College baseball season is coming to a climax with the Super Regionals having finished and the College World Series just ahead. One of the great stories this season was the play of the Big 10 conference as Minnesota knocked off national seed San Diego and Michigan removed number one-ranked and top national seed Vanderbilt.
One outstanding source for Big Ten baseball this season is the Big Ten Hardball blog, run by Brian DeCaussin. I interviewed Brian about the season, next year’s universal start date and about blogging, so I hope you enjoy it. It goes along with interviews I’d done earlier this season with CSTV’s Eric Sorenson and Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt.
(Note: obviously the questions were written up before Oregon State ended Michigan’s season and the NCAA decided to toss a blogger from a game.)
CN: Michigan knocks off top seed Vanderbilt. Minnesota disposes of national seed San Diego. Reaction?
Obviously, I was very happy with both results. I suspected Michigan could hang with Vandy, as they had beaten a number of quality programs during the year and were very good on the road, but win the regional? That was one win more than I could have hoped for.
Going to a super regional is big for the conference and even bigger for Coach Maloney's building process.
I was not at all surprised Minnesota bounced USD. Michigan played USD early in the year and was only a blown save away from winning. The Gophers had already beaten Ole Miss, Arkansas and Pepperdine, so there was no reason to believe they couldn't drop San Diego.
Coach Anderson runs one of the most consistent programs in the country, but even people in Minnesota don't appreciate it enough. (Build them a new park, already.) (CN: Brian is right. This should be an embarrassment to the University of Minnesota, but it barely ranks a mention here in the Twin Cities.)
CN: When Michigan hit that home run to beat Vanderbilt, you said....????
To provide the appropriate context, when Alan Oaks came in to bat I believe my comment was something like "What's he going to do? Hit a homer?". (Sorry, Alan.) When the ball left the bat I said "Oh, no, he didn't! ....... Oh, yes, he did!".
CN: Next year, the NCAA has changed the rules about the start time. What affect do you think this will have on the Big 10?
I don't think the universal start date will help the Big 10, or any northern program, as much as it's designed to minimize the advantage the sunshine programs have. Those schools in the south and west won't get in weeks worth of games -- often at home -- before the northern schools get in a single game.
Hopefully, this will level things out a bit more early in the season. I also think it might give the traditional baseball powers a chance to see how the northern schools are forced to schedule games in a tighter time frame.
The biggest change for Big Ten teams will come in 2009 when the conference goes to three game weekend series from the four game sets they've played for years.
I'm far more concerned about the change in scholarship allocation, but that's a different question altogether.
CN: I believe you live-blogged from the Ohio State game. Did people respond to that?
A couple of bloggers were impressed, but beyond that there really wasn't any reaction. It was great fun to do, however.
I understand there's been some objections from the NCAA about live blogging in recent days, but I would argue college baseball needs all the coverage it can get.
CN: Why do you do this? Blogging about Big 10 baseball is about as niche as it gets. What's the reward for you?
There's a reward? Cool. Seriously, I never really gave any thought to a reward when I started. As you said, it's a niche subject, so pondering rewards seemed ridiculous.
I started the blog simply because I like college baseball, was following the Big Ten and I couldn't find anyone else providing the information I was interested in. I continue to do it because it's still enjoyable and it's been a great learning experience.
There have been, however, some unexpected benefits to blogging. I've met lots of great people around the Big 10, heard tons of good stories (so good, unfortunately, that I cannot share most of them) and I've landed a press credential or two. I couldn't have dreamed that when I began.
In addition, the blog has received some attention around the blogosphere and the more traditional college baseball media sources, as well. (Think: Eric Sorenson, CSTV). Again, not something I would have expected writing about Big Ten baseball, but all rewards in my book.
CN: If Michigan loses, and the Big 10 is out, who are you going to root for? (because now with the Big 12 out I'm lost and I want your reaction. I'm thinking that I'm rooting for Rice)
I'm leaning towards UC Irvine. I like what I saw of them in the Wichita Regional. How can I not root for a club nicknamed the Anteaters?
It's hard not to say Louisville, as they are from the Big East, but I just like UCI right now.
CN: Good point on UC Irvine and the nickname. Plus they’re coming in red hot. Don’t know why I have a soft spot for Rice, but I do.
Thanks for the great coverage on the Big 10 this season and taking the time for an interview.