NCAA sports as a whole is a fascinating, quirky, and often irrational world, and baseball is no exception. This documentary by Matt Wyatt delves into the financial background of NCAA baseball, and it’s honestly upsetting. Scholarship inequities are not just a baseball problem, for sure, and while this film focuses exclusively on this one sport, it certainly provides some insight into the bigger picture.
It was a beautiful evening for a ballgame in eastern Kansas, made all the better by the opportunity to watch a fun game and a win!
The Royals’ season isn’t going too well this year — if you can count a .211 winning percentage thus far as merely “not going too well.” At the NCAA level, the Kansas Jayhawks aren’t exactly making headlines either, but at least their season is faring better than that of their MLB neighbors. I had the opportunity to participate in a somewhat behind-the-scenes experience leading up to the Jayhawks’ game yesterday, so naturally I signed up for it.
The afternoon began with batting practice, and our group was able to hang out in the KU dugout while we watched the team get in their swings.
Afterwards, we were shown the indoor batting practice facility, which I did not get any pictures of. That building also featured a wall of photos featuring former Kansas ball players, and the nameplate on each photo indicates not only the player’s name, but also the name of an MLB team. We passed through the building rather quickly, so I didn’t have time to peruse this wall very closely, but given the number of photos up there, I’m guessing these are all players that were drafted by teams, and not necessarily all of them actually made it to the Major League level.
After a filling lunch of pulled pork sandwiches, salad, chips, and brownies, it was time to head back to Hoglund Ballpark for the game. In the early innings of the game, I found myself being gestured at by the KU mascot, who invited me to have a seat with him for a bit. As amusing as it was, conversation with a mascot tends to be sparse and largely one way.
The game itself turned out to be a good one — if you were rooting for Kansas, anyways. The Jayhawks collected 3 home runs, and their pitchers held Air Force bats down quite solidly. The game ended in the seventh inning due to run spread, with a final score of 12-2.
The Jayhawks were 18-18 going into this game, so the win over Air Force yesterday puts them back on the winning side of .500. It was also the first Kansas win I have ever been able to see live. All in all, an enjoyable afternoon.
The Kansas Jayhawks hosted the Nebraska Cornhuskers in an exhibition game at Hoglund Ballpark last night. Admission to the game was free and open to the public, so naturally, I reached out to a friend who agreed to attend with me.
My previous two experiences attending Kansas ballgames proved disappointing, but I had reason to feel optimistic about this exhibition. KU hired a new baseball coach at the end of last spring, Dan Fitzgerald, and Fitzgerald spent the summer on a recruiting tear, taking advantage of the NCAA Transfer Portal to attract a slew of new talent to Kansas.
An estimated 500 spectators attended the exhibition, which surprised me a bit. I imagine free admission proved a big draw, and the football watch party that was just exiting Allen Fieldhouse next door as the baseball game was starting likely contributed to the crowd. As the game got underway and into the early innings, I could already tell this is a different team from what I’ve seen previously.
At the seventh inning stretch, the voice on PA system mentioned that the game was planned for a total of 14 innings. My friend and I looked at each other startled at that — we had not planned on 14 innings. We decided to wait until the ninth inning and see what was happening.
The game was tied at 5 at the end of nine innings. We decided to stick around for another inning to see what would happen. The Huskers were held scoreless in the top of the tenth. Then, in the bottom of the inning, the Jayhawks mounted a rally.
Kansas scored 4 runs in the bottom of the tenth. At the end of the inning, we agreed it was a good time to go. Had this been a standard regulation baseball game, Kansas would have been declared victorious. And besides, I was cold — the temperature had dropped about 15 degrees since the game had started — and my friend was hungry.
I haven’t been able to find a final score after 14 innings, but the consensus seems to be that this team has a lot of promise. I look forward to the start of college baseball season in spring 2023.
I attended my second-ever Kansas Jayhawks baseball game this afternoon. Coincidentally, in both games I’ve now attended, Kansas played the Texas Tech Red Raiders. And, perhaps not so coincidentally, the Jayhawks lost both times.
Today’s game was honestly pretty terrible. Nothing went right for the Jayhawks. They had no pitching. The defense was mediocre at best. And their offense was no-hit through the first five innings.
KU finally scored their first run in the sixth inning, but Texas Tech had already scored 19 by that point, and there was no digging themselves out of the hole. Final score? 28-2.
Nevertheless, it was nice to attend a baseball game again. My arms are sunburnt because it didn’t occur to me to wear sunblock, but that’ll eventually fade into a nice little farmer’s tan. It may be time to invest in a KU ballcap, because I’m seriously thinking I should attend more of these games. The tickets are cheap, the seating is good, and there’s just something wonderful about seeing a ballgame live and in person.
I stumbled across the above image while browsing Pinterest a few nights ago, and it sent me down a rabbit hole looking at the history of aluminum baseball bats. For all the reading I did, I wish I could have found more details about aluminum bat history, but I’ll share here what I did manage to find.
William A. Shroyer patented the first metal baseball bat in 1924 (depicted in the image above), though metal bats were not actually seen in baseball until they started getting produced by Worth Sports Company in 1968 (Worth, Inc. is now a division of Rawlings and Jarden Team Sports). Little League Baseball approved of the use of aluminum bats in 1971, and the NCAA legalized the use of aluminum bats in 1974. By 1975, Worth held the majority of the U.S. aluminum bat market and had produced the first official Little League and NCAA Collegiate aluminum bats.
By today’s standards, however, Worth bats really weren’t that great. According to former Ithaca College baseball head coach George Valesente, “[The Worth bats] made a pinging noise. Grips were not comfortable because they weren’t using the proper leather on the grips. Sometimes, it would start to dent and ding.”
In the late-1970s, Easton introduced a bat made from a stronger grade of aluminum and with rubber grips. Louisville Slugger also soon joined the aluminum bat manufacturing business, and the popularity of aluminum bats skyrocketed, though they were not allowed in major league games. At the collegiate and amateur levels, the switch from wood to metal bats served primarily practical purposes. Because wooden bats were easily breakable, teams would often run dry of bats during games. Aluminum bats essentially eliminated this problem.
In 1993, both Easton and Worth introduced titanium bats, and in 1995 Easton and Louisville Slugger introduced an even lighter grade of aluminum bat. Given the continual improvements of bat technology, it is not hard to understand the popularity of metal bats. Compared to their wooden counterparts, aluminum bats allow for greater bat speed and distance on batted balls, primarily as the result of weight distribution and the ability to make aluminum bats stiffer and lighter. Aluminum bats can even be made to weigh up to 5 ounces less than their length in inches.
Metal bats continue to be banned in Major League Baseball for safety and competitive reasons. For players making the transition from using metal bats in high school or college ball to wooden bats in professional ball, struggles frequently abound. The “sweet spot” on an aluminum bat is much larger and the physics of using a metal bat versus a wooden bat are noticeably different. Players have to relearn their swing and retrain their muscle memory, if they hope to become successful at the big league level. Many purists argue in favor of the classic wooden baseball bat, but one can certainly see that aluminum bats have many appealing qualities for a ballplayer.
This clip is from April 2016 from The Late Late Show with James Corden. The first half of the clip is sports-related, but not actually baseball-specific, so if you want to go straight to the baseball humor, skip to about the 2-minute mark.
This comedic bit was in response to Bryce Harper’s “Make Baseball Fun Again” cap from a couple years ago. As you would expect from late-night television, some of the jokes are a bit off-color, but he does throw in some pretty good political jabs.
Yesterday afternoon, a friend and I attended the baseball game between Kansas and Texas Tech Universities. I had previously been to games at the Little League, high school, and even minor league levels (plus MLB games, of course), but this was the first-ever college game for either of us.
Unlike this year’s Royals, the Kansas Jayhawks actually have a winning record (17-12 going into yesterday’s game), so I was looking forward to seeing them play in person. What I didn’t realize before we bought the tickets was that Texas Tech has an even better record at 25-6 prior to yesterday. Even so, I had a hint that it would be a tough game, considering the Jayhawks lost 15-6 to this Texas Tech team on Friday.
I’m sorry to say that yesterday’s game was quite the slaughter. Long story short, KU lost 10-0. Even in spite of loading the bases with no one out in the sixth inning, KU didn’t manage to score a run, proceeding to blow the opportunity with two strikeouts and a groundout to short.
On the plus side, there was a hot dog race. Even better, my favorite condiment, ketchup, won this game’s race.
Hoglund Ballpark in Lawrence is a very nice facility. It would have been nicer had the weather been warmer than 40 degrees and breezy. General admission tickets were only $10, which has me thinking this is too good an opportunity for cheap baseball to not take advantage of in the future. There just might have to be more KU baseball in the future, including (hopefully) a win or two.