July 27, 2005
SOMEBODY FIND ME A PREACHER...
"Somebody find me a preacher Somebody find me a man with a bible who can tie a knot I know what I've got. I know who I love, Track him down Wake him up..."
Driving home from our vacation on the farm in East Tennessee, I got to hear this song on the new Trace Adkins album. He sings with urgency at the desire to start his life with the woman he's found; "...right here, right now in this Tennessee dirt, no long white dress or little white church...". This guy is serious.
Over a 14 hour drive my mind tends to wander sometimes toward the future and in this case, to the past. I remember teaching at Mount Olive HS in New Jersey, where my day usually started by dropping my son Jim off at Happy Time Nursery School. It was just down the road from the high school, but each morning was a rush to get to my first period class on time without throwing Jim out the window to save time. Some mornings, I would just bring him to class first, and the take him to Happy Time during my second period prep time.
I can still see him standing at the blackboard, drawing with chalk while I tried to make US History sound interesting to a class of sleepy teenagers. All the girls thought he was cute in his Oskosh overalls and curly blond hair. Jim was probably around two or three back then...I know he could walk and talk. When class got boring, I'd always ask him, "Jim, what are girls?" He'd look at the class, smile, and say the first declarative sentence he'd been taught by his Dad- "Girls are nothing but trouble!"
Over the years he probably has experienced the wisdom and the humor in that statement. But he called me at the farm to say that we needed to "find a preacher". It looks like he's got a girl that's either not much trouble, or at least worth it. Marin is a great girl and I thought they were a good match from the day I met her last summer in Springfield, Missouri. Jim was pitching for the Ducks, and Marin seemed right to me.
My oldest son bought a ring, called Marin's father, and then popped the question. I thought he was just a kid- heck I thought I was just a kid .My other son, Jeff, turns 21 next month! What is happening here?
Life keeps rolling along for all of us, but certain times highlight the process. Seeing your son standing at an altar with the girl he loves is one of those defining times.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR...
College baseball coaches have been complaining that the geographical differences, and the weather problems that attend them, have created an unequal playing field. The Coaches' Association has a compromise proposal in front of the NCAA which will mandate a common starting date, but will also probably reduce the season from 56 to 52 games. (Meanwhile college football adds another game to its season.)
That may no sound like much to people, but why should college baseball be reduced at all? The only directives from the NCAA over the years toward baseball have been negative. Scholarships were reduced from 22 to 11.7, games were reduced to 56 from 70, the fall competition was eliminated unless you subtracted the games played from your spring schedule, and baseball can only have three paid coaches and a volunteer.
Yet, somehow, the sport has flourished. In the one area valued by the NCAA- money, the college baseball championship is second only to the men's basketball tournament. Television coverage has increased dramatically in the past three years, and the sport's excitement has been exposed to more than the hard core fan.
Of course with this increased exposure, comes the ugly side.
A good man like Mark Johnson was fired at Texas A&M. All he did was make two World Series appearances, get the Aggies to a regional year after year, and represent his school and sport at the highest level. That's no longer enough. Schools now fire coaches in baseball if you're not winning it all, all the time.
A good man who made a mistake was burned by a national television crew. If you know the story of Larry Cochell's statements at Oklahoma, you should realize that he paid the price for his sport's sudden national exposure. What Larry said was wrong, but it was made news by the ESPN reporters who chose to make it so. That's the "gotcha" society in which we live. It's the society, now of college baseball.
The salaries being paid college coaches today have also escalated. Everyone wants a winner, and you need to pay to get one. There are a few guys out there who got some sweet new contracts with the help of some of the recent vacancies that have driven up the market.
Let's not even get started on baseball facilities. If you don't have a new one, or a new and improved one, you are way, way, behind. The commitment by schools to college baseball facilities is impressive. And it's not just in the SEC- look at some of the so called "mid-major conferences", and the construction that's ongoing. It's an arms race.
We all wanted our sport to become big time, now it has, and the price is being paid. Whether that's good or bad depends on whether you can afford to pay the piper. KC