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Bears Receiving Votes From Collegiate Baseball
2:00 P.M. MONDAY, DEC. 21, 2009


Collegiate Baseball Newspaper released its top 40 preseason poll Monday, and while the Bears didn't quite crack the list, they are listed ninth among teams receiving votes, meaning they would be ranked 49th if the poll were extended.

Baylor was listed seventh among the eight teams from the Big 12 Conference to receive votes. Texas (#1), Oklahoma (#25), Texas A&M (#29) and Kansas (#36) were all ranked in the top 40.

Missouri was listed sixth among teams receiving votes but not ranked, while Nebraska was eighth, Baylor was ninth and Oklahoma State was 10th. Kansas State and Texas Tech were the only Big 12 teams who didn't receive votes.

Baylor was ranked 15th in CB's preseason poll a year ago, 28th prior to the 2008 season, 21st in 2007 and 23rd in 2006. The Bears finished the 2006 season ranked 26th in the poll, and have not finished a season ranked in the last three years. Let's hope the Bears can take advantage of flying under the radar in the 2010 season.

As for the 2010 schedule, the Bears play 18 games against seven teams ranked in the preseason top 40, meaning they'll have plenty of opportunities to turn some heads and move up in the polls.

Baylor takes on No. 31 Georgia twice during QTI Apparel's Opening Weekend Classic, then plays No. 15 TCU in a midweek game before battling No. 29 Texas A&M in a non-conference game the following weekend. That means four of the Bears' first seven games will be against ranked opponents.

The same weekend the Bears take on the Aggies, they'll also play a pair of teams receiving votes in Texas State and Western Kentucky. Baylor hosts another team receiving votes the following weekend when Oral Roberts comes to Waco for a four-game set.

Two weekends later the Bears open Big 12 play by traveling to No. 25 Oklahoma for three games, and then Baylor hosts No. 36 Kansas for three games at Baylor Ballpark.

Baylor and No. 29 Texas A&M meet for their annual split series two weeks later, and three weeks after that the Bears take on top-ranked Texas in a split series with the final two games in Austin. Baylor's final midweek game is scheduled against No. 40 Dallas Baptist.

It's only 60 days until baseball season (not that we're counting), so stay tuned to TKZ as more publications will be releasing their preseason polls shortly. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.

Sic em. 

Additions to Schedule and Pub for Thurman
11:45 A.M. FRIDAY, DEC. 18, 2009


Baylor baseball has added a home-and-home series with UT Arlington to its 2010 schedule.

The Bears will travel to Arlington to take on the Mavericks at 6:30 p.m. on April 13, and then return home for a rematch at Baylor Ballpark at 6:30 p.m. the following day. The Mavericks and Bears played the same series April 14-15 last season, and the home team won each meeting.

Baylor previously had a game schedule with Texas Southern on April 14, but that game was removed, allowing the Bears to schedule UT Arlington. There is still a possibility that the game against Texas Southern will be rescheduled.

Also of note, another former Bear was mentioned in one of Baseball America's chats about the top 10 prospects in each professional organization.

Mace Thurman (BU 2008) spent the 2009 season with two different teams in the Cincinnati Reds organization. With the Class A Dayton Dragons, Thurman posted a 3-0 record with a 2.93 ERA in 30.2 innings over 15 appearances. He also struck out 35, walked just 11, and posted an impressive 1.14 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched).

He was then promoted to the Class A Advanced Sarasota Reds of the Florida State League, where he put up even better numbers. Though he went 0-2, Thurman recorded a 1.10 ERA in 49.0 innings over 30 outings. He notched eight saves and finished 20 of 30 games pitched. He also struck out 47 and walked just 14, helping him post a miniscule 0.90 WHIP.

In the chat (subscription required) about the Reds' top prospects, BA's J.J. Cooper was asked the following question:

What is the organization's evaluation of LHP Mace Thurman, who performed well at two stops this past year?

To which he responded:

He may have some potential to develop into a starter as he has three pitches. He's an interesting guy. He'll probably be on the depth chart and not in the Top 30 but it wouldn't shock me if he ended up making it to the big leagues.

Not bad for a pitcher drafted in the 17th round with only one full season of professional experience.

BA still has plenty of organizations left to cover, so stay tuned to TKZ to see if any other former Bears have their names called. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.

Sic em. 

Russo Gets Mention From Baseball America
4:30 P.M. WEDNESDAY, DEC. 16, 2009


While former Bear Kevin Russo (BU 2005-2006) didn't crack Baseball America's top 10 prospects in the New York Yankees' organization, he did receive some praise in John Manuel's chat about the top 10 (subscription required).

Manuel was prompted with the following question:

"It seems that with older players manning short, third, and potentially left field, the Yankees may make playing time for a utility player. Which of Reegie Corona, Kevin Russo, or Ramiro Pena has the best potential to be effective in a role like that? Or do any of them project as everyday players?"

To which he responded:

"All three profile better as utility guys; Russo has the best bat of that trio, Pena and Corona are similar defensively but Pena is the better shortstop, so he gets the edge. All are on the 40-man; Pena has major league experience and actually performed better than I thought he would in the majors with the bat. None seems like an everyday guy, though Russo's bat could make him an everyday second baseman on a second-division team. He would have to be more consistent defensively to do that."

While it's not the highest of praise, he does say that Russo could become an everyday second baseman. Combine that with the fact that the Yankees added him to the 40-man roster last month, and it looks like there's a strong chance he'll become the 39th former Bear to make it to The Show.

Russo hit .326 and posted a .397 on-base percentage in 90 games for the Class AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees this season. He was named to the Topps Triple-A All-Star team and was an International League Post-Season All-Star.

Meanwhile, the 2010 Bears will be announcing an addition to their schedule shortly. Stay tuned to TKZ for more details. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.

Sic em. 

Amending the 2010 Baseball Schedule
2:10 P.M. WEDNESDAY, DEC. 9, 2009


There have been a number of recent changes to the 2010 Baylor baseball schedule. Two opponents changed, one game was eliminated and a handful of game times were adjusted.

While Baylor loses one game on the schedule, and there's no way to replicate watching our Bears for nine innings, fans of college baseball in general will have a chance to watch two more games than expected at Baylor Ballpark. Confused yet?

Baylor's game against Texas Southern on April 14 has been canceled. There's a possibility it will be rescheduled, but that is to be determined. Baseball games at Baylor Ballpark: -1

The Bears were scheduled to play a three-game series against Western Kentucky during the season's second weekend. Instead, Baylor will host three teams for a round robin, much like last year's QTI Baylor Classic. The Bears will take on Texas State, Texas A&M and Western Kentucky, instead of playing all three games against the Hilltoppers. Baseball games at Baylor Ballpark: even

However, since the weekend will be a round robin, the two teams not involved in the Baylor game each day will play each other. Texas A&M and Western Kentucky will meet on Friday, Western Kentucky and Texas State will play on Saturday, and Texas State and Texas A&M wrap up the action on Sunday. Baseball games at Baylor Ballpark: +3

Additionally, the schedule for QTI Apparel's Opening Weekend Classic has been shifted. Instead of playing two games on Sunday, the Bears will play both Georgia and Duke on Friday, then play Duke Saturday and Georgia Sunday. Baseball games at Baylor Ballpark: even

Here are the complete schedules for the first two weekends of the season:

Friday, Feb. 19
Duke vs. Baylor 1:00 p.m.
Georgia vs. Baylor 5:00 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 20
Duke vs. Baylor 1:00 p.m.
Duke vs. Georgia 5:00 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 21
Duke vs. Georgia 10:00 a.m.
Georgia vs. Baylor 2:00 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 26
Texas State vs. Baylor 2:00 p.m.
Texas A&M vs. Western Kentucky 6:00 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 27
Texas A&M vs. Baylor 1:00 p.m.
Western Kentucky vs. Texas State 5:00 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 28
Western Kentucky vs. Baylor 1:00 p.m.
Texas State vs. Texas A&M 5:00 p.m.

It should be noted that the Feb. 27 game against Texas A&M will be a non-conference game. There could be additional changes to the 2010 schedule, so check back with TKZ for further updates. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.

Sic em. 

Miller & Weems Getting Pub From Baseball America
3:05 P.M. MONDAY, DEC. 7, 2009


Former Bear Aaron Miller (BU 2007-2009) may have only pitched in 10 games since the final time he donned the Green and Gold, but the 36th overall selection in the 2009 MLB Draft is already making a name for himself in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system.

When the Dodgers made Miller the highest picked Baylor player since David Murphy went 17th overall in 2003, he immediately became one of the team's top prospects. In fact, Baseball America recently released its list of the Dodgers' top 10 prospects (subscription required), and Miller checked in at No. 3.

Though he was a standout hitter for three years at Baylor, Los Angeles selected Miller as a pitcher. After signing in June, he reported to the Class A Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League. There, Miller went 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA over seven starts. He also held opposing hitters to a .208 batting average and recorded 38 strikeouts against just 10 walks in 30 innings.

While it may be a bit too early to look toward the Major Leagues, BA lists Miller as the Dodgers' No. 4 starter in its projected 2013 lineup. The publication also says he could become a No. 2 starter if he can improve his changeup, but if not he projects well as a late-inning reliever. BA says he should move through the system quickly and could reach the Majors in 2011. He's scheduled to begin the 2010 season in Advanced-A ball.

Incidentally, the Dodgers second-ranked prospect is Chris Withrow, whose name might sound familiar to diehard Baylor baseball fans. Withrow was part of the Bears' 2007 recruiting class, but he decided to forego college when the Dodgers selected him with the 20th overall pick in the 2007 draft.

While BA is just halfway through its rundown of each organization's top 10 prospects, another former Bear has already been mentioned. Beamer Weems (BU 2006-2008) was listed as the "best defensive infielder" in the San Diego Padres' minor league system (subscription required).

Weems was named to the 2009 California League Postseason All-Star Team after hitting .253 with 21 doubles, 44 RBI and a .401 on-base percentage for the Lake Elsinore Storm.

BA also mentioned Baylor in Aaron Fitt's college recruiting chat. Fitt mentioned the trio of Josh Turley, Max Muncy and Logan Vick, saying "all three of those guys should be very good players for Baylor." He added that Turley has "a chance to carve up the Big 12 for the next three years."

That's all for now, but Baseball America begins its profiles of American League teams a week from today, so check back to see if any other former Bears make the lists. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.

Sic em. 

Welcome to The Kaye Zone
2:05 P.M. WEDNESDAY, DEC. 2, 2009


Welcome to The Kaye Zone, a blog that will take you behind the scenes of Baylor baseball. Though there is no way to completely replace Straight From the Pen, TKZ will at least try to provide Baylor fans with as much knowledge as his predecessor, Larry Little (aka The Pen). At the very least you will definitely find the same disdain for all things maroon.

If you are still desperately seeking your fill of The Pen (and who among us isn't), you can find Straight From the Pen by clicking here, but be warned, The Pen has graduated from college baseball to the Houston Astros Triple-A affiliate, the Round Rock Express. Be sure to check out The Pen's last dip into the green & gold ink.

Let's start with a little background information. After more than nine years working in the athletic media relations office at Baylor, The Pen began a position as Director of Communications for the Round Rock Express. That opened the door for my return to Baylor.

I'm David Kaye, an understudy of The Pen during the 2007 and 2008 seasons. After graduating from Baylor in 2008, I took a position as the media relations baseball contact at the University of South Alabama. The 2009 season gave me the chance to produce a media guide and weekly game notes, write plenty of releases and serve as official scorer. It also gave me the chance for a brief return to BU, as South Alabama traveled to Waco to play in the QTI Baylor Classic. It was that weekend when I was reminded just how much I missed BU.

While I certainly enjoyed the time I spent at USA, the opportunity to return to my alma mater was just too good to pass up, so my wife and I loaded up the moving truck and made the 12-hour drive from Mobile, Ala. to Waco, Texas.

After moving into the plush new offices in the Simpson Athletics & Academic Center, the AMR staff tasked me with coming up with a name for the new baseball blog. What would you call the successor of The Pen? The phone? The keyboard? The text message? No, no, no.

Then The Pen brought to my attention that my last name has the same sound as a commonly used baseball term. Add in that my wife used to do a video blog for the Waco Trib called The EmZone, and The Kaye Zone was born.

Now that the introductions are out of the way, there's plenty of catching up to do, so let's get down to business. First, there's news on a pair of Bears in the pros.

Former Baylor backstop Kelly Shoppach has been traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Tampa Bay Rays. The move marks the third professional team for the 2001 Johnny Bench Award winner. Shoppach was drafted in the 2nd round by the Boston Red Sox in 2001 and was traded to Cleveland in 2006.

The move could open the door for a significant increase in playing time for Shoppach, who spent the majority of four seasons in Cleveland as the backup catcher. He averaged nearly 61 starts per season during that stretch, but saw action in only half of the Indians' games last season. In Tampa Bay, Shoppach could crack the starting lineup, as the Rays have only one catcher on the roster (Dioner Navarro) with significant Major League experience.

In minor league news, former Bear Kevin Russo, a 20th-round selection of the New York Yankees in 2006, was named as the second baseman on the 2009 Topps Triple-A All-Star Team. Playing for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, Russo ranked fourth in all of Triple-A with a .326 batting average.

He added 18 doubles and 31 RBI, but perhaps most impressive was his .397 on-base percentage. In his two years at Baylor (2005-2006), Russo recorded OBPs of .353 and .367, respectively.

The 2009 season was somewhat of a breakout year for Russo. Though he hadn't spent more than a year at any single level of the minors, he hadn't experienced as much success at the plate as he did in 2009. Russo hit .273 in 45 games of rookie ball in 2006, then followed that up with a .281 batting average at Advanced-A in 2007, and a .307 mark at Double-A in 2008. His .431 slugging percentage in 2009 was also a career best.

Baseball America is in the middle of releasing its list of each organization's top 10 prospects, and the Yankees are slated for Dec. 18. Stay tuned to see if Russo cracks the list.

Additionally, two former Bears are making news as coaches in the collegiate ranks. Jeff Thomas, who pitched for Baylor during the 1992 and 1993 seasons, has joined the staff at Illinois as a volunteer assistant coach. Thomas went 3-1 with a 5.30 ERA in 26 career appearances for the Bears.

James Vilade, who lettered at Baylor in 1994 and 1995, is the athletic director and head baseball coach at UT-Tyler. Vilade started the baseball program at UT-Tyler in 2003, and today he was honored as the 2010 Alumnus of the Year by the United States Sports Academy. Vilade played 51 games, mostly at first base, over three seasons at Baylor.

One current Baylor player making headlines is rising sophomore RHP Logan Verrett, who was recently featured as No. 64 on a list of the Top 100 Players in the Country, according to The College Baseball Blog.

The CBB says Verrett could challenge for the top spot in the 2011 MLB Draft. How's that for potential? For reference, the only Baylor player to ever crack the top 10 draft picks was Stan Hilton, who was selected 5th overall by the Oakland A's in 1983.

After posting a 2-0 record with a 3.09 ERA for the Chatham Anglers, Verrett was rated the 22nd-best prospect in the Cape Cod League by Baseball America. He was the sixth-highest rated sophomore, and ranked second among players from the Big 12.

That's all the news for now, but check back for further updates as the 2010 season approaches. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter

Sic em.


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