Monday, April 30, 2007

9 Thoughts on the Tiger 9

1. When was the last time Mizzou was ranked #2 in the conference this deep into the season? My guess would be NEVER (at least since the beginning of the Big XII).

2. How long does it take before Tim Jamieson and his Tigers get the respect they deserve as a D-I baseball program to reckon with? I'm thinking this year's success will grab attention in the college baseball world more than the past few years have. Everyone picked the tigers to be in a rebuilding year after the loss of Scherzer and Culp. Every pre-season preview (and even some articles within the past week) talked about Max and Nathan more than they talked about the 2007 squad. Even a TJ-hater hater like Tigerboard's NeverShutsUpDemon has to admit that this team's success is a feather in Jamieson's cap.

3. Can the Tigers catch the Longhorns? Is there any chance for MU to win the conference? Texas would have to more or less implode completely. First, MU would need to sweep Texas next week. The week after, Texas plays A&M. If A&M wins the series against Texas, that helps Mizzou in regard to the Longhorns, but A&M is only 1/2 game behind MU. And OSU is only 2 games behind MU.

So even if Texas lose 3 to Mizzou and loses at least 2 of 3 to Texas A&M, Mizzou would have to play extremely well against OU and OSU the last two weekends in order to stay out front.

The standings are so close for the 2,3,4 and 5 teams that the math on what would have to happen is way too complicated at this point. The standings are so close, in fact, that if Missouri stumbles, the Tigers could plummet to 5th.

Of course, Mizzou's offense seems to be coming alive (thank you #51), which is really good considering the tough remaining schedule. But the Tigers will need a lot of help from the rest of the conference to grab the top spot.

4. Is the greatest research tool ever for college baseball heckling? You'd better believe it!! This past weekend's Friday night starter for Texas Tech left his myspace page open for the world to see (LINK). The Taylor Stadium stands were alive with shouts of "Papi Chulo!" Friday night as their "ace" imploded in the 9-run 3rd inning. And when Larry Hayes inexplicably brought Papi back as his closer on Sunday, I have no doubt that the resulting reaction from the fans played a part in his inability to control his emotions as he threw that wild pitch to bring in the winning run. Thanks, MySpace! You really are worth something!

5. How much difference can one hitter make? Jacob Priday raised his batting average from .254 in March to .392 in April, sparking a resurgence in the Tiger lineup. With a reliable hitter in that clean-up spot, the hitters around him get better stuff to swing at. It's great seeing Jake find his swing again. Of course, this also erases any doubt that Priday will be drafted and head for the pros this June. Not that there was ever much doubt, actually.

6. Is legendary SuperFan Larry Wyatt getting {gasp} OLD??? As unlikely as it might seem, Ol' LeatherLungs is showing his age. He actually skipped the Kerfuffle at Kaufmann the other night for a Masonic Lodge meeting (which did NOT get rained out). He has often been seen at Mizzou games the last year or two just . . . sitting. And watching.

But this past weekend, Larry was full of energy, heckling, leading cheers, laughing up a riot. His voice, though, was struggling to keep up, sounding hoarse a number of times.

I guess it's time for another generation of leather lunged fans to get into the act. Is that Lance I hear cackling over in Section B??

7. That's what it's all about: Aaron Senne's father introduced me to some friends before Saturday's game. Aaron's Legion ball coach and one of his assistant coaches made the drive all the way down from Minnesota for Saturday and Sunday's games. When Aaron came through with a clutch 2-run double in Saturday's game, I saw his old coach turn around and point a finger at the elder Senne. Among the stadium noise I couldn't hear his voice, but his lips were clear: "We taught him how to do that! You and I - we taught him how to do that!"

That's what college ball is all about - the joy of watching these kids develop. I see young guys come in as freshman, green as a Spring twig, and watch them emerge and become a leader, a run producer, a feared pitcher. And then I get to see the best of them head off into the pros. That's cool. I can only imagine what it's like for these kids' parents and their former coaches, from little league on through.

8. Sweet justice! This weekend, Ian Kinsler, the second hottest player in Major League Baseball this season (behind some guy called A-Rod), hit his ninth home run on Sunday. Not only did he set a new Texas Rangers record for HRs in April, but he got this 2nd-tier outfield shot off some guy named Shaun Marcum, a one-time Mizzou Tiger and air conditioner abuser who left the hallowed environs of Simmons Field for Southwest Missouri State once upon a time. Ian probably doesn't even know Marcum, but it brought a smile to my face.

9. Take me out to the ballgame!
There's only 4 home games left this season. This week the Tigers take on Missouri State on Wednesday night - always a good time at the ballpark. And then the Sooners come into Simmons Field over the May 11th weekend. Hopefully the crowds will be great, even with the students fleeing town. Catch these Tigers while you can!