Ten Reasons why I like college baseball (and the Illini)

 

In celebration of opening day of college baseball I present to you my top ten list of what makes college baseball (and Illinois baseball in particular) so fun. 

1.  It’s affordable. 

In this day of rising costs of attending Major League Baseball games, you can’t discount this.  I can’t speak for other Big Ten teams but at the University of Illinois, you can get into a game for six bucks or so.  Parking is thrown in for free.

And, if you’re lucky enough (and smart enough) to get the Go Illini family card for $50, it gets your whole family into all home games for the season.  Whatta deal!

2.  You can get so close to the action.

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  3.  It’s my style of baseball.

While the major leagues have gravitated toward power, power and more power, I find that college baseball has a more balanced attack maybe even favoring the “small ball” style of play.

I like the homerun just as much as everybody else but I also enjoy a well-executed hit-and-run or a double steal. 

A perfect example of this small ball action was two years ago in a non-conference game against Robert Morris College when Shawn Roof took it upon himself to score the winning run in the bottom of the eighth. 

From an article I wrote after the Robert Morris game:

Shawn Roof led off the bottom of the 8th. Robert Morris pitcher Chris Murchek plunked Roof in the upper arm and Roof took his base. I leaned over to Brando and said, “Here he goes!”. And Roof stole second on the first pitch. Brando and I wondered to each other will batter Ryan Hastings bunt in this situation? In a lot of situations, it would make sense but Hastings has been good with the stick so I didn’t think he would. Hastings didn’t square for the next pitch, he took it for a strike.

The next pitch, though, he squared for the bunt and the thirdbaseman rushed to cover for the bunt. The key here is that the shortstop didn’t cover third and Roof was banking on that. He stole third easily.

The very next pitch Murchek threw a wild pitch and Roof scored what proved to be the winning run.

Now THAT’S exciting!

Another point, since not all college hitters are sluggers, it gives more value to the homerun capability of those cleanup hitters in the college ranks.  You really fear them! 

 

4.  The players are friendly.

Ok, maybe that’s a generalization but in my experience, many I’ve met have been nice and some have been downright decent.  A couple that I’ve met I’ve maintained friendships after they’ve left the U of I. 

5.  It brought back my “school spirit”.

I’ll admit it.  I root for the Illini football and basketball teams but I don’t intensely follow them like some of my sports fan friends follow their alums.  Illini baseball is MY college sport that I follow. 

When I’m asked at work, “Did you hear how the Illini did last night?”.  I’ll go on about the slugfest this or the one-run game that and get a quizzical look.  Then I realize they were talking about the OTHER sport. 

I don’t care.  Baseball is my college sport.

6.  No salaries, no contract disputes, no arbitrations

It’s true, college baseball players play baseball for different reasons.  Those with a future ahead of them are looking ahead to a possible MLB draft.  Others are just playing because they love the game. 

But what’s really great is when you see the really rare player who steps up and assumes a leadership role on the team.  Those players are destined to go somewhere in baseball. 

7.  Gametracker

If it’s a road game and I can’t be there, at least I can follow the game via CSTV’s Gametracker which rivals MLB’s Gameday…sorta.

8.  Meeting the players’ parents

I’ve enjoyed meeting the moms and dads of the players the last few years.  I don’t restrict myself to Illinois parents either.  Sometimes I’ll introduce myself to the opposition’s parents sometimes and (if it’s a home game) welcome them to Illinois Field.  I almost always get a good conversation going and learn something I didn’t know before. 

Like players, parents come in different varieties.  There are competitive types and then the more laid back types.  Interesting to see the similarities (and differences, I guess) between parent and son. 

9.  No Wisconsin

Haha!  Just kidding, Badger fans!

10.  Just try to show me a better time!

For my money, there’s not a better time.  Whether I’m hanging with my buddies, taking my family or just taking in a game by myself, it’s a lot of fun.  The baseball program at the University of Illinois have done a fantastic job putting a quality product on the field not to mention a fun time all round (yes, they do promotions… the days when the players play wiffleball with the kids after a game are a big hit, so to speak). 

So before you complain to me about those outrageous prices of major league games and the exorbitant salaries the big league athletes make, try a college baseball game on for size. 

It might be a perfect fit.

One Response to “Ten Reasons why I like college baseball (and the Illini)”

  1. I took a course when I was in college at UNI, called Baseball Coaching & Management. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was designed for baseball players to earn some credit for playing on the team. The baseball coach allowed me to take the course, even though I wasn’t on the team, I went to all of the practices, hit the weight room, and learned alot about the game I love. The players were great and I made alot of college buddies from SS Mark Obal (drafted by the Cubbies) to Al Hargesheimer (who played briefly with the Giants). It was a great experience!

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