February 27, 2007
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For the obsessive baseball fan, there is one way to know that winter is coming to an end: spring training has started up. Down in Tampa and Port St. Lucie, the Yankees and Mets are working out in preparation for a new season.
Plenty of photos, controversies, and battles for position: there is nothing better then spring training after a long winter. But, for those fans that really want their baseball fix, why not look closer to home?
The St. John’s Red Storm has been playing regular season games since Feb. 17. After being picked in a Big East coaches’ poll to finish first in the conference, the team is off to a disappointing 0-6 start. Though it is hardly ideal, the team’s history suggests that it just needs to get rolling to have another productive season.
So, I have to ask: Why does New York not really care about collegiate baseball?
New York is known as a “baseball town.” The Yankees and Mets are staples of the city and certainly garner more attention than the struggling Knicks. Even during baseball’s offseason, it gets headlines and backpages for trades and free-agent signings.
Both of New York’s teams made it to the postseason last year and both have good chances at repeating this year. People go to games, people watch on television, and people read about it.
And perhaps all this is why no one cares about collegiate baseball. There is too much competition.
Not only are the Yankees and Mets in the general area, but there is also an independent league team, the Long Island Ducks, and the Mets’ minor league affiliate on Coney Island, the Brooklyn Cyclones. At best, the Red Storm is the fifth most covered baseball team in the region.
But there is plenty unique to collegiate baseball that fans could be missing out on by only watching the professionals. I hear people sing the praises of college football or basketball over their professional counterparts, but never with baseball.
In college, there are fewer homerun totals. Last season, Will Vogl led the team with 14 blasts. It gives the homerun some excitement that it can lack in the pros, where even American League No. 9 hitters can have pop in their bats.
In college, every run is congratulated. The team comes out to greet a baserunner crossing the plate-not only on walk-off hits. It might seem too much in the majors, but in college, it’s just being a team.
In college, players do weird things. Last season, it was not uncommon to see lefthander Scott Barnes or any other pitcher sitting in the stands behind home plate with a radar gun. And there are always one or two guys that are both position players and relief pitchers.
Perhaps most importantly, as a St. John’s student, there is a real connection to the team and the players. It is not so arbitrary as to be based simply on the part of the map you happen to live on.
Sure, it is nice to watch a homerun fly into the Yankee Stadium bleachers or see “the apple” go up after one at Shea Stadium.
But there is definitely something more rare and personal in watching a Johnnie blast one out onto Utopia Parkway.
It is fine to be a fan of a professional team-I’m one of the most obsessed Yankees fans you’ll find-but as an all-around baseball fan, the Red Storm experience is also something worthwhile and enjoyable.