Pine tar, fresh cut grass, oiled leather and stained caps. The unmistakable scents of Spring. Baseball was here and the clues are everywhere. Mother nature decided to tantalize our senses with a few glorious February days, and now the cabin fever is at an all-winter high. If you had to pause before driving to work while the urge to go back inside and get your bat bag assailed your schedule, you are not alone! Just one breath and your skin tingles with the joy of knowing baseball is back.
The Diamond Dawgs 2012 season is almost upon us, and this year they FINALLY boast a new set of walls to hit wiffle balls at. New seats and overpriced concessions coming soon. Baseball is where I can contribute, so please feel free to critique and offer up any advice or suggestions for content. There is a lot we can catch up on leading up to the season opener at San Diego State on Feb. 17. Here is the 2012 season schedule. I think a good roster analysis should be on tap first with some conference team previews. Here is a 2012 season primer to start things rolling.
This week is a perfect metaphor for the UW Baseball program. In his 3rd year as head coach Lindsay Meggs has work to do turning on the lights and finishing the 180 degree change in philosophy he was hired to oversee. A self described disciple of small ball, he inherited a roster built for the long ball. It's almost like they knew this was coming when they hired him. In his first 2 years at the helm the Huskies went 45-65, 21-31 in conference. That won't get it done, but Meggs and company are doing one hell of a Sark impersonation off the diamond with what he called “our first full recruiting class.”
This roster has more Californians and out-of-state players mixed in than any in recent memory. They signed a '12 recruiting class of 21 recruits hailed to be one of the best in the West and ranked 33rd nationally. The momentum kept going with 7 LOI's from the early signing period in November filling specific needs. It appears he has not only rebuilt our recruiting trail, he has also blazed into Cali and is aiming higher. Just like football, If we can start recruiting California consistently it will make us stronger and weaken our PAC 12 brethren. When you bring in 28 of “your” guys I expect to see growth and a transition into the Skippers vision. Pitching coach Dave Dangler, brought in for recruiting as much as good coaching (no, he hasn't worked for Cal..), is in year 2 and has found some new arms to bring into the fold. He scouted my brother when he was with the Orioles, and I can tell you he is a good salesman for the program to have. He also happens to know how to teach mechanics with the best of 'em. Good pitching should be on deck.
We seem to have a good blend of experience this year with a couple JC guys sprinkled in. How fast will this team gel? Communication is key to small ball. The overall situational awareness of the team and the ability to stay disciplined and execute properly will determine how successful we are this year. We need to stay patient and work the count. With the new bats swing selection and hit placement have become important again in college ball, and we need to swing for contact and string hits together. Insert a little situational power and you give your pitchers a cushion to relax and win with.
Pitchers have to stay 'heavy', keep the ball down and pitch for the out according to the moment. Why take 3 pitches to get an out when you can get him to ground out with 1? You can keep inning and pitch counts down in this system, thereby saving arms for post season play if your defense is stout. A field general catcher is paramount to manage pitchers and defensive positioning. Speed and defense never slump, unless you have a cold. Speed can pickup your offense on a bad day, and defense can get you a win as long your pitching doesn't completely tank and give up 5 dingers. Even the Mariners win occasionally. But they're playing more limp ball and less small ball as of late. C'mon Jesus Hernandez, save us!
Meggs and the AD by all accounts have a strong desire to bring post season tournaments to Seattle. In order for that to happen we need a new stadium. To get a new stadium we need you in the seats. With a proper venue this could be an absolutely beautiful setting to watch a game. The 2012 Dawgs if anything will be disciplined and plan to put the game in motion. You won't see as many home runs, but we still have pop in the lineup. College baseball should start to resemble baseball again, and that can make the entire game more enjoyable to watch, not just a few swings.