A busy couple of weeks prevented me from updating the baseball news as often as I'd have like to lately. With opening day less than a week away it is time to get focused. The Jayhawks first opponent, the University of Hawaii-Hilo, has already gotten its season underway. The Hawaii schools are allowed to start their season a week before the rest of the NCAA, presumably in deference to their unique scheduling problems. Hawaii won the first two games over Hawaii-Hilo. The Jayhawks open on Friday, February 22nd at Hawaii-Hilo. First pitch will be at 5PM CST. I haven't looked into media options yet for KU fans. Last year there wasn't even an audio web-cast and the only way I knew how to follow the games was through Gametracker. Hopefully a better option will be available this year.
While waiting for the real games, why don't you look into a few recent Daily Kansan articles. Shawn Shroyer published a nice introductory article on Tony Thompson last week. Thompson was the #1 baseball recruit out of Nevada last year and Coach Price made several trips to Reno to land this player. Not too put too much pressure on the true freshman, but Price expects him to hit .300, smack ten or more homeruns, and play solid defense at third base in his first year in Lawrence.
Third-baseman Tony Thompson is part of the outstanding freshman class who will be getting their KU careers underway next week.
Shroyer also reports that Nick Faunce was not penciled in as the starting centerfielder for 2008 last fall. Price was quoted as saying "Nick Faunce won the job in the fall." Confirming my earlier speculation, consideration was given to the possibility of shifting John Allman to center and sliding either Casey Larson or Brian Heere into the opening in left. Faunce apparently showed enough this summer and fall to put those plans on hold. Right now it is his job to lose. Preston Land enters 2008 as the KU starting first-baseman despite suffering a season long slump in 2007. Shroyer found that Land followed Kyle Murphy's plan and took a break from baseball by skipping summer league play. When he got back to the game in the fall Land felt "like his old self." Let's hope Land found a way to shake whatever was ailing him. A slugging Land would transform KU's line-up into a much more dangerous beast.
KU will open its home season on March 6th, vs. LeMoyne. The Syracuse, N.Y. Jesuit school is not to be taken lightly. They have a surprisingly good program despite only having an enrollment of 2,300 students. The Dolphins won the MAAC conference championship three of the last five years. Despite this, they were kicked out of the conference. Baseball is the only sport LeMoyne plays at the D-I level and the rest of the conference apparently were not willing to let them stay as a baseball only school. I guess that old saying, "Do one thing, and do it well" doesn't apply to MAAC athletics.
Few other quick hits if you still need a bigger KU Baseball fix: Rusin Dodd profiles Mike Zagurski. Former KU Catcher Del Chiaro is now the Los Angles Angel's rookie league hitting coach. Del Chiaro played at KU from 2000-01 and actually was with the major league Angels last year, but only in the capacity of a bullpen catcher. And speaking of KU alumni in the major leagues, the Lawrence Journal-World discovered that Ralph Houk may not have been the first Jayhawk in the majors. A bench player named Bob Edmondson logged 31 games with the Washington Senators between 1906 and 1908. Edmondson had fallen between the cracks partially because, the anonymous writer believes, he never promoted his status within the Lawrence community after returning to town to help his family run the family business. "I'm speculating, but it's likely Edmondson figured that linking his name to the sordid world of pro baseball would be bad for his neighborhood grocery business." I'd like to wrap this story up with a comment like, "My, how things have changed!" but after a week of Roger Clemens et al., maybe we should just tip our cap to the modest old timer.