Baylor Ballpark -- the Seventh-Best Place to be in America
12:05 P.M. FRIDAY, FEB. 26, 2010
We're less than two hours to first pitch of the fifth-annual QTI Baylor Classic. It's time to turn your Friday into a half day and head out to Baylor Ballpark to watch Baylor take on Texas State at 2 p.m. Why? We're glad you asked.
Eric Sorenson of College Baseball Today lists the Top 10 Places to be this Weekend in his latest edition of Thursday Thoughts. At No. 7, CBT lists The QTI Baylor Classic in Waco. Here's what Sorenson has to say about the tournament that features four teams who all played in NCAA regionals a season ago -- Baylor, Texas State, Texas A&M and Western Kentucky:
Well said. This field is probably the strongest from top to bottom of the tournament's five-year history. It'll be especially interesting to watch our Bears take on Texas State, a team that took two of three from Baylor last season. However, all three of those games were midweek games, meaning both teams probably weren't running out their 10 best starters. We expect to see the best of both teams today.
On another prominent college baseball Web site - Rivals.com College Baseball from Yahoo! Sports - Kendall Rogers lists his power rankings from each of the six major conferences. Baylor is listed fourth in the Big 12 behind only Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
With Texas Agricultural & Mechanical at No. 5, Saturday's game against the Aggies will likely determine if the Bears still sit in the top four next week. Here's hoping the Bears can send A&M home with a third loss this week (see: Men's Basketball, Women's Basketball).
Rogers has this to say on the Bears:
Tolleson gets the start today, followed by Logan Verrett on Saturday and Willie Kempf in Sunday's finale.
It's time to close your web browser and head out to Baylor Ballpark. First pitch is at 2 p.m. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.
Opening Weekend Rewind
10:45 A.M. MONDAY, FEB. 22, 2010
With a 3-1 finish in QTI Apparel's Opening Weekend Classic, Baylor baseball is off to a strong start in its 2010 campaign. How strong? Baylor is listed among 11 winners in Yahoo! Sports writer Kendall Rogers' "winners and losers" column. Here's what Rogers had to say:
Baylor - The Bears were a huge disappointment last season, but they began this season on the right foot with a 3-1 record this weekend. The Bears beat Duke twice and had a 1-1 record against Georgia. Most impressive about BU's weekend was the pitching staff's success in the three victories, especially Shawn Tolleson's performance on Friday night. Great start for the green and gold.
It was a solid weekend all the way around for the Bears. Not only did the pitching staff come out on fire, but a number of young hitters wasted no time making names for themselves.
If the two biggest question marks for the Bears were their ability to get consistent pitching and how a mostly inexperienced lineup would perform, then the 2010 Baylor squad took a nice step toward answering those questions.
The only thing that kept this weekend from being perfect was the Friday night loss to Georgia. However, keep in mind how difficult it is to win both games of a doubleheader. Then, factor in that the Bears were playing their second game of the way, while Georgia was playing its first. The Bulldogs threw ace Justin Grimm, who is projected to be a first-round pick.
Not only did the Bears get to Grimm for a pair of runs, they rallied back from down 4-0 to tie the game at 4-4 through six innings. After Georgia took a three-run lead to the ninth, Baylor got one run back and had the potential tying run on second base when the game ended. It's impressive when a young lineup keeps fighting back like the Baylor one did on Friday night.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
This one was a tough call, but considering that he had a hand in the pitching staff's strong weekend, Gregg Glime gets the nod.
Gregg Glime, Senior, Catcher, Aurora, Colo. (Smoky Hill HS)
Senior captain helped Bears take three of four games in opening weekend, including a win over 22nd-ranked Georgia ... Hit .444 (4-for-9) with two doubles, three runs scored and three RBI ... Also drew two walks for a .545 on-base percentage ... Baylor won all three games he started behind the plate ... Threw out 3 of 5 would-be base stealers ... Helped Baylor pitching staff post a 3-0 record with three saves and a 1.33 ERA in games he caught ... Went 2-for-4 with a run and two RBI Friday against Duke ... Drove in game-tying run in fourth inning ... Went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles, a run and one RBI Saturday against Duke ... Notched Baylor's second hit of the game with RBI double in fifth inning ... Doubled again and scored game-tying run in seventh ... Walked twice and scored what would prove to be decisive run in win over No. 22 Georgia in Sunday's finale.
Others who were considered:
Logan Vick - true freshman hit leadoff and started in left field in all four games. Hit .375 with a .474 on-base percentage.
Max Muncy - another true freshman. Started all four games at first base and hitting third in the lineup. Hit .313 with two home runs, four runs scored and five RBI. Both home runs came in Friday night game against Georgia.
Landis Ware - started all four games at shortstop after not starting there once last season. He hit .375 with two runs and three RBI for the weekend. Ware capped his weekend by scoring the game-tying run in the fifth inning and driving in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning of Baylor's win over Georgia.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Another tough call. This one could've gone to almost anyone who stepped on the mound for the Bears this weekend, but Shawn Tolleson takes it because of how he turned what could have been a bad start into a really solid one.
Shawn Tolleson, Junior, RHP, Fairview, Texas (Allen HS)
Junior RHP got opening day start for Bears and struck out 11 batters in 6.0 innings on his way to getting the win against Duke ... Allowed three first inning runs, but held Duke scoreless on just two hits over next five frames ... Recorded 10 of final 12 outs by strikeout, with the only two exceptions being a ground out and a caught stealing ... Had two runners in scoring position with one out in third inning, but escaped unscathed by striking out next two batters to start a string of seven consecutive outs recorded by strikeout ... All three outs in fourth inning came on called third strikes ... Eleven strikeouts were most by Tolleson since he struck out 12 at Kansas State on April 13, 2008 ... This was just the second time he struck out more than seven batters in a game.
Others who were considered:
Willie Kempf - senior captain scattered six hits in 6.0 innings and allowed just an unearned run on his way to get the win against No. 22 Georgia on Sunday. Kempf's performance was as huge as the difference between a 2-2 weekend and a 3-1 weekend. The only two runners to reach third base against him did so after advancing from first base on failed pickoff attempts.
Josh Turley - the true freshman southpaw had no problem transitioning into the collegiate game. He picked up a save and allowed just one hit in 3.0 innings in the opener against Duke, then came back on Sunday and allowed just an unearned run in 2.0 crucial innings in the win over Georgia.
Brooks Pinckard - allowed just one hit in 2.1 innings over two outings. He touched 96 on the radar gun on his way to recording saves against Duke on Saturday and Georgia on Sunday.
Craig Fritsch - the numbers may not look all that great, but this start was huge for Fritsch. He clearly didn't have his best stuff, but battled his way through 5.0 innings and allowed just two runs - one of them earned - against a solid Duke lineup. Fritsch kept Baylor in the game, and with the help of 2.2 innings of scoreless relief from Trent Blank, the Bears were able to get the win.
Here's what local print media outlets had to say throughout the weekend:
From the Waco Tribune-Herald:
Brice Cherry - Less Hype Surrounding Bears this Season (Friday)
Brice Cherry - Baylor Baseball Leads off with Split (Saturday)
Will Parchman - Baylor Baseball Scrapes Past Duke (Sunday)
Brice Cherry - Baylor Baseball Rallies to Beat Georgia (Monday)
The story on Baylor beating Georgia in today's edition has four great action shots from Jerry Larson.
From The Baylor Lariat:
Justin Baer - Dealing Aces (Friday)
Chris Derrett - Without High Expectations, Baylor Geared To Prove Doubters (Friday)
Justin Baer - Bears Split Opening Day Doubleheader (Friday)
Justin Baer - Baseball Staves Off Duke (Saturday)
That's all for now, but we're less just two days away from a showdown with No. 11 TCU at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, so talk to your boss today about taking a hump day half day. If you're able to pull it off, you can watch Baylor baseball take on TCU, and then walk over to the Ferrell Center to watch the men's basketball team's rematch with Texas Agricultural & Mechanical. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.
Head Coach Steve Smith on the 2010 Bears
4:00 P.M. TUESDAY, FEB. 16, 2010
As we learned earlier today, the Bears have been picked to finish sixth in the Big 12 Conference by the league's coaches. Shortly after the preseason poll was released, all 10 coaches fielded questions during the yearly preseason teleconference.
Fans can listen to the archive of the teleconference by clicking here. Baylor head coach Steve Smith begins taking questions around the 37:45 mark.
Also, don't forget to tune in tonight to watch the Baylor men's basketball team take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Fox Sports Plus. Coach Smith will be interviewed at halftime, and fans who make it to the Ferrell Center will get to see the baseball team introduced during the second media timeout of the first half.
While the preseason ranking marks the first time the Bears haven't been picked to finish in the top four in more than a decade, these are just preseason rankings. We assume that most of the coaches know about the talented pitching staff Baylor is returning, but they don't know much about the lineup. We think they'll be surprised.
How did last season's preseason rankings turn out? Well, Texas Agricultural & Mechanical received all nine possible first-place votes in the preseason coaches' poll, and the Aggies went on to finish sixth in the league.
Here's the complete list of last season's preseason poll:
1. Texas A&M
t3. Oklahoma State
8. Texas Tech
9. Kansas State
Here's how the teams finished in 2009:
5. Kansas State
6. Texas A&M
7. Texas Tech
9. Oklahoma State
Six different teams ended up finishing at least four spots above or below where they were picked in the preseason. Most notably, Kansas was picked to finish dead last and the Jayhawks ended up finishing fourth and earning a regional berth.
The six teams who finished at least four spots away from where they were picker were: Texas A&M (picked first, finished sixth), Baylor (picked third, finished eighth), Oklahoma State (picked third, finished ninth), Oklahoma (picked sixth, finished second), Kansas State (picked ninth, finished fifth), and Kansas (picked 10th, finished fourth).
What does this all mean? It shows that a preseason poll is exactly that -- a preseason poll. Once teams start playing games, none of it matters. That's not to say we wouldn't be excited if there Bears were picked first, but the team would still have to earn the wins on the field. Sometimes it's better to fly under the radar.
Even a sixth place finish wouldn't be bad. Eight Big 12 teams played in the NCAA Tournament a season ago, and while it will be difficult to earn as many berths this season, it would be surprising to see the league get fewer than six postseason bids. As Fresno State showed in 2008, all you need is a chance. A sixth-place finish would also keep the Bears as one of only two teams (Oklahoma is the other) to play in every Big 12 Conference tournament.
That's all for now, but we're less than three days away from first pitch of the 2010 season, so be sure to check back with The Kaye Zone. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.
The Growth of College Baseball
4:30 P.M. FRIDAY, FEB. 12, 2010
It's hard to believe how far college baseball has come. There's still plenty of work left to be done to give this great sport everything it deserves (11.7 scholarships for 35 players?), but significant progress has been made.
Need evidence? How about the fact that LSU will have 27 of its 56 games televised this season? Insane. It wasn't too long ago there weren't 27 televised games in all of college baseball, and now one team has that many.
However, to elaborate on how there's still work to be done, look at the fact that the Big 12 Conference will have 12 games televised this season. There could be more added throughout the season, but to this point, 12 have been announced. Baylor has two of those.
Hopefully, it won't be long until ESPN picks up more Big 12 baseball. ESPN plans to show two Big 12 games this season, but the family of networks will show twice as many LSU games. We'll step off the soapbox for the remainder of this blog, but undoubtedly will return in the future.
In other news, former Baylor pitcher Kip Wells (BU 96-98) has signed a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds, according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Wells pitched in 10 games and made seven starts after joining the Reds in the middle of the 2009 season.
Cape Cod League Commissioner Paul Galop recently announced the league's 2010 rosters. Sophomore RHP Logan Verrett is listed on the roster of the Chatham Anglers, the same team he pitched for last summer. Verrett went 2-0 with a 3.09 ERA in 23.1 innings over five appearances for the Anglers in 2009.
Finally, Brice Cherry of the Waco Tribune-Herald has an article detailing how the Baylor baseball team has managed to work through cold weather during preparations for the 2010 season: "Weather not slowing Baylor baseball practice schedule."
That's all for now, but we're down to 164.5 hours remaining until first pitch of the 2010 season, so be sure to check back with The Kaye Zone. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.
189 Hours Until First Pitch
4:00 P.M. THURSDAY, FEB. 11, 2010
Only eight days remain until the 2010 Baylor baseball team hits the field to take on Duke and 22nd-ranked Georgia in games at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively, on Feb. 19.
Leading off in today's blog, Baseball America has a story called "Mr. Mandel Goes to the Bullpen" (subscription required), talking about former Bear Jeff Mandel's conversion to a relief pitcher in the Washington National organization. Mandel, a 19th-round draft pick in 2007, had started in 66 of 68 minor league appearances before converting to a full-time reliever in the Arizona Fall League.
While pitching for the Phoenix Desert (note that there's only one S) Dogs, Mandel posted a 1.88 ERA with 10 strikeouts and no walks. BA mentions that pitching in relief isn't completely foreign to Mandel because he pitched in relief during much of his career at Baylor.
All 25 of Mandel's outings in 2009 came as a starter, and he posted a 12-6 record with a 3.38 ERA while splitting time between the Potomac Nationals of the Class-A Advanced Carolina League and the Double-A Eastern League Harrisburg Senators.
BA also released its 2010 Big 12 Conference preview today. The publication picks the Bears to finish seventh in the Big 12, but unlike last season when the Big 12 had eight teams earn regional berths, BA projects the conference to get just five teams into the 2010 tournament.
BA names its top 10 prospects for each of the next two year's drafts, and OF/RHP Brooks Pinckard was slotted in as the ninth-best prospect in the conference for the 2010 draft. In the 2011 listing, RHP Logan Verrett checks in at No. 2 behind only Texas' Taylor Jungmann. Baylor fans could be in for quite a show if those two are paired against each other in Friday night matchups each of the next two seasons.
In the "Best Tools" section, senior captain Gregg Glime is named the best defensive catcher, while Pinckard is listed as having conference's best outfield arm.
Also in the rankings category, Aman Reaka of The College Baseball Blog listed his top 100 players in college baseball who are eligible for the 2010 MLB Draft. Two Baylor hurlers made the list, with junior RHP Craig Fritsch checking in at No. 67 and junior RHP Shawn Tolleson on the board at No. 63.
The CBB had the following comment on Fritsch:
"Mid 90's FB, solid slider and CH, great frame, can be overpowering, inconsistent."
While Fritsch would be the first to say he's capable of more than what he's shown, consider the way he ended the 2010 season. In his last seven appearances, Fritsch allowed two earned runs in 20.0 innings for a 0.90 ERA, struck out 22 and walked just 10.
On Tolleson, the CBB said:
"Hard thrower with more left to project, elbow questions, TJ surgery in HS, can really move up or down from here."
Tolleson definitely has the potential to move way up the draft board, as he could've been a first-round pick out of high school had he not needed Tommy John surgery.
Switching to another college baseball page, College Baseball Today did an 11-question survey of some national writers. One who jumped out at us was Will Kimmey, an ESPN studio analyst, who wrote the following when asked his favorite moment of the past decade:
The Kevin Gunderson guarantee, the ASU-Nebraska game and Baylor's comeback against Tulane happening on the same day and the Chance Wheeless game-ending homer against Baylor make that my favorite Omaha year.
That's one roller coaster answer for Bear fans. The comeback against Tulane, where Baylor was down 7-0 going to seventh inning and won 8-7, was truly special. The last part of Kimmey's answer? Not so much.
Last but not least, a note on the 2010 schedule. Some might think the Bears are playing a soft schedule in 2010 based simply on the fact that the first 18 games are at Baylor Ballpark. We're here to tell you that's just not true ... and we can back that claim up with evidence.
Boyd's World is a college baseball site run by Boyd Nation. You might remember the name, as The Pen often referenced BoydsWorld.com when looking at the Bears' RPI ranking. Well, to get even further into the statistics of baseball, Boyd's World uses a measuring stick called "Iterative Strength Ratings."
If you want to read about the ISR, how it's calculated or its intended purpose, follow this link to the FAQs on the BoydsWorld.com. The main point here is that by using ISR, Boyd has been able to compile a ranking of each team's 2010 Intended Strength of Schedule.
The ranking is called the "Intended Strength of Schedule" because it uses last season's ISR ratings to determine the strength of the schedule each team intended to play. It's a nice metric because there are so many variables that can determine a team's strength from year to year. Coaches usually schedule opponents at least a year in advance, so the ISS attempts to determine how strong the coach thought the schedule would be when he made it.
All of that to say, Baylor enters the 2010 season with the toughest Intended Strength of Schedule in the nation. You heard us right. Out of 301 teams listed, Baylor has THE TOUGHEST schedule in the nation.
Since most teams play the majority of their games in conference play, this metric often groups teams from the same conference pretty close together, but this year it's a little different. The next toughest ISS in the Big 12 is Texas Agricultural & Mechanical at No. 9, followed by Texas Tech (11), Kansas (19), Texas (20), Missouri (25), Oklahoma (42), Oklahoma State (44), Nebraska (51) and Kansas State (57).
Why the gap between Big 12 teams? Well, Baylor has the Big 12's most difficult non-conference Intended Strength of Schedule at No. 9. The Bears are followed in the non-conference rankings by Texas A&M (33), Texas Tech (46), Texas (58), Kansas (77), Oklahoma (102), Missouri (103), Oklahoma State (132), Kansas State (157) and Nebraska (165).
What does this mean to you? It means you have even more reason to catch all 35 games at Baylor Ballpark during the 2010 season. If you haven't already purchased season tickets, we hear a few box seats are still available. For more information, contact Jennifer McGee in the Baylor Athletic Ticket Office at 254-710-1596.
That's all for now, but we'll have plenty more as we count down the 189 hours remaining until first pitch of the 2010 season, so be sure to check back with The Kaye Zone. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.
Previewing 2010 with College Baseball Today
11:40 A.M. FRIDAY, FEB. 5, 2010
We're two weeks from the start of the 2010 season, and the conference previews are starting to light up our Twitter feed.
Today, we'll look at the Big 12 preview on one of the most comprehensive college baseball web sites, College Baseball Today. CBT calls itself "a season-long study in the stitched-ball nation," and is run by Eric Sorenson, formerly of CSTV (now CBS College Sports). It's got tons of content and is definitely worth checking out.
In College Baseball Today's preview of the Big 12 Conference, Sorenson acknowledges that Texas is the clear favorite to win the conference, but in looking at which teams could challenge the Longhorns, he has this to say:
"Baylor still has enough talent on hand to make things interesting, though they'll have a lot to overcome as well."
Sounds like a fair assessment. The Bears definitely have talent, but after losing 49 of the 73 home runs from last season's team, there are questions. We think sophomore Dan Evatt will pick up a good portion of the slack after hitting seven homers in 133 at-bats last season, and redshirt freshman Cal Towey will certainly improve on last season's home run total (zero - he redshirted).
It's unlikely the Bears will be able to slug 73 round-trippers again this season, but with 10 of 13 pitchers returning, they shouldn't need as much power. This team will be built around the mound and should see a significant improvement defensively.
After listing Texas as his preseason favorite, Sorenson lists three contenders: Texas Agricultural & Mechanical, Kansas and ... BAYLOR.
He also lists the QTI Apparel Opening Weekend Classic as a close second for the conference's best non-conference series. Feb. 19-21. Baylor Ballpark. Be there.
Sorenson also mentions the following weekend's QTI Baylor Classic, but we'll get to that later. Under the heading "Three Non-Conference Series The Big 12 Better Not Overlook," number one is Oral Roberts at Baylor (March 5-7).
The Bears are opening with 18 straight games at Baylor Ballpark, and with such strong teams visiting Waco, there's really no excuse not to be in the Ballpark on the Brazos for all 18 of those games. What's that? There are box seat season tickets still available? For more information, contact Jennifer McGee in the Baylor Athletic Ticket Office at 254-710-1596.
Under the heading "Three Bold Predictions," Sorenson says:
"Texas A&M and Baylor, playing under less stress and expectations, will play a lot better this season."
Now on to CBT's Baylor capsule. Under all-conference candidates, CBT lists Logan Verrett, Craig Fritsch, Willie Kempf, Dan Evatt and Joey Hainsfurther.
We'd also like to throw in Shawn Tolleson, who, if he returns to full strength in 2010, is someone other Big 12 teams will not want to face. Just ask the 2008 Oklahoma State Cowboys. He threw a two-hit shutout against them. Not enough evidence? Ask the '08 Kansas State Wildcats. They were twice as good in Tolleson's four-hit shutout.
Don't forget about Raynor Campbell. He hit .321 as a freshman and .311 as a sophomore, and there's no reason to believe he can't return to his previous form in 2010. We also think Gregg Glime will improve offensively this season, and combined with his defense, that should make him an all-conference candidate, but defense often gets overlooked when all-conference teams are selected.
CBT lists good news and bad news for the Bears, but you'll have to click on the preview to read all of that. Here's what it had to say about the Bears' schedule:
"Quietly one of the toughest. Shhh. Not sure a lot of people realize how *potentially* difficult BU's pre-conference slate could be. Opening with under-the-radar Duke and Georgia in the opening weekend is awesome. But the Bears will also take on TCU, Texas State and Western Kentucky - a trio of good mid-majors (okay, TCU is actually a great mid-major). They'll also host BYU, LaTech and a four-gamer with Oral Roberts as well. Right before Big 12 play kicks in they'll also play a dangerous Illinois-Chicago team that loves to ambush people. All these games are at home."
We'll say it again ... don't overlook the non-conference schedule. There are some great teams coming to Baylor Ballpark. We've already mentioned QTI Apparel's Opening Weekend Classic and the four-game set with Oral Roberts, but how about the competition in the QTI Baylor Classic? It features one of the best tournament fields in the nation.
Over the past few seasons, Western Kentucky might be one of the best under-the-radar teams in the nation. The Hilltoppers split the Sun Belt Conference title last season, helping them secure a spot in the NCAA Oxford Regional. All they did there was knock off Missouri twice and regional-host Ole Miss once before falling to the Rebels in the title game.
Texas State returns 19 letterwinners and nine pitchers from a 2009 squad that went 41-15 and won the Southland Conference title on its way to a berth in the NCAA Austin Regional. The Bobcats are again picked to win the conference in 2010.
And finally, Texas Agricultural & Mechanical. We don't have to like them to respect them. They played in the NCAA Forth Worth Regional last season. That means all four teams in the tournament field played in regionals a year ago. It should be noted that the game against the farmers will be a NON-CONFERENCE game.
That's all for now, but The Kaye Zone would like to extend a sincere thank you to College Baseball Today for its excellent coverage of college baseball. Without sites like it, TKZ might not exist. Be sure to check back with TKZ for more preseason info as the 2010 season approaches. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.
Catching Up With 16 Days Left
7:50 P.M. WEDNESDAY, FEB. 3, 2010
The trip to Cuba was great, but it left TKZ with a lot of catching up to do. We hope you're ready for a blog that bounces around like the elevator inside the Havana Libre hotel. Let's get started.
First, you'll notice we've added a third and final photo gallery from the trip to Cuba. After a week of reflection, we realized there are a few stories that never made it into the four blogs from Cuba.
Julie Hays from KWTX channel 10 in Waco joined us in Havana to document the trip. She'll be running a week-long series on the nightly 10 p.m. news starting Monday and running through Feb. 12. But, that's not all. She shot over nine hours of footage from Cuba, and after she finishes the daunting task of editing the footage, channel 10 will run a 30-minute special at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 18 - just 18.5 hours from first pitch of the 2010 season.
Perhaps the only time Julie wasn't filming was when she had the misfortune of getting stuck in an elevator inside the Havana Libre. And these weren't just any elevators. Sure, they had the standard emergency buttons and phones, but we're guessing they were just there for show because neither worked.
Unfortunately, Julie was the only English speaker on the elevator, so it's easy to imagine how disconcerting those few minutes must have been - especially when the other people on the elevator started jumping up and down in an attempt to get it going again. Supposedly, that actually worked.
After that episode, Julie wasn't keen on taking the elevator, so she decided to trek up 19 humidity-filled flights of stairs every time she needed to go from her room to the lobby.
A few more days passed without anyone else getting stuck in an elevator, so we started to think Julie was just really unlucky. Wrong again. On the last full day in Havana, TKZ and six Baylor baseball players were on the elevator heading down to the lobby from the 21st floor with just a few minutes to spare before we had to be on the bus. It's important to note that every elevator had a sign stating the maximum occupancy as 10 people. Americans often figure those signs are overly conservative, but we're here to tell you not to take that attitude in Cuba.
The seven of us stopped on the 14th floor where a group of seven more Baylor players were waiting for a ride down. These seven were going to wait for the next elevator, but at the last minute decided to push their way into the 10-person elevator. As the doors closed, TKZ said simply, "We're definitely going to get stuck." Truer words have never been spoken. No more than five seconds later, the elevator came to a halt somewhere between the 13th and 14th floors.
We're sure Julie's experience wasn't fun, but imagine 14 full-grown men in a stalled elevator, without a working emergency button or phone. It was the complete opposite of fun. Someone who had heard Julie's story suggested that we do the same thing. TKZ might not have had a problem with jumping up and down on a stalled elevator if we were on the second or third floor. But, the idea of plummeting 130 feet in a steel box isn't high on our list of fun things to do.
Still, TKZ was overruled, and most of the guys on the elevator jumped all at once. The elevator felt like it dropped about a foot, and then rebounded back to its original halted position. Chalk that one up as a bad idea. Someone (we can't remember who, as it was difficult to keep a mental log with our life flashing before our eyes) pulled out a pocket knife and started trying to pry the doors apart. They got the doors about an inch apart when the elevator started moving again. TKZ stopped on the 13th floor and took the stairs the rest of the way.
The other untold (until now) story is another Gregg Glime lost-in-translation moment. Though it's not as good as the time he said he liked burritos and the Cubans he was talking to thought he was saying he liked small donkeys, we feel it's still blog-worthy.
We ate at a seminary on our first night in Havana. Gregg was trying to tell some students from the University of Havana about that meal, but he accidentally said, "We ate at a cemetery." They understood enough English to know what he accidentally said, but not enough to realize it was an accident. They must've thought we were more than a little strange for those few moments before he corrected himself.
That's all on Cuba for now. We've got a few important notes regarding the 2010 baseball schedule. First, the series finale against Illinois-Chicago on March 14 has been moved to noon. Second, there have been changes to the start times for both games in Austin. Baylor's game at Texas on May 1 has been pushed back to 8 p.m., and the series finale the following day has been adjusted to 2:30 p.m. We can't say why the game times were changed just yet, but trust us, it's a good thing. Look for an announcement on that soon.
In other news, Kendall Rogers of Yahoo! Sports NCAA Baseball referenced the Bears in his mailbag on Jan. 18. Here's an excerpt from Rogers' answer when asked if the Big 12 is primed for a down 2010 season:
Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Baylor are teams to watch after the Jayhawks. The Aggies are expected to have a solid weekend rotation, but have some key players to replace across the board. OSU needs the pitching staff to rise to the occasion and Baylor once again will have potential to win a lot of games.
Rogers also put out his Big 12 Conference preview today. He projects the Bears to finish seventh and be on the bubble for a regional berth. He had this to say about the Bears:
BU welcomes back a crop of talented pitchers in Shawn Tolleson, Craig Fritsch, Willie Kempf and Logan Verrett. However, its offense is a major concern. BU could be a huge surprise if its offense rises to the occasion.
Count us among the group who thinks Rogers will be surprised. The Bears have a few position players who either had a hard time cracking the starting lineup or redshirted last season, but would've started on the majority of college baseball teams. Remember the names Cal Towey and Josh Ludy.
There are also a few freshmen who could start on opening day. If the offense "rises to the occasion," it'll happen with the help of freshmen Logan Vick, Max Muncy, Able Baker, Jake Miller, Tyler Collins and Steve DalPorto. Freshman LHP/OF Josh Turley could also contribute at the plate.
Additionally, The College Baseball Blog released its 2010 Big 12 Season Preview. The CBB projects the Bears to finish seventh in the conference, which would mean the Bears would once again be in a regional if the Big 12 gets eight NCAA Tournament berths as it did in 2009. A seventh-place finish would also put Baylor in the Big 12 Championship, meaning it would continue its run as one of only two teams - Oklahoma is the other - to qualify for every Big 12 Championship since the first one in 1997.
The CBB also projects sophomore RHP Logan Verrett to be named first-team All-Big 12 as a starting pitcher. It names sophomore IF/RHP Joey Hainsfurther as its honorable mention shortstop. We're expecting Hainsfurther to start at second base, but anything can happen. The CBB names only first and honorable mention teams, so honorable mention amounts to a second-team all-conference selection.
Perfect Game Cross Checker gave high praise to sophomore OF/RHP Brooks Pinckard in a recent article (subscription required) looking at college baseball players across the state of Texas. PGCC says Pinckard has the best outfield arm among Texas' college baseball players.
Last but not least, a throwback courtesy of the people who run Right Field Fog - a Cape Cod Baseball League blog. RFF named former Bear Zane Carlson (BU 2000-04) No. 14 on its list of the decade's best players in the CCBL. If you're unfamiliar with "The Bulldog," take a few moments to read about one of the best to don the Green and Gold.
That's all for now, but it's sure to be a busy 16 days until the first pitch of the season, so check back with TKZ for more preseason info on the 2010 Bears. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.