Thursday, March 26, 2009

Farewell Phoenix

I apologize for not updating the blog more frequently. With two games a day in the Phoenix heat I was usually physically and emotionally spent by the time we returned to the hotel.

The last couple of days have been very up and down. At times we have played great baseball and other times we have struggled to keep it together. I imagine it is all growing pains of a fairly young squad.

We managed to sweep Knox College in two close games on Monday. Freshman Drew Mixter pitched a fantastic game to take the win in game two. We did not play our best ball but still managed to scrap and pick up two victories.

Yesterday we split with a perennially ranked team in Gustavus Adolphus. In game one, freshman Jason James took the hill and limited the Gusties in his 6-plus innings of work. Senior P.J Carter came on to finish the game after a few runners reached in the 7th.

Today we played a doubleheader against Thomas College. Game one ended in a dramatic fashion. We struggled all day to come up with timely hits but in the 7th we broke loose. Ben Master lead off the inning with a single to right. I followed Master by reaching base on a hit by pitch. I think I got hit like ten times on this trip. I have bumps and bruises all over.

Anyways, after a Thomas error, we had the bases loaded with zero outs with fellow senior Jeremy Simon was at the plate. Simon bounced a high hopper down the third base line for a 2-RBI single closing the game to 6-4 in Thomas' favor.

We then found ourselves in a 6-4 deficit with runners on 2nd and 3rd with Ben Kauder at the plate. Kauder laced a line drive to right, plating the two runners. The game was won on a shot down the left-field line by P.J Carter.

Game two was all Oberlin. Southpaw Jack Dunn commanded both sides of the plate and was brilliant in his five innings on the hill. Dunn exited with a commanding 9-0 lead. We held on to win 9-2 and finish our Phoenix campaign with a .500 record (6-6).

Thank you for following the teams success this week. Wish us luck the rest of the year as we look to make a push towards the playoffs.

Brian Verne
Oberlin College '09

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Yeomen battle the Engineers

We kicked off our competition in Phoenix with a doubleheader vs. the MIT Engineers. This might be the only team we play all year with guys who make us look like idiots.

Game one was a back and forth battle that was both mentally and physically draining. The game felt like the Syracuse vs. UConn Big East Tournament game. We ended up prevailing in nine innings but I think I had a minor stroke and developed an ulcer in the process.

Trailing 8-5 in the 7th, we battled back to take a 9-8 lead. I guess we were not satisfied with only 7 innings. The Engineers tied the game up and nearly won it. If it was not for freshman southpaw Drew Mixter, we would have went home a loser in game one. Mixter worked out of a bases loaded, nobody out jam with the game tied 9-9. Mixter handled himself like a senior and really showed some guts.

After a few scoreless frames we broke the game open in the top of the 9th with four two-out runs. Brandon Cantrill broke the game open with a bases loaded, bases clearing double to put us up four. The Yeomen were also led by seniors Jeremy Simon and P.J. Carter. I got off to a nice start myself, but it would not have been fulfilling if we would not have won.

Game two did not bode very well for us. We came out a little flat and cruised through the game. The game was close until the end, but MIT prevailed with a score of 9-3.

The Delay

As we speak I am on the plane en route to Phoenix, Arizona where my teammates and I will play twelve games in six days. Unfortunately, usually nothing goes as planned. We were all sitting on the plane at about 9:00 ready to take off when the flight attendant got on the loud speaker and uttered the dreadful line: "I'm sorry folks but we've encountered a problem." Apparently the first officer had a family emergency and could no longer accompany us. Continental had to find a back-up first officer before we could leave. They called some guy who was probably at home drinking a beer and watching March Madness. What we later found out was that the only first officer in America available at this point was in North Dakota. I'm just kidding but it did take him forever to get to the airport.

After a two hour delay we finally were in the air on our way to Phoenix. I was fortunate enough to be able to check out the Sky Mall with Pat Bourke ( a sophomore infielder). You gotta love the Sky Mall. There was a miniature donut maker that looked fantastic. Only $129.99.....what a bargain!

Anyways, we got to our hotel, a Holiday Inn Express at about 1:00 AM. However, I was quite thrilled to be back at the Holiday Inn Express. I love their showers. The water pressure is fantastic!

At this point it's probably time for bed. Catch the blog tomorrow.

What it means to be a collegiate baseball player

As a senior co-Captain of this years baseball team the light at the end of the tunnel is nearing for my baseball career. I have accepted the fact that Major League Baseball is probably not in the cards (Although i was convinced that I would make it until I was about sixteen). I have played the game of baseball since I could walk. I started with games in the front yard with my Dad. I was fortunate enough to be able to play lots of baseball between then and now. I sit here now as a senior in shock that it all must come to and end soon. I would like to offer you some insight about what it means to play baseball and compete at the collegiate level.
I entered this last year of collegiate baseball with the mindset of trying to enjoy every second; the good and the bad. Baseball is a funny game. It is the only game where one can fail seven out of ten times and still be considered great. The game of baseball has offered me more than just the pure excitement of competing on the field for nine innings. Baseball has been a metaphor for life. Baseball is not only about balls and strikes or winning and losing. Baseball teaches one how to be a man. The game is a test. I have learned more from baseball than anything else I have experienced in my life. The game has made me tough, humble, and grateful. Baseball has taught me to never give up. It has prepared me more than anything for the real world.
Many people wonder why we do what we do? What makes the hours of work worth it? What does it mean to be a Division III collegiate baseball player? Athletics at the Division III level are not about taking your game to the professional level. As a collegiate athlete at a demanding academic institution one has to ask himself why he sacrifices hours upon hours practicing and playing. What is the reward for a Division III baseball player?
It is hard to explain this to a non-participant because there is no real glory, no big crowds, and no million dollar contract in sight. For me, the answer is quite simple. "For the love of the game." You have to love it to do what we do on a daily basis.
At the conclusion of this season I might never put a uniform on my back again. I surely won't ever wear the Oberlin College number two jersey again. What gives me solace is the fact that nobody can ever take away my passion and love for the game. Doug Glanville (a former Major League outfielder and NY Times contributor) wrote about the "badge of honor" that every ballplayer wears on his sleeve. That "badge of honor" is why my teammates and I work so hard and dedicate ourselves to the game. I will exit the ball field at the end of this season knowing that I will always have that "badge of honor" from the exclusive fraternity of college baseball and the game of baseball itself.
Please follow me this week as my teammates and I play twelve games in six days during our stay in Phoenix.