NCAA: Regionals wrapping up

I went to see Georgia Tech host Alabama in game 4 of the Atlanta Regional Saturday night. Tech won 5-2 behind some power pitching and a few timely hits. Alabama came back on Sunday to beat Mercer in the afternoon and then beat GT in the nightcap setting up tonight’s winner take all game. Hopefully Tech will win and face the winner of Clemson and Auburn this weekend.

Eight spots were decided yesterday. There are seven other games tonight that will decide who advances to the Super Regionals. (Who came up with that name anyway? Call it the Super Sixteen, or Regional Championship Series or something.) You can find your favorite team in the official bracket.

Just one picture: Gorgeous night for a ballgame. You can see there was a lot of red in the stands.

Deck deals against Alabama

Trust your eyes

I hope you all had a good extended weekend and spent the time happily with family and friends. I was able to squeeze in the Pirates/Braves game on Sunday between going camping for the first time in 25 years and regular Memorial Day and birthday celebrations yesterday. Since the game happened two days ago and details are readily available elsewhere, I’ll stick to my impressions of what I saw in the team.

  • Aki Iwamura is slow. From my vantage point his first step was nearly non-existent, meaning he had trouble getting to anything not hit within 6 feet on either side of where he sets up. Bucs Dugout has some video and discussion of pre-injury Aki vs. post-injury Aki here and here. Late in the game John Russell made a double switch, taking Iwamura out, sliding Neil Walker to 2B and bringing in Andy LaRoche. Yesterday the Pirates made the move official saying Walker would be the starting 2B for the foreseeable future. I applaud this decision heartily.
  • I was a little disappointed to see Delwyn Young starting, but just confused to see him in right field with Garrett Jones moving to left. I have yet to read any explanation for this anywhere online. DY made some nice diving catches, but I feel a more fleet-footed outfielder could have gotten under the batted balls earlier – turning them into routine plays.
  • Nice to see Jeff Clement hit a game-tying homer. He’s been hitting the ball better lately in limited opportunities. I was again confused (note the theme) why Russell would bring in Bobby Crosby to pinch-hit in the ninth. Clement had been the only offense so far in the game, hits better vs. lefties (Billy Wagner was pitching), and I’d bet has better bat speed than Crosby. It probably didn’t matter because Wagner was lights out but I say you should let Clement hit there. Give him a chance to face one of the best closers of the past fifteen years.
  • Paul Maholm had a good/bad outing. He was never overpowering and got into a lot of trouble (6 IP, 10 H, 3 BB, 5 K) but he fought through some very tough spots – including a bases loaded, no outs situation – and only gave up 2 runs. At the risk of slipping into further cliche’s, it was a gutty if unimpressive performance.
  • Joel Hanrahan pitched a dominant seventh. I was surprised to see him come back out to pitch the 8th and even more surprised the Russell let him pitch to Chipper Jones. Jones’ 2-RBI single was the result of the ball falling in the only open spot between Garrett Jones and Ronny Cedeno. The pitch itself was inside and had lots of movement breaking towards Chipper’s knees. Chipper did a good job fighting it off.
  • Jason Jaramillo caught instead of Ryan Doumit. If only there was someway to combine these two we’d have a heck of a catcher. Dewey’s bat was missed but it was nice seeing strong, on target throws to second and no passed balls.

The Pirate’s loss on Sunday meant being swept by the Braves so I’m probably happier having not gone to all three games.

The week ahead: Pittsburgh’s AAA affiliate the Indianapolis Indians are playing in nearby Gwinnett this week. Early plans have me going to games on Wednesday and Thursday. I’m looking forward to adding first hand glimpses of Pedro Alvarez, Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata to the accounts above. As always you can follow me on Twitter for in game comments and the occasional picture.

Also, Georgia Tech was awarded the #8 national seed in the NCAA baseball tournament. They’ll be hosting regional games this weekend, starting Friday night at 7pm vs. Mercer. The winner will face the winner of Alabama and Elon. I plan on hitting a game on either Saturday or Sunday and, again, will post pictures and comments to twitter.

Batting practice

image

Live from GT/Miami.

Traditions and the 7th inning stretch

As part of my high school graduation present my Dad took me to Toronto to see two games in the still-new SkyDome vs. Milwaukee (Aug 29-30, 1992). My memories of these games are forever slipping further away but I recall a few things vividly: Robin Yount was approaching 3000 hits (I saw #’s 2988 and 2989*), rookie sensation Pat Listach ran wild and the Blue Jays played an abomination of a song during the 7th inning stretch.

*thanks to retrosheet.org for letting me count backwards through the boxscores to figure that out.

OK Blue Jays” has been played at Toronto baseball games since the mid-eighties. Why they won’t play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is beyond me. It’s so ingrained in the gameday tradition at most ballparks that when you don’t hear it sticks out like having your #3 hitter bunt into a double play.

This spring I went to an Orioles spring training game at their new home in Sarasota.  I’ve been to several games at Ed Smith Stadium thought the years; spring games for the White Sox and Reds, minor league games for other affiliates. But for the first time they did not play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Instead it was replaced with John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” The crowd seemed to be fairly disgusted with this and several of us made sure to rectify the situation with our own rendition of the classic as soon as the loudspeakers were silent. Is this an Orioles tradition? I wouldn’t think so but maybe a Baltimore fan out there knows for sure.

All of this brings me to my counter-intuitive point. I’ll be attending The Georgia Tech/Miami baseball game this Saturday. The tradition at Tech game is not the beloved “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” but a horrible little ditty known as “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road.” When I was a freshman and first heard the song I was aghast that they would replace an all-time favorite with such dreck. But a funny thing happens when you hear something over and over in a certain setting.

It becomes yours.

Yes, its awful. I know it. The whole crowd knows it. But its ours. Anyone I’ve ever taken to a game there looks at me with wide, stunned eyes as I sing along to the whole thing. Its the one place where I don’t miss “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” I love the song about the stinky skunk guts splattered all over a highway.

The entire three game series is being televised this weekend. At Saturday’s game they will be honoring the 25th anniversary of Georgia Tech’s first ACC baseball title. That team was coached by current Miami head coach Jim Morris. Tune in to see a battle between two of the top ranked teams in the nation and just maybe hear part of a crappy little song when they go to break in the seventh.

Update: August 25, 2010: This article has an unrelated but interesting story and a link to the whole song.

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