MTSU’s Jim McGuire and the value of walk-ons

Middle Tennessee State head coach Jim McGuire

Middle Tennessee State head coach Jim McGuire

interview by Douglas S. Malan

Everybody loves the underdog story – the overlooked, undervalued guy who proves everyone wrong. In college baseball, the best underdog stories often come from walk-ons who enter a program unheralded and develop into a significant contributor through attitude and perseverance.

Middle Tennessee’s baseball program has grown in the past 20 years from the Ohio Valley Conference to the Sun Belt Conference and now Conference USA. One constant has been the role that walk-ons have played each year when the Blue Raiders roster is developed.

Jim McGuire, who has spent three years as the Blue Raiders head coach and 23 years overall with the program, has been instrumental in finding and developing players who first joined the program without a scholarship and, in many cases, became team leaders through on-field production or by setting an example through work ethic. Continue reading

The new ball

new ballIn response to the BBCOR bat, TD Ameritrade Park and lower offensive outputs across the country, the DI baseball committee’s unanimous 2013 vote to change the ball to a flatter-seam version was put in play. Beginning this past fall, college baseball implemented the new ball and Inside Pitch asked coaches to chime in on their overall observations, any changes that they intend to make with coaching philosophies for their hitters or pitchers, and whether the new ball will change their recruiting mindset:

HITTING

“We are a team that likes to lengthen and shorten the field- we like to make the field real big, and we like to make the field real small- and these balls play into that. They’re going to level off the playing field, and a five-run deficit is not insurmountable anymore. It won’t be as prevalent as it was 5-7 years ago, but it is going to give hitters a fighting chance when they’re dealing with adverse conditions like wind or a bigger ballpark. I really like the new baseball, I think it’s going to add some more excitement to the game, and it might put us just about where we want to be.”

Matt Deggs, head coach, Sam Houston State
Helped UL-Lafayette to a banner 2014 season where they finished the top 10 in the nation in 14 offensive categories and had an OPS of .902

“I think you’re definitely going to see more home runs, but it’s not going to go back to ‘gorilla ball’ or anything like that. As far as coaching goes, I still like power in the middle of the lineup and speed at the top and the bottom, so we aren’t going to approach it a whole lot differently.”

Cliff Godwin, head coach, East Carolina University
His hitters ranked first in the SEC in batting average and second in home runs and runs scored in 2014

“It’s a little tough for me because I’m in a new park with new hitters, too. I think the feedback from the kids was that the ball traveled farther, which is what everyone was looking for. Hopefully it’ll balance the game back out a little bit more, adding the home run as an element for most teams. Recruiting-wise, we’ve always liked to have a nice blend of power and speed, so I don’t know that it’s going to change much. Maybe the bigger corner infielder or outfielder becomes important again, which the game has kind of gotten away from the past few years.”

Chris Lemonis, head coach, Indiana University
Former hitting coach and recruiting coordinator at Louisville helped the Cardinals to three College World Series appearances and back-to-back 50-win seasons in 2013 and 2014 Continue reading

Little League World Series: Why Players Should Be Compensated

"Quick Pitch" with Eddie Comeaux

“Quick Pitch” with Eddie Comeaux

In August, I tuned in to watch the talented and sporadically entertaining players in the Little League World Series (LLWS) held in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. There were some exciting and intense moments for viewers, from an acrobatic diving catch on the warning track by Alex Barker to Pierce Jones’ three home-run game and the dominant and historic performances of star pitcher Mo’ne Davis who threw two consecutive complete game shutouts.

Just another day at the ballpark for these gifted youngsters, right? Not quite. Continue reading

Louisville Slugger’s 2015 performance bats now in stores

presentedbylouisvilleslugger“30-DAY PERFORMANCE PROMISE” COMES WITH EVERY BAT

LOUISVILLE, KY – The new 2015 Louisville Slugger® PRIME 915, SELECT 715 and OMAHA 515 performance bats are now available nationwide. Like these great bats, the reviews are powerful:

“Louisville Slugger – Best Bomb Dropper in the College World Series,” and “Prime 915 turns baseballs into satellites.” – What Pros Wear.  

Louisville Sluggers “hit the ball further” than other bats in the NCAA Tournament according to justbatreviews.com. The review further revealed, “Louisville Slugger bats were the best for hitting extra base hits.”

Louisville Slugger “was more than twice as likely to hit a triple and roughly 1/4 more likely to hit a home run compared to its next closest competitor.” – justbatreviews.com

Louisville Slugger introduced the PRIME 915, SELECT 715 and OMAHA 515 during the NCAA tournament with players on 16 of the 64 teams taking these bats to the plate. Players on three of the eight teams in the College World Series® swung the black, red and white family of Louisville Slugger performance bats – bats which also put on a power display during the Major League Baseball® Junior Home Run Derby. Feedback from college hitters, elite high school players and product reviewers is the same. The 2015 Louisville Slugger performance bats provide hitters with the speed, power and balance to #owntheplate. Continue reading

NLRB Rules in Favor of Northwestern U Football Players: Implications for Other Sports and Title IX

"Quick Pitch" with Eddie Comeaux

“Quick Pitch” with Eddie Comeaux

The recent surprise ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that Northwestern University scholarship football players were employees of the university and had the right to form a labor union and to bargain collectively. As part of its supporting evidence for its ruling, the NLRB highlighted the amount of time athletes spend on sport-related activities and the incredible control and power that coaches have over scholarship athletes. The decision comes after several decades of pressures from advocates of college athletes for comprehensive reform of the NCAA’s amateur model.

Donald Remy, NCAA’s Chief Legal Officer, issued the following statement on the ruling: “While not a party to the proceeding, the NCAA is disappointed that the NLRB Region 13 determined the Northwestern football team may vote to be considered university employees. We strongly disagree with the notion that student-athletes are employees.”

Of course, the NCAA objected to the NLRB ruling considering it has spent several decades defending and propagating its self-serving amateurism principles. Continue reading

Kyle Peterson, the face of amateur baseball

Our latest Inside Interview features Kyle Peterson, former major leaguer and three-time All-American at Stanford and current ESPN analyst. Check out his thoughts on Midwest baseball, the evolution of the college game, and what he would do if he called all the shots:

How did you develop your passion for baseball?

Baseball was just one of those things that was always there. My mom would tell me that from the time I was little, everything that I could throw, I would throw; that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. I had kind of a unique situation growing up- my dad would always play catch with me when he got home, but my mom would do it during the day if I wanted to, at least when I was little.

The College World Series also played into it because we went every year- my grandparents had tickets years ago, and they’ve been passed down to my dad. We posted up there for two weeks from the time I was born, basically. Continue reading