Monday, November 13, 2006

NCAA: Five Reasons Why You Should Watch College Baseball

By Dustin Hockensmith

Why is college baseball so hard for people to like? I've theorized that a.) baseball is a game of such precision that mediocre play is very hard to watch, and b.) it is much more difficult to bridge the gap from amateur to professional. I understand those things, but I still stand by the fact that if you can make it to a college game, at least give it a shot, and here are my reasons why (in no particular order):

1. Top Talent in its Early Stages
Call me crazy, but I like to see a player before he reaches his potential. Maybe it's because I like to tell my friends that "I saw [insert name here] before he hit it big" or maybe it's because it's fun to guess if a guy will be any good. No matter, that's one of the great, tangible results of following any sport, but it's lacking in baseball.

2. Half Business, Half Pleasure
If or when a player begins his professional career, it's much like when any of us graduate from college. What you study or do while at school doesn't feature the kinds of responsibility and structure that your career will. Competitive sport is no different, so the purity of watching kids play baseball and be college students is a pretty refreshing change of pace.

3. Groupies
A tremendous addition to any college stadium, wannabe groupies tend to come in packs to games, with some locales featuring more talent than others. Georgia Tech, NC State and Miami, thanks for the memories; Pittsburgh, UNC-Wilmington and Fairfield, I think we should just be friends.

4. MLB Lite
If you ask someone to describe their perception of college baseball in one word, I would bet that "Ping!" comes up quite a few times. Forget about the association of metal bats with the college game and focus on the players and things like conference batting titles, the jubilation of an NCAA Tournament berth and the College World Series. They don't get the same love as their Major League Baseball equivalents, but they're only slightly lesser versions.

5. Draft Time Surprises
As someone with a minor stake in the uncertainty of baseball's amateur draft, I've grown to be a little frustrated with its inefficiencies. But at the same time, the massive and confusing nature of ranking 1,500 four-year college, junior college and high school players has created a number of great draft-day success stories. To be able to find an Albert Pujols in the 13th round or Mike Piazza in the 62nd round is about as common as first round picks that crash and burn. To put it simply, anything can and does happen.

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