Diamond Clicks (1/31)
You might have stumbled upon these, but if not, here’s some Auburn baseball related news and notes from across the interwebs:
Auburn has had a nice history in the Japan League and it’s not just relegated to Baseball. Auburn softball coach Mark Ryal’s son Rusty is taking his talents to the Yomiuri Giants and his Dad couldn’t be happier:
"I'm tickled Rusty is going to Japan and hope he has as good an experience as I had. They were two of the best years of my life playing baseball, and I would not trade them for anything," Mark Ryal said, despite the fact his second season with the Dragons was cut short due to injury. "If I had been healthy, I would have stayed as long as I could."
Colby “Could have been a Tiger” Rasmus is using the offseason and Auburn’s BCS Title to recharge has he prepares for another year with the Cardinals:
He was happy to talk about shooting his first buck, an 8-pointer, while home in south Alabama over the winter.
"I've also got some wild hog in my freezer ... want some?" he asked, grinning.
Throw in Auburn's bagging the BCS national title and the 24-year-old said, "I don't think I've had a better offseason since I started playing pro ball."
The Braves fan in me hopes that one day I’ll be able to see Rasmus in the Red and Blue of Atlanta, but for now I’ll wish him luck in StL. Oh, and it gives me an opportunity to post this:
Dothan is hosting a 17th Annual Home Run Derby on February 5th. It will feature some Auburn football players signing autographs as well as former Tiger Gabe Gross participating in the event. It will be held at Rehobeth High School.
The Boston Red Sox have a penchant for drafting talented football players and that includes a former Auburn signee in Brandon Jacobs.
Auburn picked up a huge commitment out of Pensacola when Addison Russell announced he’s signing with the Tigers. However, he’ll have to fend off some nice MLB offers:
Russell, of course, is a rare player. One scouting service, prospectwire.com, declared Russell "the most talented 2012 position player in the country."
"Ever since I started playing baseball, it's been a dream of mine to play Division I college baseball," said Russell, who helped the Patriots win the 2010 Class 5A state championship. "My first priority is with school. I want to go to college. We'll see what happens after that."
Pace coach Charlie Warner said Russell was the first player he's coached who made a verbal commitment to a college before starting a junior season in high school.
Here’s a quick and dirty comparison of the Auburn and Oregon Baseball Programs and the one thing the Ducks have that the Tigers don’t (but hope to have soon):
Oregon’s list of alumni who played in MLB isn’t long, but until the Big Hurt gets the call, it does feature the only Hall of Famer that played at either school. Joe Gordon played two years of baseball (plus one year of football) in Eugene during the mid-1930s before heading east to star with the New York Yankees. Other Ducks who reached the show include Earl Averill Jr. (son of Hall of Famer Earl Sr.), Dave Roberts (who played for a few teams, including the Padres and Rangers, in the ’70s) and some guy named Dick Whitman (Mad Men, anyone?)
Oregon is a program that was just recently rebooted baseball-wise, but is already in the Top 25 of some polls.
An Auburn grad, logo nerd, and baseball fan? Be still my heart. AUPPL salutes you, Bethany Heck:
UW: Tell me some of your favorite baseball details — things that you’re particularly happy to write about and celebrate in the Eephus League.
BH: I really love scorekeeping. I love the layout of the scorecard, the graphic nature of the shape of the diamond and how it combines with numbers that you write onto it, and how certain gestures mean certain things. It’s really intricate, but it’s easy to understand. That was definitely a pleasure to dive into.
Kendall Rogers (who recently left Rivals) gives his SEC Preview. Where he picks AU to win the SEC West:
SEC Western Division – This division usually is the crown jewel of the SEC, but that won’t be the case this season barring a surprise. Auburn and LSU are the headliners, but both have major question marks on the mound. The same goes for Mississippi, Alabama and Mississippi State, too. The eastern division, meanwhile, features three very good teams in Florida, Vanderbilt and South Carolina. Will it be a temporary power shift?
An interesting NPR article on the correlation between Alabama’s Politics and Auburn’s football success:
At the risk of being redundant, here's another way to understand the phenomenon: The values and practices that produce extraordinary college football teams are similar to those that have transformed the South from the backwater it was a few decades ago into a region bristling today with prosperity, growth, and Republican ascendancy.
One player to keep an eye out for in the Future is Locke St. John (already an A in the awesome baseball name category) who’s going to Southern Union but hopes to be in Auburn soon:
St. John went 7-2 in his junior season at Pell City. He believes going to Southern Union will help achieve his goal of pitching for a Division I baseball program.
“It is a big opportunity for me to go to junior college and get out of there in one or two years to transfer to a school like Auburn or Troy,” St. John said.
Southern Union head coach Joe Jordan is elated about what both players bring to the program.
“Locke is a left-handed pitcher,” Jordan said. “We feel like he can be one of our conference pitchers. He has a good arm and I think for sure he will have a chance at our program. We are looking forward to having him. Left-handed pitchers are hard to come by and we are fortunate to have him not only the type of player he is but the kind of person he is.”
Tim Hudson got a couple more awards this offseason and is thankful the Gridiron Tigers success:
Hudson was in Seattle Wednesday to accept the 46th Hutch Award, which goes annually to a Major League Baseball player who best exemplifies the honor, courage and dedication of former pitcher and manager Fred Hutchinson, a Seattle native who died of cancer at 45 in 1964.
It's the second major award for Hudson, who was awarded the National League's Comeback of the Year award in November.
In between, the Auburn University product moved his family into the Auburn-area home he and his wife, Kim, have built. And they watched their beloved Auburn Tigers football team go through an undefeated season en route to claiming the BCS title and the No. 1 ranking.
"It's been pretty amazing,'' Hudson said. "We were able to go to the (BCS championship) game. It doesn't get better than that. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing with Auburn.''
The same could be said for Hudson, who had reconstructive elbow surgery in 2009, but came back to go 17-9 for the Braves in pitching Atlanta into the playoffs.
Coach John Palowski weighs in on the new bat restrictions and why he has a personal stake in the changes:
“I do think the safety issue is a real one — some times the ball comes off the bat so hard it’s self defense,” said Auburn coach John Pawlowski, who had his arm broken by a line drive during his pitching career at Clemson. “This will give you a chance to make more plays, your corner guys especially.”
Auburn comes in at #23 in the USA Today/ESPN Baseball Poll:
23. Auburn (43-21)
Points: 128. PR: 19. Outlook: No team will be affected more by the new restricted bats. Tigers led Division I with 131 homers last year. Lost four players who combined for 69 HR and 213 RBI, but back are OF-1B Kevin Patterson (.315 BA, 16 HR, 33 RBI), C-OF Tony Caldwell (.349, 10, 41) and IF Dan Gamache (.365, 8, 37). Two-thirds of weekend rotation and closer Austin Hubbard are gone, leaving LH Cory Luckie (6-4, 5.91 ERA) as ace. Freshman Zach Alford will start somewhere in infield while junior college transfer RH Andrew Morris should crack rotation. Opens: Feb. 18 vs. Arkansas State.
More from Kendall Rogers and how the SEC Could be a Tale of Two Divisions:
Reasons for optimism: The Tigers took a huge step forward last season with an NCAA Regional appearance, so it’s natural more is expected this season. The Tigers lost several big-time hitters to the MLB draft last summer. However, they still return enough solid bats to have one of the SEC’s better lineups with Dan Gamache, Justin Fradejas, Tony Caldwell and Casey McElroy leading the way. The Tigers also have a talented group of newcomers that should tie up some loose ends.
Reasons to worry: The Tigers’ season will hinge on their pitching staff. They finished last season with just a 5.00 ERA and must replace a pair of weekend starters in Cole Nelson and Grant Dayton, and top reliever Austin Hubbard. AU will be a favorite to compete for the SEC West title even without proven pitching. What could this team accomplish if the pitching staff comes through?
The NCAA Postseason format could be changing in the future:
The first proposal calls for 32 NCAA Regional sites that include a three-game series between two teams to begin the postseason. The winners of the best-of-three series would move on to play in eight four-team NCAA Super Regionals, with the winner advancing to the College World Series.
The committee believes this format would give teams from less-fortunate regions more opportunities to host a round of the postseason. However, the NCAA also acknowledges this format also would require more school, umpiring and ticket staffing, which could be costly.
Debuting in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Nelson was nearly unhittable as an experienced college product against much rawer and less-refined competition. In seven games, including one start, Cole posted a minute 0.57 ERA with only 11 hits allowed in 15 1/3 innings. He topped off his dominating performance in the GCL by fanning 27 hitters, giving almost two whiffs every inning he took the mound.