March 12, 2011
Ah, that wonderful time of year is back.
The time when we trade in our snow shovels for bats, those mittens for baseball gloves. Everyone is itching for the national pastime to be a part of our lives again.
For a lucky few, this means trips to see their big league counterparts play in either Arizona or Florida. For the rest of us we stay glued to our computers and TVs, monitoring our favorite teams. This spring however, I've gotten a really unique opportunity.
I've never seen a college baseball game in my life, despite the fact both the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University have Division I programs playing in my backyard. However, I heard it was opening day for the Ohio University Bobcats baseball team last week, and with the stadium a 5 minute walk away I checked it out for myself. It certainly was something different.
The Bobcats play in the Mid-American Conference. It's not a baseball hotbed like the SEC or Big XII, but programs regularly have a major league prospect or two. One of the big problems for the Bobcats this season is trying to replace former outfielder Robert Maddox who was drafted by the Reds this past summer.
The game began and I noticed differences. You can't go into one of these games expecting flawless play. The pitching isn't quite there defense can be puzzling at times, and the dizzying amount of substitutions because of the large benches make following players tough. The 'ping' sound of an aluminum bat just can't compete with the 'crack' of a wood one.
But there are some real benefits to NCAA baseball. Games are high scoring, and your team is never really out of a game since it favors offense more. It's free for students and cheap for general public. Games are only played on Friday, Saturday, and Sundays in the early afternoons, making it ideal for a busy journalism student like myself. No matter where you live, there is probably a D-I, II, III, or even a junior college team that is worth checking out. You'd be surprised at how competitive they are.
Being on a goofy trimester schedule makes it that I can only be at PNC Park for three weekends until the second week of June. However, this may be my new fix for those when I can't be back in Pittsburgh.
It just so happens that the Pitt Panthers are opening their new baseball field in a week and a half when I'm home for spring break. Guess I know where I'll be that weekend.
Steve Uhlmann is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.