Sunday, January 17, 2010

One Last At Bat

Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of Big Ten Hardball. Today, 979 posts later, I bring BTH to a close.

This decision has not been an easy one. Nor is it one that I have come to quickly. As some of you can attest, I have wrestled with future of the site for the last several years. While no single reason has brought Big Ten Hardball to an end, one central theme binds all the issues together -- change.

It is clear to me that it’s time for change for both the blog and myself. For the blog, the growing media coverage of Big Ten baseball programs -- from the institutions themselves to the Big Ten Network to an expanding force of national media and local bloggers -- has made it evident that Big Ten Hardball needs to evolve.

What is equally clear, and here’s where the change I need personally jumps in, is that some of the passion I had to pursue this game on a daily basis has faded. After five years of being, in effect, a beat writer for ten teams, I could use a break.

I explored a number of options before deciding to close up shop. I considered everything from writing less frequently to asking some of my blogging allies to join BTH and bring new perspective, energy and carry some of the workload. During those discussions, we pondered merging this blog with another or having me leave this site and write elsewhere. Occasionally, I contemplated starting an entirely new blog.

However, I found it difficult to commit to any of the alternatives. I realized any decision I would make would be a half-hearted one. That wouldn’t be fair to anyone. Instead, the best option, although the hardest one for me, is to close the doors at Big Ten Hardball.

While I am bringing BTH to an end, I’m not shutting the door on the college baseball world. You will still see me around the ballpark. I’m also going to continue to check my email, so you can always contact me there. Who knows? If the right circumstances arise, I might be back writing about college baseball someday. (A few who were forewarned of my decision are already trying to push me back in.)

It’s been a tremendous five years. This experience has been far greater than I could have ever imagined. Much, if not all, of that is because of you -- those who have interacted in some way with Big Ten Hardball and it’s author. I thank you all.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Four Named All-America By Ping

Ohio State's Alex Wimmers headlines four Big Ten Conference players to be named preseason All-Americans by Ping! Baseball. The Buckeyes righthander was the lone Big Ten star tabbed as a first-team selection.

Ohio State catcher Dan Burkhart, the conference's defending Player of the Year, collected a second-team choice as did Minnesota closer Scott Matyas. Indiana sophomore Alex Dickerson was named to Ping's third-team as a designated hitter.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bucks, Gophers In CB Poll

Ohio State and Minnesota continue to garner national attention prior to the 2010 season. Both the Buckeyes and Gophers have made Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's preseason Top 40 poll. OSU impressively checks in at number fourteen in the land. Minnesota is in at number thirty. Michigan and Illinois were on the ever-popular "Other Teams Receiving Votes" list.

In case you were wondering, Texas grabbed the top spot overall. LSU, Virginia, Cal State Fullerton and Arizona State round out the top five.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Big Ten Trio Named All-America

The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association has released their 2010 preseason All-America Teams. Three Big Ten players were selected to one of three All-America sides the NCBWA announced on December 16.

The Ohio State duo of catcher Dan Burkhart and pitcher Alex Wimmers were named to the second-team All-America squad. Michigan outfielder Ryan LaMarre was tabbed as a third-team All-America.

Two In Ping! Poll

Two Big Ten squads have made Ping's preseason Top 30 poll. Ohio State comes in at number twenty-four while Minnesota checks in at number thirty. The gang at Ping! introduces their Top 30 in Haiku form. Here's the page where both OSU's and Minnesota's Haiku can be found.

2010 Schedules: Illinois & Minnesota

Illinois and Minnesota have both made their 2010 schedules known to the public. The Illini issued a press release back on December 8 and Minnesota revealed their 2010 docket on December 5.

Coach Dan Hartleb's side has put together an interesting non-conference schedule. Arguably the most interesting bit of all comes right at the beginning. The Illini are scheduled to open the season at home -- on February 20 -- against Bradley. The Braves, an appropriate name for a team play in Champaign in February, will also be at Illini Field on the 21st. Two home dates in late February? At minimum, here's hoping the sun is out those afternoons.

Another date that caught my eye was the annual affair versus Missouri. No, not just because the Tigers are rumored to be on the list of potential new members of the Big Ten, but because of the location of the contest. Illinois and Missouri will be playing at the (relatively) new Busch Stadium in St. Louis on April 7.

Other non-con games of note include: single games (at) East Carolina, (vs.) West Carolina and two at Coastal Carolina. Of course, there's the Big East/Big Ten Challenge opposition (Notre Dame, South Florida and St. John's) and a six game spell in Winter Haven, Florida.

The conference schedule has Illinois opening at home versus Penn State. Michigan, Northwestern and Purdue will also be visiting Champaign-Urbana. The Big Ten road series are at Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State and Indiana.

The first noteworthy item on Minnesota's docket is that the Gophers will be playing their entire home schedule at the Metrodome. Other than all but eliminating weather related cancellations (hey, it's not like domes haven't sprung a leak before), one wonders what effect playing the entire year inside will have on Coach John Anderson's side?

By playing all their games off-campus in 2010, I'm presuming that the rumors are true -- a renovated or brand new on-campus facility is (finally) being built. I certainly don't see any mention of either on Minnesota's baseball page, but why else would they spend the entire season at the Metrodome?

The Gophers will open 2010 in Florida with a three-game set versus Akron. Then, it's the Big East/Big Ten Challenge with Louisville, Connecticut and St. John's providing the opposition. The U will spend the next few weeks back in the dome. The Dairy Queen Classic will feature Loyola Marymount, Oklahoma State and Northwestern. (Okay, this year's DQC lacks some of the sizzle of years past.)

Harvard, Creighton and South Dakota State will be in the Twin Cities to play in the Metrodome Tournament the following weekend. Then, it's off to Alabama for two games at the Crimson Tide and four at Samford. There are other games on the non-conference schedule, but only two more merit mention here.

Louisiana Tech will play three at Minnesota including one game at Target Field on March 27. It's the lone home date not in the Metrodome for the Gophers. Wait a minute. Target Field isn't covered, is it? (A quick look at the web cam says "Absolutely not".) I hope the LTU folks buy some gloves at the airport. Finally, in early May, the Gophers will venture to Kansas State and play two versus the Wildcats in Manhattan.

The U will open their Big Ten campaign at Purdue and will also be on the road versus Northwestern, Iowa and Ohio State. Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan and Penn State will all get to play in the Metrodome in 2010.

Fans of both programs should like their schedule for the upcoming season. There are some fun (and important) home dates and more than enough quality opposition to give either team NCAA at-large consideration, if they can navigate the schedule properly.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Three More Years In Columbus

The Big Ten has announced that Columbus will continue to host the conference's baseball tournament through 2012. While Huntington Park, the site for this year's tourney, will host the Big Ten tournament again in '11 and '12, Bill Davis Stadium, Ohio State's home field, gets the honor in 2010 due to a scheduling conflict.

While I'm glad to see the conference schedule the tournament for several years in advance, I remain in favor of rotating venues throughout the Midwest. There is no shortage of high quality minor league parks within the Big Ten's footprint. I realize things are never quite as easy as they seem, but I'd like to think that the conference could find a host city that wasn't also home to a Big Ten institution.

All that said, let me offer two reasons why I'm okay with the tourney staying in Columbus for three more years. Reason #1: By all accounts, Columbus did a very good job hosting the event in 2009. Sure, there were a few complaints, there always are, but most were minor and the overall reaction I received was clearly positive.

Reason #2: Not only did C-bus do a good job in year one, but city officials want the tourney at their house. I'm not sure how the selection process works, but it's been clear from Day One that Columbus coveted the role. I presume this announcement signifies that C-bus officials continue to make the best offer.

I still favor a true neutral site, but Columbus clearly offers the Big Ten something they aren't getting anywhere else. As such, the tournament is going to stay put for three more years.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Michigan State, Penn State Schedules Are Out

While I was busy preparing for turkey dinner and pumpkin pie, as if I need to prepare to eat, two more Big Ten programs officially released their schedules. Michigan State and Penn State made their 2010 plans known to the public.

The Spartans have a very solid non-conference slate next year. They will take on the likes of Clemson, Louisville, West Virginia, Mississippi State (twice), Alabama and Notre Dame (three games in South Bend). I'll allow you to check the docket for a complete list of opponents and dates.

Michigan State's first home stand in 2010 comes versus Oakland University on March 26. The Big Ten campaign will also open at McLane Stadium against Iowa. Ohio State, Illinois and Indiana will all travel to East Lansing. Michigan also comes calling, but as a non-conference game, on May 11. The Spartans will return the favor and visit Ann Arbor the next day.

Coach Boss' club will face Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue and Northwestern on the road in conference action.

In Happy Valley, the non-conference portion of Penn State's schedule features a swing through the Lone Star State. Coach Wine's team will take on McNeese State, Dallas Baptist, Lamar (twice), Texas A&M (twice) and Texas State (three times). Other notable opponents include Notre Dame, Winthrop and three games at three different venues versus Kent State.

PSU will return to open the home slate versus Hofstra on March 26. The Nittany Lions' Big Ten season will begin on the road at Illinois. Purdue, Ohio State and Minnesota will be the other conference road trips. Northwestern, Michigan State, Iowa and Michigan will make the trek to Lubrano Park in 2010.

What I like about both these schedules are the opportunities. There are games against some of college baseball's traditional powers. There are other contests versus solid programs that offer plenty of RPI-value. Both Michigan State and Penn State will also get a shot to play Ohio State and Minnesota, who we can safely assume will be the preseason favorites to finish 1-2 in the Big Ten.

Basically, both programs can play themselves into at-large NCAA Tournament berths with these kinds of slates. It's up to them to win the games.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rogers Loves Ohio State

Yahoo's Kendall Rogers continues his off-season praise for Ohio State. This time, not only does Rogers bang the drum for the Buckeyes' Omaha chances, but suggests that Coach Todd's 2010 side will be better than the '08 Michigan team. Wow. Gotta give credit to Rogers for making a bold statement.

Well, Buckeye fans, does this kind of hype make you happy, nervous or both?