAA Regional program currently.  They can be expected to make the Regionals most years, but haven't proved themselves able to consistently move beyond.  Alabama's average season record in the past 10 years has been 35-26.

Alabama has been playing intercollegiate baseball since 1892.  They had 30 head coaches in the first 53 years they played, with not a great deal of success, except for a streak of Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association championships during the teens.

Tilden Campbell then coached for 25 years, from 1935–1942 and again 1947–1963. His record of 355-168-4 contributed greatly to Alabama's position as all-time wins leader in the SEC.

Former MSU and major league star Joe Sewell was the head coach from 1964-1969, with moderate success, taking the team to the district playoffs one year.

Hayden Riley coached from 1970-1979, with some decent results but not good enough for the post-season.

Barry Shollenberger coached from 1980-1994 and took the team to the College World Series in 1983.  Two other trips to Regionals were the only other bright spots in a generally mediocre tenure.

Jim Wells coached from 1995-2009, during what wold be the golden age of Alabama baseball.  Wells led them to several SEC Championships, several trips to the NCAA Regionals, and three College World Series appearances.

Mitch Gaspard has been the head coach since 2010

Since 1995, under Jim Wells and Mitch Gaspard (2010-current), Alabama has averaged 41 wins per season

Alabama has won the regular season SEC championship 14 times, in 1934, 1935, 1936, 1938, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1947, 1950, 1955, 1968, 1983, 1996 and 2006

Alabama has won the SEC Tournament 7 times, in 1983, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2002 and 2003

Bama is tied with LSU with 14 SEC Championships, but only two of those ('96, '06) are within the past 20 years. From 1934 to 1942 they dominated the conference, winning 7 of 9 championships. From 1930 through 1955 Alabama won 11 SEC Championships.

Alabama has been in the NCAA Tournament 21 times, in 1947,1950, 1955, 1968, 1983, 1986, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011

Alabama has been to the College World Series 5 times, in 1950, 1983, 1996, 1997 and 1999. They have never won the championship.

♦ This article tells a lot about the current state of Alabama Baseball: Alabama’s Wells picks perfect time to retire (
Wells’ departure from Alabama isn’t a surprise. When he decided to temporarily retire two summers ago, he pointed to personal preference as his reason. Beyond the surface, though, there was much more to the story.

You see, Alabama athletics department officials for years had promised Wells massive facility upgrades and renovations. But years later, it’s Mississippi, LSU, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Tennessee which have made massive facility upgrades. Heck, even rival Auburn now has a vastly superior facility to the Crimson Tide. Alabama, meanwhile, has done very little.

Notable Alabama ballplayers
Alabama Baseball in 2012

In 2012 the Tide compiled a 21-34 record and failed to make the post-season.

Alabama, Auburn baseball endure droughts during SEC golden age (5/22/12)
This season, Alabama's announced average attendance of 3,458 was its lowest since 1997 and down 80 percent since peaking in 2000.
. . .
Gaspard said Alabama is in discussions to possibly replace 64-year-old Sewell-Thomas Stadium. University administrators have met with architects and visited newer ballparks at LSU, South Carolina and Arkansas this year, Gaspard said.

"I believe it will happen here sooner rather than later," he said. "I don't have a timetable on it. The biggest thing for us is putting a good product on the field."

Wells said Alabama officials told him for years they would build a new ballpark but it would take time.

"It's in the planning to do it, and I don't doubt they will," Wells said. "But others have already done that. I know in my last year (2009) kids would go, 'Now where's your indoor hitting facility?' It doesn't mean that's better. But that's the world we live in right now. People build $35 million facilities and that sways kids."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Missouri Baseball in the Minors: All Star Stites

TinCaps Skipper, Closer Honored By Baseball America (Indiana News Center)
TinCaps closer Matt Stites and Manager Jose Valentin have been honored by Baseball America, in its All-Star teams for each minor league classification.

Stites was selected as the Low-A All-Star relief pitcher, and Valentin was named the Low-A Manager of the Year.
. . .
Stites, 22, is in his second professional season after being selected in the 17th round of the 2011 draft out of the University of Missouri. He finished the regular season with 13 saves and a 0.74 ERA. During the TinCaps’ current postseason run, he has converted three saves in as many opportunities.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

SxSE: Coach Mitch Gaspard's Alabama Crimson Tide

Recruiting footprint:  Based on recent rosters, Gaspard tends to recruit from Alabama,, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana, Illinois, Oklahoma and Ontario. 

♦ Alabama baseball coach Mitch Gaspard proves a worthy successor to mentor Jim Wells (, 5/25/2011)
Wells retired in 2009 after spending 15 years setting an incredibly high standard for Alabama baseball. Gaspard worked beside Wells for the first seven of those years, then left to establish himself as a head coach at Northwestern (La.) State. Gaspard returned to Alabama for two years as Wells' top assistant before moving into the top spot in the dugout for the 2010 season. Last season, Gaspard's first as the Alabama head coach, ended one game short of the College World Series. The Tide reached the championship games of both the SEC Tournament and the NCAA Super Regional at Clemson. This year, despite losing his entire infield - hitters 2-3-4-5 in the order - to the draft, and being picked to finish fifth in the West by SEC coaches, Gaspard has Alabama in position to make another postseason run.
Jim Wells was the coach at Alabama for 15 seasons, compiling a 625-322 (.656) record. Wells guided Alabama to two Southeastern Conference Championships (1996 and 2006), six SEC Tournament Championships (1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2002 and 2003) and 12 NCAA Regional appearances during his tenure. He also led UA to four NCAA Regional Championships (1996, 1997, 1999 and 2006), two NCAA Super Regional appearances (1999 and 2006) and three trips to the College World Series (1996, 1997 and 1999). ( Mitch Gaspard was an assistant under Wells for two years prior to taking over the reins as head coach. He previously had been the head coach at Northwestern University (LA)for six years.

Mitch Gaspard deserves recognition for rejuvenating Alabama baseball (, 6/8/2010)
Gaspard has made an impact from day 1 after taking over for longtime successful coach Jim Wells. He, along with Hitting Coach and Recruiting Coordinator Dax Norris, made the determination that they would play aggressive and confident baseball. Mitch and the staff improved the confidence of the players and improved the focus and concentration. Gaspard’s decision to hire a pitching coach was a different direction that was much needed. He brought in outstanding Clemson Pitching Coach Kyle Bunn. Bunn was also considered one of the best recruiters in the country. Clemson just happens to be the Super Regional opponent for Alabama. The Tide staff will be very prepared and knowledgeable about Bunn’s former team, including the freshmen that he helped recruit.
"Our offensive philosophy is going to be different," Gaspard said. "You can look at my teams at Northwestern State; we were third in the nation in two of the six years in stolen bases. The one unique quality we have here is we have power but we also have athletes with speed. "We've got to use that and really have the aggressive style that's going to put pressure on the defense and I think we can do that with our offense with a little bit of a running game, hit-and-run, playing the short game some and also being able to hit the three-run homer. We can use all three packages on that." Gaspard also wants to translate that mental toughness to the mound. "I think the number one goal for us pitching-wise, is we've got to command the strike zone. We've got to have that same aggressive style on the mound and throw the fastball and put it where we need it and get tough mentally on the mound, the same as many of our position players." (
“I want a connection and emotion to be seen with our fanbase and our crowd,” Gaspard said. “We really want to get the crowd back into the game. We want them to feel our emotion on the field.” (The Crimson White)
Before his latest stint on Alabama’s coaching staff, Gaspard spent six seasons as coach at Northwestern State. There, he amassed an impressive 211-128 (.622) record and established a reputation as a good salesman and an excellent coach. It was par the course for a NSU program that has pumped out a number of successful coaches. Many coaches in Gaspard’s shoes at Northwestern State would’ve waited for an SEC, Big 12 or ACC job to open up. But Gaspard felt it was important to move to an SEC program as an assistant and learn the ropes. Time will tell if that philosophy pays off. “Big part of me going to Northwestern State in ’01 was to get prepared to get back to this level in college baseball,” Gaspard said. “You wear a lot of hats at an SLC school. You’re the coach, the office and in some cases, the academic side of things, too. You learn the ins and outs of coaching and I think that was pretty beneficial.” (
@MitchGaspard on Twitter

Alabama, Auburn baseball endure droughts during SEC golden age (5/22/12)
This week, Alabama misses the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2004.
. . .
The last time this state made the College World Series was Alabama in 1999; the SEC has made 23 CWS appearances since then. Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky and Ole Miss are the only SEC schools that haven't been to Omaha since 2005.

It wasn't always this way. After all, Alabama and Auburn rank third and sixth, respectively, in all-time SEC winning percentage.

From 1988 to 1999, Alabama went to the CWS three times and tied for the second-most NCAA Tournament wins among SEC schools. Auburn got to the CWS twice and was fifth in the SEC for NCAA postseason wins. In the subsequent 12 years without either school reaching Omaha, Alabama tied for eighth in the SEC for NCAA Tournament wins and Auburn ranked 11th.
. . .
Consider this: In 2010, LSU spent $7.4 million on baseball and produced $9.2 million in revenue. Alabama and Auburn baseball combined for $4.5 million on costs and $762,726 in revenue in 2010.
. . .
Most SEC teams other than Auburn and Alabama benefit from state-funded academic scholarships. Many are paid for by a lottery, which Alabama and Mississippi don't have. States with lottery money can offer in-state players who qualify for academic aid a better financial deal than Alabama and Auburn and save the 11.7 for out-of-state players.
. . .
Pawlowski declined to say if Auburn waives out-of-state tuition. Gaspard said Alabama does not. Alabama had two players this season whose tuition was covered by a presidential scholarship based on a 30 ACT score, Gaspard said. "There aren't many (recruits) at 30," he said.

More than half of the players on Alabama and Auburn's 2012 rosters come from the state of Alabama, which typically isn't loaded with prospects. This season, 43 of the 54 SEC players from this state play for Alabama, Auburn or Mississippi State.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

SEC Fan's Guide to Mizzou Baseball: Johnny Wholestaff & Priday's Friday

Every baseball program has its stories that are told over and over again by the fans. During Tim Jamieson's tenure, two of the most often repeated tales are of the exploits of Johnny Wholestaff and Jake Priday.

The photo above is not of a Mizzou player who has suffered severe facial injuries.  This is one the most famous - some would say infamous - Missouri Tiger to play during Tim Jamieson's time as head coach.

The picture is a composite of the official bio head-shots of all the MU pitchers who contributed to the Johhny Wholestaff pitching strategy during the 2009 season.

Every baseball coach at one time or another has been forced to throw numerous successive pitchers in a game.  This strategy, usually called Johnny Wholestaff, is generally used when an overloaded schedule has depleted the starting rotation, or when the team is suffering a blow-out or a long extra-inning game.

As I said in 2009:
Mr. Wholestaff was cobbled together by Tim "Dr. Frankenstein" Jamieson and his trusty sidekick Tony "Igor" Vitello as a creative answer to the problem all Division I teams have faced since the 56-game season was compressed into 2-3 fewer weeks than before. The new compact season means many weeks playing 5 games in 7 days, necessitating either a really deep core of starters - or a creative alternative.
Their plan was not to throw open the bullpen gates just when things got tough.  They incorporated the multi-faceted Johnny W into their regular starting rotation - even the weekend rotation.

And, lo and behold, it was pretty successful.  Opposing lineups had difficulty adjusting to seeing a new pitcher every inning.  Some of the Tiger pitchers, like sophomore Kelly Fick, seemed to thrive as a key member of the Wholestaff persona. Fick and Ryan Gargano tied for the ERA lead, at 0.63, with an identical 14-1/3 IP

The stats for J. Wholestaff at the end of the season were as follows:
11-4 W-L record; 3.64 ERA, 15 G, 136 IP, 131 H, 66 R, 55 ER, 42 BB, 100 SO, 1.27 WHIP

That was good enough to tie with Kyle Gibson for 1st on the team in wins, 3rd in ERA, and tied with Gibson and Ian Berger in games started.

And that 1.27 WHIP (walks + hits per innings pitched) was bettered on the team only by Gibson (1.07) and Brad Buehler (1.26).

On a windy and cool Friday night, a crowd of over 1,200 fans showed up at Simmons Field, drawn by the coverage and speculation about a possible historic record-breaking game. The energy and expectation in the crowd was apparent even before the first pitch. No one was really very sure how many innings it would take for Aaron Crow to set a new all-time D-1 record for consecutive scoreless innings pitched (since no one really knows what the record is for sure), but they all wanted to be there to witness the event when it happened.

Just a few short minutes into the 1st inning, the anticipation crashed to earth as Aaron Crow showed that even Superman has his kryptonite. The excitement shifted from the crowd to the Longhorn dugout as the Texas players, obviously fully aware of the scoreless streak, celebrated at a level not usual for merely scoring the first run of a ballgame.

And by the time the Longjohned Longhorns had finished their second inning at bat, our Tigers were down 8-0. I saw a small number of faithless fans head for the exits at that point. Boy were they stupid.

MU answered back with 3 runs in the bottom of the 2nd, Texas added a 9th run in the 3rd, and then the slumping Mizzou offense woke up like an angry man whose home had been invaded.

10 runs in the bottom of the 3rd was the first explosion, followed by more runs as the game went along, piling up to a final tally of 31 runs, against the Longhorns' total of 12.

The 10-run inning was the biggest inning for the Tigers since an 11-run second inning against Mississippi Valley State on May 6, 2006

Jacob Priday, right
Jacob Priday (aka The Incredible Hulk), led the attack with his own record-breaking performance.

Priday was 5-for-5 on the night. He set the single-game school record with four home runs, nine RBI and six runs scored. The four home runs is the most ever in the Big 12 Conference and is tied for third most in NCAA history.

With the four homers, Priday moved within one of the Missouri school record with 44 for his career. The nine RBI give him 218, which was four shy of the Mizzou career mark.

Every Tiger in the starting lineup had at least one hit and five had at least three. The 26 hits for Missouri tied a school record, which was set in 2005 against Navy.

The 31 runs were the most scored by the Tigers since they defeated Truman State 30-0 in 2003. It was the most runs scored by MU against a conference opponent since a 27-4 win over Nebraska in 1956. The all-time MU record for runs scored in a single game is 35, set in 1904.

The loss was the worst for Texas since a 25-6 defeat against Texas A&M in 1995. It was the first game in which Texas allowed at least 20 runs since 1998.

The 31 runs is the most ever allowed by any Texas baseball team in their ilustrious history.

But hey, they got to celebrate that first run they scored.

Oh, and the winning pitcher in the game?

Aaron Crow.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Missouri Baseball in the Majors: 3B Kinsler, A3P Scherzer

Ian Kinsler plays third base for first time (ESPN)
As the injuries mounted and the Rangers were forced to make some defensive switches in the eighth inning, second baseman Ian Kinsler heard manager Ron Washington say "Mike is going in."

Kinsler thought Washington was talking about Michael Young, meaning the club would have to lose the designated hitter spot in a three-run game. So Kinsler sprinted down and told Washington he could play third if needed. Washington told Kinsler he was putting Mike Olt out there and not Young, but Kinsler reiterated that he could play the position if needed.

So when the time came to figure out where Jurickson Profar would play with Olt out of the game with a heel injury, Washington shifted Kinsler to third and left Elvis Andrus at short with Profar at second.

Scherzer pacing Tigers' rotation as pennant race heats up (
While a standout starter at the University of Missouri, Scherzer had efficiency preached to him by pitching coach Tony Vitello, who kept close tabs on whether his pitchers attacked hitters in three pitches. While it hasn't always materialized in his starts, Scherzer keeps that "A3P" mantra -- which also molded Kansas City's Aaron Crow and Minnesota prospect Kyle Gibson -- in his head.

"I don't track it, per se, the way we did there, but it's definitely on my mind -- first pitch strikes, getting ahead in the count because every successful major-league pitcher does that, and if you're falling behind in the count, you're getting punished in the big leagues," Scherzer said. "It's something that we did in college that 100 percent applies here in the big leagues."

SxSE: Roll Tide Roll

Sewell Thomas Stadium
Photo by David Smith

♦ Sewell-Thomas Stadium 
  • Opened: 1948
  • Capacity: 6,571
  • Often referred to as "The Joe".   The song "Cotton Eyed Joe" is played in the sixth inning of each game.
  • Named after: Joe Sewell, former Alabama player and MLB star; Frank Thomas, former Alabama baseball coach.   
♦ Attendance at Joe Sewell Stadium has been on a steady decline since it peaked at 6,216 (average per game) in 2000.  Of course, their recent averages of just under 4,000 per game are still more than could fit into Taylor Stadium.

♦ How many Alabama fans does it take to change a light bulb? About 75,000. One to change the bulb, and 74,999 to stand around and talk about how great the old one used to be. (

♦ The Tide hosts an annual Fan Day a week or so before the baseball season begins.  The 2012 Fan Day included a Kids' Baseball Clinic, a $10-a-plate Barbecue, sponsored by the Grand Slammers Club, and a team scrimmage at the ballpark.

♦ The Grand Slammers is the Alabama Baseball Booster Club

♦ About Bama Ahletics
  • Why "The Crimson Tide"?

    In early newspaper accounts of Alabama football, the team was simply listed as the "varsity" or the "Crimson White" after the school colors.

    The first nickname to become popular and used by headline writers was the "Thin Red Line." The nickname was used until 1906.

    The name "Crimson Tide" is supposed to have first been used by Hugh Roberts, former sports editor of the Birmingham Age-Herald. He used "Crimson Tide" in describing an Alabama-Auburn game played in Birmingham in 1907, the last football contest between the two schools until 1948 when the series was resumed. The game was played in a sea of mud and Auburn was a heavy favorite to win.

    But, evidently, the "Thin Red Line" played a great game in the red mud and held Auburn to a 6-6 tie, thus gaining the name "Crimson Tide." Zipp Newman, former sports editor of the Birmingham News, probably popularized the name more than any other writer. (Paul W Bryant Museum)

  • Bama Mascot:  The Elephant

    The story of how Alabama became associated with the "elephant" goes back to the 1930 season when Coach Wallace Wade had assembled a great football team.

    On October 8, 1930, sports writer Everett Strupper of the Atlanta Journal wrote a story of the Alabama-Mississippi game he had witnessed in Tuscaloosa four days earlier. Strupper wrote, "That Alabama team of 1930 is a typical Wade machine, powerful, big, tough, fast, aggressive, well-schooled in fundamentals, and the best blocking team for this early in the season that I have ever seen. When those big brutes hit you I mean you go down and stay down, often for an additional two minutes.

    "Coach Wade started his second team that was plenty big and they went right to their knitting scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against one of the best fighting small lines that I have seen. For Ole Miss was truly battling the big boys for every inch of ground.

    "At the end of the quarter, the earth started to tremble, there was a distant rumble that continued to grow. Some excited fan in the stands bellowed, 'Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,' and out stamped this Alabama varsity.
♦ Alabama Baseball? (Message Board comment,, April 2012)
Watching Alabama baseball is like having salt poured on your eyeballs. As an alum & former player, this season has been tough to watch. Other than Justin Kamplain's stellar performance against Ole Miss, our young pitchers have yet to come around, defense has been shaky at best & our bats have stayed cold, extremely cold! Do we have a young & talented team,yes. Do we have a solid coaching staff, yes. That offers hope for a promising future. The game of baseball can be hard a game to figure out for players at all levels. Baseball is a game of superstitions, numbers, streaks & sometimes a little luck, but yet none of that can explain why this team continues to struggle in every phase of this crazy game that we call baseball. To me, this Alabama team seems to be lacking confidence & unity. So, in a last ditch effort to impose the mercy rule, I'm begging the baseball gods to help this team find their way & more importantly, themselves!!! ROLL TIDE & Give'em Hell SEC!!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Missouri Baseball in the Majors

Scherzer shows Tigers have more than one ace (
The first reaction Max Scherzer had when asked about his curveball was a face that looked like a secret had gotten out.

"Are we finally announcing it?" he asked with a smile. "I've been trying to keep it down."

Scherzer did a pretty good job; nobody had mentioned it for more than a month until this week. He had mixed it so well with his slider that it just never became obvious.

It was almost as well-kept of a secret as the pitching display Scherzer has put on for the better part of three months. That's becoming impossible to hide now, too.

Somewhere along the line during Justin Verlander's follow-up to his American League MVP Award season, the Tigers got another ace. He's the same pitcher who spent the previous two years trying to emerge from Verlander's shadow.
Go ahead. Read the rest.

Fatigue to blame for Kinsler's struggles? (
Kinsler has been dealing with a sprained ankle for the past two years that has never felt right, and Nelson Cruz still deals with hamstring and quad issues on a daily basis, although they haven't forced him out of the lineup. You can also see what has happened to the pitching staff.

All of this is part of what manager Ron Washington was referring to last week when he called this the Rangers' "toughest season." The Phillies appear to be a team that was physically beaten down the past few years after their extended postseason runs.

Kinsler has been outstanding in the playoffs in the past two years. The test will be if he and his teammates will be ready to raise the level of their game when that time comes. But it is also true that the division is not yet won. Far from it.
Yost continues to push young bullpen (
As teams across baseball shut down young arms in the season's final month, Yost said there's no such plan for his bullpen crew. Collins (22 years old), Herrera (22), Crow (25) and Holland (26) are all in their first or second full Major League seasons.

"Like any manager, you worry about their health and giving them too much of a workload early. But we are into September," Yost said. "It's all part of them learning how to pitch into September, too, in big games. So yeah, there's going to be times where you're going to be a little fatigued. So what? You've got to get after it."

Yost said getting the experience of pitching in September is key for a young pitcher's maturation. During his nine-year managerial career, Yost has heard pitchers complain about arm soreness late in the season.

"And then they realize, 'Hey, I can pitch through that and I can pitch through that effectively,'" Yost said.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

SxSE: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Photo by David Smith
The South by Southeast Virtual Road Trip blows into Tuscaloosa this week and next, to visit the home of the Alabama Crimson Tide.

♦ Tuscaloosa is the 7th closest SEC town to Columbia, 620 miles away (490 air miles).  Alabama is in the SEC West Division.

♦ There is an active Birmingham-North Alabama Chapter of the Mizzou Alumni Association

Fun Facts about Tuscaloosa, AL:
Forrest Gump
Former Bama Football Star
♦ There are 5 Chik-fil-a locations in Tuscaloosa

♦ Former Alabama Football Coach Bear Bryant is revered in Tuscaloosa.  While in town you can check out:
While no one would be so crass as to name a business the Bear Bryant ________ without permission, local entrepenuers have found a way to tie their businesses to the "Bear".  There are dozens of businesses bearing the name "Houndstooth", after Bear Bryant's signature houndstooth hat.  And houndstooth seems to be the official city "color" or pattern, as exemplified in the TTown Houndstooth Ribbon, memorializing those lost in the 2011 tornado.

♦ Druids are also apparently revered in Tuscaloosa, known as The Druid City.  The reason for this is a fascinating story.  Or not.

Twanglish Lesson: Southern Cussemisms (
Let’s talk a little bit about Southern cussing. More specifically, let’s talk about the Southern substitutes for cuss words, “cussemisms” if you will.
. . .
Swanny -euphemism 1. To swear 2. To declare or state unequivocally, often preceding a statement of hyperbole:

“I swanny, that boy’s got a bigger appetite than Junior Samples.”'s SEC Bucket List: Tuscaloosa
#53 Rama Jama's: Rama Jama’s is located on 1000 Paul W. Bryant Dr. just outside the home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. The inside of Rama Jama’s is a shrine of sorts to Alabama football with tons of old pictures and mementos. Coach Bear Bryant used to visit Rama Jama’s for meals back in the day.

If you are going for breakfast give the French toast or chocolate chip pancakes a whirl. The biscuits are also very popular. Lunch requires you get a cheeseburger, milkshake and French fries. If you chili dogs are more your cup of tea, Rama Jama’s has a dog you must devour

♦ Tuscaloosa was hit by a massive tornado on April 27, 2011.
  • What Stands in a Storm is an issue of Southern Living magazine that features numerous photo spreads and articles and commentaries about the storm and the recovery efforts that followed.
    It had been a bad spring. The sirens screamed every few days, in Mississippi, Alabama, and beyond. In Tuscaloosa, just days before the big storm, Mary Kate Jemison Cochrane and her daughter, Emily, walked through the family house in Glendale, looking for a place the 91-year-old Mrs. Cochrane could shelter when the weather turned. They settled on a hall closet, removed two Electrolux vacuum cleaners, silent since antiquity, and put in a chair. When sirens did sound on April 27, Mrs. Cochrane stepped inside and shut the door.

    She passed the time by looking through things, forgotten and dusty. She picked up a cookie tin, and pried off the lid. Neatly rolled inside was her christening gown, the one she wore as a baby, almost 92 years ago. She had been looking for that.

    She is hard of hearing. Inside, with her memories, she did not hear the destruction. She felt the house shake, but it had shaken before. Then she heard someone calling her name.

    A neighbor, Michael Carr, had huddled as the storm tore at his walls. The first thing he did, when it passed, was break into her house, damaged but intact, and shout for her. It was the same all along the street, as people ran from house to house, shouting, hoping.

    Carr called for her again. The closet door swung open.

    “Well I am fine, Michael,” she said graciously, “and you are just so kind, to come check on me.”

    She stayed here because it was where she raised her children, where she once found a live horse in a bedroom, where every cardboard box bulged with history. It took the storm of a lifetime to move her. She walked through the ruin, and rode away. But she sent Emily back for the gown.

    There will be great-grandchildren to baptize. They must be properly dressed.
♦ Be sure to check out Dreamland Bar-B-Que
1958 was a big year for Tuscaloosa. Not only was it the first year that Paul “Bear” Bryant starting coaching at Alabama, but it was the year that John “Big Daddy” Bishop opened his first Dreamland Café. Big Daddy was a brick mason for many years and he longed for another way to support his family. He had narrowed it down to opening either a mortuary or a restaurant and he got down on his knees and prayed for guidance. Legend has it that God told him in a dream that night to build a café on the land next to his home and Big Daddy made that dream a reality.

The SEC Guide to Alabama Home Turf doles out advice on where to go and where to eat in Tuscaloosa:
When in Tuscaloosa there are so many places to check out. You'll have to visit multiple times to see all the key places. Most people flock to Dreamland and Rama Jamas -- both will leave you drooling and are must eats. In addition, for dinner, Nicks, aka Nicks in the Sticks to us -- which is where you go to find the place -- is a hidden treasure. The menu is small, but ranges from chick gizzards to steaks. Be prepared for a wait, but you won't even notice because you'll be sipping on their famous beverage -- the Nickademus.
KFRU's The Closers talked to an Alabama sports writer about Tuscaloosa and Rolling Tide traditions.  Listen to the podcast HERE on RockMNation.  Later they talked to Bill Conelly of RockMNation -  Listen HERE

Monday, September 10, 2012

Missouri Baseball Alum Justin James

From baseball field to nutrition store, pitcher’s dreams become reality (
On May 2, he opened the Nutrishop at The Shoppes at Stadium. James said starting a business was tough, but he attributed his “go-getter” mentality from his playing days to the store’s early success.

Employee Brandon Mason has noticed that mentality.
Read the rest of the story about Justin James' long journey HERE

Sunday, September 9, 2012

SEC Fan's Guide to Mizzou Baseball: Mizzou Assistant Coaches

Matt Hobbs & Kerrick Jackson
Columbia Tribune
From 2004 through 2010 the Mizzou full-time coaching staff consisted of a former catcher (Tim Jamieson, New Orleans 1978-81), a former shortstop (Evan Pratte, Southwest Missouri State, 1988-91), and a former infielder/outfielder (Tony Vitello, Missouri, 1999-02).  Pratte was the hitting coach and Vitello was the pitching coach.

After the 2010 season, Vitello left join the staff at TCU (not as the pitching coach) and Pratte moved laterally to the Director of Baseball Operations job.

Proving again that he is more interested in having the people he wants on his staff regardless of any sort of traditional job qualifications, Tim Jamieson hired two former pitchers.

Matt Hobbs had been a semi-successful pitcher for Jamieson's Tigers from 1999-2002, posting a 12-9 record in four years.

Kerrick Jackson had been a semi-successful pitcher at St, Louis Community College-Meramec(94--95), Bethune Cookman (96) and Nebraska (97).

Hobbs is now the pitching coach at MU, while Jackson is the recruiting coordinator and hitting/fielding coach.

Kerrick Jackson, it should be noted, has worn many hats and has dabbled in just about every aspect of baseball coaching and recruiting.  He has been an assistant coach or graduate assistant at 6 different colleges and junior colleges prior to joining the staff at Missouri.  He has coached in the Cape Cod League and in summer prep development leagues.  And for the three years prior to coming to Mizzou, he was the Midwest Area Scouting Supervisor for the Washington Nationals. Jackson, ironically, was the scout who recommended the Washington Nationals draft MU's Aaron Crow, a draft pick that didn't turn out so well.

Matt Hobbs has done a good job with the pitching staff.  It's very clear, listening to players and their families talk about him, that he is well liked and respected by his pitching staff.  In his second season, in 2012, the Tiger bullpen was the most reliable and effective it has been for years.  Two years isn't much to go on, but I like what I'm seeing so far.

Kerrick Jackson's role in coaching is more quiet and behind the scenes.  He can often be seen offering encouragement and guidance in the dugout during games.  Jackson's greatest impact, though, has been as the recruiting coordinator.  His experience as a pro scout and his long time connections in the St. Louis area and throughout the Midwest have resulted in a noticeable uptick in the number of great recruits being signed from those areas.

Matt Hobbs' Playing Career (, 8/15/10)

Matt Hobbs, Pitching Coach (, 8/14/10)

Matt Hobbs' Bio at

Kerrick Jackson: Scout, Coach, Jack-o-All-Baseball-Trades (, 8/16/10)

♦ Kerrick Jackson's Bio at

New coaches putting a stamp on MU baseball (Columbia Tribune, October 2010)
Hobbs said his pitching philosophy mirrors that which Vitello, with whom Hobbs played at MU, had long preached. Jackson, meanwhile, said he has always preferred an offensive approach that gets runners on base and keeps the opposing pitcher under pressure.

“The stuff that was here in place was phenomenal,” said Hobbs, who was the pitching coach at San Francisco last year after spending three years at UC San Diego. “I feel I’ve brought some things that are a little bit different but not so far outside of the realm of what they were already doing.”

A lot of what Missouri is doing closely resembles what the Tigers have always done during Tim Jamieson’s tenure. So after learning from coaches outside the program, Hobbs’ arrival signals little more than a tweak.

Saying he’s often compared notes with Vitello over the past eight years, Hobbs said he will have a structured schedule for pitchers to follow on their off-days. He will have a regimented plan in place as far as when and how far a pitcher will throw between appearances, but that each pitcher’s routine can be altered to fit his needs.

“As a pitching coach, I think the most important thing is putting the tools in place for the guys to be successful,” Hobbs said, “and then allowing them to be successful.”

As a former pitching coach, Jackson said he knows the benefit of playing a pressure offense and how putting runners — especially speedy runners — on base can influence what happens on the mound.

Dan Pietroburgo, a former catcher for the Tigers, has been a volunteer assistant coach for the past four years. It's expected he will be back in that role this coming season. Dan is a prolific Tweeter @CoachPietro

Walk-on earns his keep for Missouri baseball team (Columbia Missourian, 4/20/2008)
“It’s hard to find a guy that hangs around for the length of time that Dan has without all the rewards that you get by playing every day,” Jamieson said. “He’s a big part of why we’ve been successful the last five years.”

Pietroburgo, however, sees his own rise as slightly less meteoric than another, which, coming from a guy that was once an afterthought, might be the most astonishing thing of all.

“More than anything, it’s just the ultimate success of the team that I’m enjoying,” he said. “I would have imagined myself playing before I would have imagined us being at this level.”

Travis Wendte, a former Tiger pitcher, and Hunter Mense, a former Tiger player, also were graduate assistants in 2012. Wendte has moved on to another job.  Mense will be back for the coming season.  Former Tiger relief pitcher Jeff Emens is stepping into Wendte's spot as a graduate assistant coach.

Rob Pietroburgo
photo by Stephen Anderson

Thursday, September 6, 2012

SxSE: Mississippi State Baseball 1885-2012

The Mississippi State bulldogs have seen good success over the years.  They are currently an NCAA Regional program.  They can be expected to have a good shot at reaching the Regionals each year, and may go even farther.  But there have been enough season in the past decade when they did not get into the tournament at all that they still have something to prove in terms of being a highly  successful program.  The Bulldogs' average record over the past 10 seasons has been 34-26.

Mississippi State has the oldest tradition in the SEC of participating in inter-collegiate baseball, stretching back to 1885.

C.R. "Dudy" Noble coached the Bulldogs from 1920 to 1927.  He went on to be the long time athletic director at Mississippi State.  The Bulldogs baseball stadium is named after him.

Paul Gregory coached the bulldogs from 1957 through 1974, compiling a record of 328-161-1 and taking them to the College World Series once.

Ron Polk was the head coach from 1976 through 2008.
  • Former MU assistant coach John Cohen has been the head coach at MSU since 2009.
  • MSU has won the SEC regular season championship 16 times, in 1909, 1911, 1918, 1921, 1922, 1924, 1948, 1949, 1965, 1966, 1970, 1971, 1979, 1985, 1987, and 1989
  • MSU has won the SEC Tournament 7 times, in 1979, 1985, 1987, 1990, 2001, 2005, and 2012
  • MSU hs been in the NCAA Tournament 32 times, in 1949, 1953, 1965, 1966, 1970, 1971, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011, and 2012
  • MSU has been to the College World Series 8 times, in 1971, 1979, 1981, 1985, 1990, 1997, 1998, and 2007. They have never won the national championship
Notable former Mississippi State ballplayers
History of MSU Baseball ( provides a quick overview of the storied history of Mississippi State Baseball.  I'll stipulate the writer knows what he's talking about, despite having spelled the current head coach's name incorrectly.  For more MSU Baseball History, take a gander at the many old time photos at Glimpses of the Past:  Mississippi State Baseball

A big part of MSU Baseball history and tradition is tied to the tenure of legendary head coach Ron Polk.  He built Bulldog Baseball - and SEC Baseball - into a powerhouse.  For more on Ron Polk, read our post from last year's SEC Dixienary: P is for Polk

Mississippi State Baseball in 2012

The 2012 Bulldogs finished 40-24 overall, 16-14 in the SEC.  They won the SEC Tournament and t hen went 1-2 in the Tallahassee Regional.

All Things Considered, it was a Good Year for MSU Baseball (Maroon and White Nation)
Pitching was the obvious strength for this team…and they exceeded expectations. Caleb Reed wasn’t as dominate as in 2011, but he was still effective this year with a 2.47 ERA. Chris Stratton surpassed everyone’s expectations by going from a long-relief guy to one of the best starting pitchers in the country.
. . .
The hitting, as we all know, struggled. But consider how much was lost from last year’s team:11 of the top 12 hitters from 2011 either left or missed significant time due to injury this year (Parks, Vickerson, Bradford, Shepherd, Freeman, Brownlee, Norris, Ogden, Collins, Thigpen and Johnson). A guy who hit in the heart of the lineup all year, Hunter Renfroe, only had 26 at-bats in 2011, and hit .154. A lot of young players gained valuable experience this year: Wes Rea, Matthew Britton, Hunter Renfroe, DeMarcus Henderson and Tyler Fullerton. . .

MSU Baseball- Don’t Close That Coffin Yet! (Maroon and White Nation)
That was part of the challenge that John Cohen took on four years ago when he took over. It’s one thing to say that you have to add talent- but there are some things that are deeper than that- things that must be done in order to get the talent that you need to compete for championships. No matter how good the bar-b-que is, no one wants to play for a loser. We had to get confidence back from the players and the fans, we had to makeover our image as a program that simply has a good history, and we had to change the overall attitude of our program. To me, that is the legacy of this team. This is the team that I have been waiting for, for four years that I feel put us back on the map, and gives us a real opportunity to move our baseball program even further forward. And while we didn’t make it to Omaha or even a Super Regional like last year’s team, I think this team accomplished us getting our swagger back. . .