(NOTE: This post is longer than I usually write, but I thought it important to not cut the story short)
Over the past few years, my interest in baseball has grown. I was into sports (as a consumer mostly) for a large part of my life, and around the time I got married I stopped following professional sports for the most part. Sure I’d follow things, and if someone asked I had a favorite team in most sports groupings, but I rarely knew more than a little of what was going on. Even when I followed it, football was my favorite sport and rarely would choose to watch baseball unless it was the post-season.
When Tim Tebow got picked up by the Denver Broncos, having been an avid Broncos fan, I got drawn back in a little. I started having conversations with other friends who were much more avid fans of sports and interacting when I’d travel about local sports, particularly SEC Football in frequent trips to Memphis. And then I started interacting with some friends who had a deep interest in baseball and started to appreciate the nuances of the game. I started to watch a little more and pick up more of what was going on with pinch hitting, pitcher changes, pitch selection and more. It became interesting to me, much more mentally engaging when I watched it.
When the movie Moneyball came out I found another intriguing side of baseball I’d missed: the mechanisms of the front office. Trading, contracts, drafts and lineups began to have even deeper interest for me. (I’ve seen Moneyball multiple times and I think I’ll watch it again before the season starts.)
Still I only had a passing interest in the game. Then Ben Zobrist got traded to the Kansas City Royals in 2015. I had a friend who was a huge Royals fan and he also happened to be related to the Zobrists (Ben is from central Illinois where I live) and I found myself glued to the TV during the post season watching both the Cubs (I adopted them as my “favorite” team when I moved to Illinois because I love an underdog) and the Royals progress, unsure of who I’d root for in the World Series if both made it. The Royals won the series and I was now hooked on baseball.
And then Ben, now a free agent, signed with the Cubs. For the first time in my adult life I was watching regular season baseball and arguing on Twitter about whether they were going to choke or not (they’re the Cubs…they have to right?). And then they had the dream season, winning 103 games and then the obligatory 11 to walk off the last game of the season as the winner. The icing on the cake was Zobrist winning the MVP title at the series.
And now I’m a baseball fan. I’m following the off-season trades and signings for the Cubbies. I’m familiar with the names of their top prospects and the location of their minor league teams. I’m hooked. I can debate the pros and cons of the various players on the “bubble” who may or may not be on the 25 man roster when they open the season on the road against the Cardinals. And I’m flying out to Phoenix to visit my parents to attend 2 Spring Training games in March.
It was somewhat gradual over the last two years, but now it is my most time consuming hobby. It engages my brain in ways I want it to with absolutely no reminders of my day job. It scratches an itch I needed for a leisure activity and I’ve been trying to interest my kids a bit more, and have at least one avid fan in the group.
The level of insanity has gotten this far: I’m following 2-3 baseball blogs (mostly Cub centered) and I came upon the following post:
Ownership is what makes sports worth arguing over. It makes it worth looking a fool if you ask a dumb question.(There are dumb questions. I’ve asked plenty of them.)
For Draft Prep to work, and for this series to continue, some of you need to make this a worthwhile segment. Al already knows this. I want you (the person reading this) to take a college baseball team.
The author is trying to garner interest in the baseball draft in June and got readers to volunteer to research a team and keep up with that college team during the season. Being insane, I picked two teams: the Villanova Wildcats and the Bradley Braves. Bradley is here in Peoria (and my alma mater) and I usually root for Nova in the NCAA tournament every year (they’re defending the title this March/April).
My first assignment: coach, opening game, and pre-season all conference notes. Here it is:
Villanova Wildcats (Big East, college home of Cubbie Matt Szczur)
- Head Coach: Kevin Mulvey
- Opening game: February 17 @ Norfolk State
- Pre-Season All-conference: (Big East): I could not find this year’s pre-season list…last year’s came out on 1/28 so it may be too early.
Bradley Braves (Missouri Valley Conference)
- * Head coach: Elvis Dominguez
- Opening game: February 17 @ Texas A&M-Corpus
- Pre-Season All-conference: (MV) (no returning all-conference from last year, and I could not find a preseason document)
I’ll probably write more about baseball as the season goes on, but for right now, I’m counting down the days until the spring games start.