Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Tip of the Cap: And the Winner Is...

On the final day of our 2013 Tip of the Cap series, we take note of some of the special achievements by players, fans, media and others involved with the Tigers' 2013 season.

Best reason to watch a game from the third base line
3rd Base Sliders

If you went to SEC weekend series at Taylor Stadium all year and never wandered down by the pavilion, you didn't discover the Third Base Sliders concessions stand, and you missed some of the best food served at Simmons Field since Johnny's Beanery ran the concessions back in the 90's.  Chef Travis Taylor served up fresh grilled philly cheese and ham and cheese sliders, Chicago dog sliders, grilled corn on the cob, and more.  Mmm good, but you missed it.  Sorry.

And now they're already working on a new building and seating area in that spot, which I suppose means they probably won't be back next season.  But I'll be following my nose on that first SEC Friday night next season, just to make sure.

The Ian Kinsler Base Cadet Award

I'm really tempted to give this annual award for creative base-running to Dylan Kelly. We were warned early on about the catcher when Rob Z told KBIA Sports Extra “He may run a little weird, but he is a phenomenal teammate.” Watching DK run the bases or run down an errant baseball was like watching a Teenage Mutant Ninja Hermit Crab chasing down a meal.

But considering Kelly only attempted one steal all season (at which he failed), he hardly qualifies. Dane Opel actually lead the team in base-stealing blunders, but wasn't particularly spectacular in doing so.

And besides, the most spectacular base running catastrophe I saw all season was the now-famous slide into third by the orginal Mizzou Base Cadet, who face-plowed his way into reclaiming the award that bears his name:

Black & Gold Glove

Josh Lester not only played four different infield positions for the Tigers in 2013, he also led the team with the fewest errors (4) among Tiger infielders.

Among the outfield, Dane Opel had only 2 errors, and led the nation with 15 outfield assists.

And then there's Dylan Kelly, who committed only 1 error the entire season, and ably handled his duties as a backstop and handler of pitchers.

On a team that gained a reputation for sometimes catastrophic defensive failures, there really were a lot of amazing plays this season.  Keaton Steele made an acrobatic stop at first in one game that took my breath away.

Here's a tip of my cap for all the times this team flashed the leather like pros.

John McKee HBP Award

Dane Opel led the squad with 13 HBP, followed closely by Keaton Steele with 12.  Between the two of them, they accounted for about a third of the team's "accidental" plunkings".

Mark Alexander Phoenix Award
On May 17, 2010, Anderson had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

On May 17, 2012, Anderson had surgery to replace the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

On May 17, 2013, Anderson's right arm helped the Tigers clinch a spot in their first Southeastern Conference Tournament (Columbia Tribune, 5/18)
Eric Anderson has impressed everyone with his bulldog determination to get past all the injuries and be the pitcher he once was.  He has definitely earned the come-back player award this season.

Nattering Nabobs

Without a doubt the best coverage of MU Baseball this season was provided by Alex Silverman of the the Columbia Missourian.

I was most impressed by the way he treated Mizzou Baseball the same way beat writers cover Mizzou Football or Basketball, as an important part of MU Athletics.  Many writers treat Baseball as one of the "unimportant" sports, and they treat it with kid gloves because it's not worth their time to dig and expose and question.  As a result, fans, players and coaches may come to expect more positive reporting and are a bit disturbed when someone plays a different tune.

Alex Silverman marched to the beat of an aspiring serious sportswriter, though, chasing down leads and calling things like he saw them.
"Root, root, root for the road team."

This could have been the refrain Saturday at Taylor Stadium, where No. 2 LSU clobbered the Missouri baseball team 8-0. Even after a five-hour rain delay, which several LSU fans spent tailgating under cover in the parking lots along Carrie Francke Drive outside the stadium, hundreds of purple-and-gold clad fans filled the seats behind the LSU dugout along the first-base line.

"We want a home-field advantage and, hell, we felt like we were in Alex Box," MU outfielder Logan Pearson said. "Their fans stomped our fans today." (Columbia Missourian, 3/31)

That apathy seemed evident following Tuesday’s loss. Outfielder Case Munson, who made a tremendous diving catch in the contest, was all smiles with reporters after the game despite the result. (Missourian, 4/3)

It was Missouri third baseman Shane Segovia’s shot at redemption. A base hit in the bottom of the 15th inning Saturday would make it all OK.

The ball he bobbled half-an-inning earlier that lead to Florida’s go-ahead run wouldn’t matter.
The night before, Missouri head coach Tim Jamieson pinch-hit for Segovia in the bottom of the ninth, a decision that haunted him after his replacement, Jake Ivory, struck out looking.

“I second guessed it,” Jamieson said. “Even though Shane’s struggling, he probably was still the best option at that point.” (Missourian, 4/21)

The Missouri baseball team's postgame reaction Sunday at Taylor Stadium was an unusual sight. The Missouri players were uncharacteristically jubilant after sweeping Auburn in a doubleheader Sunday, 3-1 in the first game and 4-1 in the second game, to take its first Southeastern Conference series win at home.

There were high fives all around, pitcher Keaton Steele and infielder Gavin Stark shared a chest bump-based dance, and infielder Mike McGraw rode on the shoulders of outfielder Brannon Champagne. (Missourian, 4/29)

"Pregame I didn’t sense it," Jamieson said. "Anytime that happens, it’s lack of focus, not good enough focus. I can’t explain it."

Jamieson has been at a loss throughout the season, which is on pace to be his worst at Missouri since his first season in 1995. Missouri signed Jamieson to a contract extension through 2015 following the team's Big 12 Conference tournament title last season. (Missourian, 4/30)

Honorary mention goes to Jack Witthaus, writing for The Maneater, who often was competing with Silverman for the same stories, and sometimes beating him to the punch.  He caught the attention of this Mizzou Baseball history buff, though, with a profile of former Tiger Jim Doerr.  If you haven't rad it, click the link and learn.
Doerr, donned in a bright green sweater with yellow pants, arranges a simple display on one of his couches. He’s collected a few framed photos, an autographed bat and some worn articles printed on computer paper. A fat, jewel-incrusted ring emblazoned with an “M” is wedged on his finger.
Number Cruncher

Sam Nasci
Sam Nasci is, as Bill Connelly of RockMNation calls it, a Numbers NERRRRD.  A Junior this year at Mizzou, his dream is to be a sportswriter focusing on statistical analysis of sports, especially baseball.  Sabermetrics, as the nerds like to call it.

Sam came to me before the season and offered to help me out by writing previews of each MU Baseball opponent this season, and we cut a mutually beneficial deal:  less work for me, experience and exposure for him

I received several comments this season, telling me, I really liked that preview you did of this weekend's series!  It wasn't me, folks.  Sam I am not, but I tip my cap to him for adding a different flavor to this season with his Mizzou Matchup pieces.

That's it for the 2013 season.  The results were disappointing, but it's still baseball.  Put two teams of nine kids on a field with a ball and a bat and I'll be glad to watch.

There is one last Tip of the Cap post.  Check back here Monday morning.

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