I've got no affiliation to Georgia. I was born in San Francisco, California, but Fresno State University means nothing to me. Still, I found myself transfixed to the tube this week, and found a new love in the process, the College World Series.
Watching the Fresno State Bulldogs beat the other Bulldogs of Georgia 19-10 in the CWS final, capped off an epic Cinderella story. One that many aren't aware of.
To lead off, Tuesday night's game was nowhere near an average for offense in a college game, but the "offensive explosion" game occurs much more than those classic, yet mundane pitchers duels.
With the possibility of a standout offensive performance between seemingly any combination of teams, I feel the need to tune in. Defense wins championships, but come on, we all love watching offense.
I'm a firm believer that although obviously more talent is on display in professional sports, devotion, tradition, and passion shine through on college campuses— what's better than watching players push themselves on every play, all to represent their school? That's what really gets me about college baseball.
Granted, collegiate football and basketball have players who pride themselves on their school's heritage, NCAA baseball players are strung from a different material. They leave it all on the line more than their student-athlete counterparts who are showcased in other sports.
Collegiate baseball players have a fraction of their games on television each year, and until ESPN starts airing super-regionals in the beginning of June, we don't know All-Americans from pinch-hitters. After many weekend series' during the spring amount to nearly sixty games at the start of the summer, the players aren't playing in front of a national audience.
The regular seasons seem to have less national media attention than the Little League World Series. They watch their classmates glisten on Saturday Night Football and Big Monday. The Bowl Championship Series and March Madness. Baseball players become almost behind-the-scenes athletes.
All this says to me is that the men on the diamond aren't playing for anything that they shouldn't be playing for. They lace up the cleats, strap on the batting gloves, and step on the field. That's it.
No highly recruited freshman is considering a jump straight to the "Pros", or the shoe deal he'll sign. Senior leaders can't pad their stats to win a coveted Heisman trophy.
No clubhouse is preparing for College Gameday's visit to their campus, because college baseball doesn't have College Gameday, even for the showdowns between the biggest rivals.
True, there are many ESPN networks now that air games, but what sports lover turns their television to a secondary ESPN network, besides ESPN2? Ok, maybe ESPNU if you're network provides it. You could find a Texas-Rice day-night double-header, but if so, you're paying for the "I'm-a-parent-and-I-watch-every-game" package.
The excited announcers aren't there to add their great voices and commentary to legendary comebacks or no-hitters. Name me a famous college baseball broadcaster? Didn't think so.
College baseball is the purest form of our country's five major sports. Collegiate ballplayers' intentions are what Mr. Doubleday wanted them to be from the beginning.
All the players dream of running out a base hit at a major league ballpark, but with the Major Leagues' vast farm system, the chances of that are greatly lessened. So when these players triumph the April showers to start their season and win a birth to super-regionals in May, they deserve to take the trip to Nebraska.
It seems every team's entire lineup has been drafted, but many know that the time of their baseball lives will be in Omaha at the World Series. Whether it's two games and out, or five games and a championship, the College World Series serves as an award show for all of college baseball.
The un-sung, never talked about student-athletes finally get a chance to shine under the national spotlight. All-Americans are finally spoken of, we learn about Cinderella's trip to the World Series, and we hear of coaches that have served their universities for a quarter-century. Mark Marquess anyone? He's the Joe Pa of college baseball.
Despite the lack of eyes looking their way throughout each grueling season, the CWS never seems to disappoint. At least not with this guy. It's wonderful for these few weeks to see how hard these kids play, and to give respect to the most deserving individuals.
The national media pays them back for never broadcasting any regular season games, or even early playoff games for that matter. Imagine that in any other sport? We see meticulously-planned pitching, uniform-dirtying defense, and the ubiquitous ping of those aluminum bats.
The young men, with their eye-black painted faces and dirt-filled, never-washed good luck hats, leave it all on the diamond in Omaha, not only for their school's chance at a title, but for all of college baseball.