June 1, 2004
LAND OF HOPE AND DREAMS...
Grab your ticket and your suitcase
Thunder's rolling down the tracks
You don't know where you're goin'
But you know you won't be back...
Big wheels rolling through fields
Where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams...
The field of 64 teams selected to play in the 2004 NCAA baseball tournament was announced yesterday. There are 64 teams of young men and old coaches all getting on board this train that they hope takes them to their land of hope and dreams...Omaha.
From the first time I heard this Springsteen song, one of the images it created in my mind was the formulation of a team of completely different types of young people, working together throughout a season, and making that final ride to their promised land. I also feel the song stands as an accurate metaphor of our country, but I'll save that for another time.
I won't have to take a train unless we hop on the Tri Rail and cross over to the Metro Rail. Instead, we'll jump on Johhny's bus and head down I-95 to Coral Gables and the regional hosted by the University of Miami. The NCAA has again chosen to provide the baseball players of Florida Atlantic the opportunity to play close to home. The families of our local players are lucky to be able to see their sons in their own backyard. The media market in which we fight for a slice of coverage will be forced to turn some attention toward Florida Atlantic. Maggie and Luke are happy because they will be able to go to Daddy's games.
How do I feel?
Well, never one to be less than frank, I was disappointed when I saw UCF announced in Tallahassee, because I knew then that we must be going to Coral Gables. Now, I have nothing against playing in a regional there, but we have been there three times already, and I was looking forward to something different for our players and coaches.
Miami has an incredible winning percentage as a host. People who frequent casinos know which games favor the house and avoid playing them. But I don't know if Harrah's has as good a record as the hosting Hurricanes.
Of course, if we don't play well in our first two games we may never face UM.
NC State is our opponent on Friday. They have two pitchers who have incredible numbers. Either Sterry or Rogers will pitch and no one seems to have hit them very well this season.
Coach Elliot Avent is a great guy who did a remarkable job last season, reaching the Super Regional against Miami. He is a fun guy to be around and I have been happy for his success. We played back in 1997 when he was first hired by NC State. We are better than we were then, but so are they.
St. Bonaventure is the fourth team. They won the Atlantic 10 automatic bid. All I know is that it's a Catholic school and I think a Franciscan one. I like the Franciscans. St. Francis was a wealthy young Italian who gave away all his money and fine clothes. He chose to live in a sackcloth robe tied with a rope. It's said that he spent his time helping the poor and caring for animals. He sounds like a Democrat.
We are seeded third by the national committee. That hurts. It doesn't matter for seeding purposes, but in essence they are saying that we are not to be considered one of the top 32 teams in the country.
Let's look at some of the criteria that is used to evaluate teams.
Our won lost record is 45 - 15. There are only four teams in the nation with more wins against Division I opponents.
We finished the season very well - usually an important point to the committee. We won 12 of our last 14 games, including four straight in our conference tournament.
We finished second in our league in the regular season and outscored our opponents 50-11 in winning the conference tournament.
Our pseudo RPI according to Boyd Nation is 25.
I think the message being sent is that a team from the Atlantic Sun has to perform at a far superior rate in these categories than those teams from bigger conferences. Maybe they're right, but I don't see the logic.
So what is our response? Well, we can moan and groan, or go out and prove them wrong. At least we're playing.
If you told me that I had a choice to win one regional in the country, which one would it be? That's easy.
Florida Atlantic will be playing David to UM and NC State's Goliath. All the small Rodney Dangerfield conference teams will be doing the same. That's the stuff of dreams. Get on board! KC