The Old College Try: A Season Watching NCAA Baseball

I am a rabid baseball. I have followed the Boston Red Sox my whole life, covered them with Over the Monster and SBNation on their way to a historic collapse and a glorious World Series run. I have written about trades and transaction both massive and minor. I have spoken on the radio about the game for audiences across the country, in Canada and in Japan. Typically, I spend this time of the year digging deep into the prospect rankings out of Baseball America, Minor League Ball, and Keith Law. In the desperate hours of winter, I have even turned to obscure broadcasts of winter league games, just to get me to the days when Pitchers and Catchers Report. I go overboard for baseball, I go deep.

But I have never gone into the world of College Baseball.

SAT-style analogy:  College Football is to College Baseball as Game of Thrones is to
A: Stranger Things
B: 9-1-1
C: Mad Men
D: AMC’s Rubicon


If you chose D, you are not only correct, you are a giant nerd who still pines for a slow-moving show with no stars that no one watched. You are me and only me.

Tortured analogy aside, there is no denying that, while College Football and College Basketball both own places of honor in sporting culture, College Baseball is fringey and weird and of interest only to a small subset of the population that consists of scouts, wanna-be scouts, prospect writers, ex-College baseball players and… I have no idea who else is in this group. While College Basketball and College Football feed the professional leagues with talent, College Baseball has to deal with kids signing out of high school, international prospects,  international free agents and a development process that is longer than the one that Good Will Hunting had to battle through. The other NCAA sports have their place at the center of the universe, but even in the baseball world, the College game is a tiny niche.

That is part of the appeal for me. I grew up on College Basketball and loved it with my heart and soul at one time. Give me God Shamgod in Friar black and grey in March and I am all in. But the NCAA has made it hard to feel that same thing now. Kids make millions for their schools and get one or two years of fake educations and we are supposed to look the other way, or worse, be indignant when it turns out that these kids are getting paid under the table. Fuck that. Pay those kids.

Baseball’s older roots in America have made it separate from that system of dishonors to at least a small degree. Kids actually choose college ball over the minors and they make that choice for a ton of reasons, all of which are interesting and worth thinking about. Some actually want to go to school. Some will get more money two years down the road when they have developed more, since baseball is not as accepting of 19-20-year-olds as other sports. Others aren’t in the draft’s field of vision and go to school hoping to get there. All of this makes College ball fascinating. All of this means that I should give at least one season over to watching the College game. If I want to better understand this game I love, I need to do this.

I had kicked around the idea the of following the college game before, but I am committing to it this season in part because of the encouragement and assistance of Michael Bauman, the Ringer baseball writer and one of my favorite baseball people. This off-season he offered help to anyone looking to get into the college game via twitter and I reached out to ask about the best ways to follow. In the course of making good on his offer, Bauman gave me advice on how to follow the game and pointed another interested tweeter to Northeastern teams worth watching. Among them, the St. John’s Red Storm, who are currently ranked 25th by Baseball America and who happened to be local for me.

So this is my experiment. I will spend the 2018 NCAA baseball season following St. John’s baseball team. I hope to see at least one game in Queens, in person. I will follow every game as best I can, watching them when possible, reading the box scores and recaps when I can’t watch and generally obsessing over the team as much as possible. I hope it will be fun. I hope it will teach me something about baseball. Whatever happens, I will be writing about it here, channeling a strange experiment about a silly obsession into what promises to be a bizarre read of minimal import.

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