Let me go TMZ right away. People love the dirt on or from big celebrities that allows the web site to thrive. By bringing up TMZ, maybe readers will not get turned off by a post on college baseball. Hang in there.
Think about Charlie Sheen. Is that a big enough name with a messy enough life for you? Charlie Sheen is big into college baseball. I am sure TMZ recently reported that Sheen, while giving a pep talk to the No. 1-rated UCLA baseball team, imparted this bit of wisdom, “Stay off crack, and drink chocolate milk.”
Really good advice from a man that knows of what he speaks. However, that is not the only bit of baseball wisdom from Sheen – and the word “wisdom” is used with trepidation given Sheen’s track record of drug and alcohol abuse to go along with his wild partying. The former star of classic movie Major League does have a major interest in baseball.
Sheen regularly takes batting practice before or after UCLA practices with a variety of real Major League baseball players. In an interview on the Dan Patrick radio show recently, Sheen discussed the new baseball bats the NCAA has mandated for this season.
“I hit a ball that would have been halfway up the light pole in center last year, Sheen said. “This year it landed on the warning track.” Sorry Charlie. “Gorilla ball” has become extinct.
The trampoline effect that was sending even check swings flying over the fences is a thing of the past. The technology developed for non-wood bats since the late 1970s has led to monster scores, games that dragged out over many hours and made balls coming off the latest composite bats deadly weapons. The NCAA now mandates bats with lower “moments of inertia.” Weight has been shifted from closer to the handle to the barrel effectively slowing swing speeds. That is about as scientific as I can get.
When KU opened their home season Tuesday on a sunny but cold day, the distinctive “ping” of bat meeting ball had been replaced by a strangely dead sound that was only a precursor of balls that no longer fly like an eagle.
Steve Abney, a former KU assistant coach, now scouting for the Cleveland Indians told me, “We are going to find out who the real hitters are really fast.”
Small ball is back. Bunts, steals and hit and runs will make the game more exciting in time. Speed, not brawn, will become the new premium. That is good for the game and good for photographs, I hope. Combine the new bats with KU’s full-field artificial turf and balls should be scooting through holes and into gaps.
The turf has added a new quiet at the old ballpark. Running with cleated shoes on a dirt infield had a distinctive sound that has been muted by the new turf and its ground rubber fill. The bounces surely are true though, and games can be played in far worse conditions than Tuesday’s cold. That is a major bonus for any program not based at a Sunbelt school.
It will take more games for me to decide whether I like the bats and the turf, but there is one new rule that I already love. The third base umpire now holds a special stopwatch. Pitchers must throw the next pitch in no more than 20 seconds with no runners on base. As well, there can be no more than 90 seconds between innings for a non-televised game. Thank goodness.
Charlie Sheen might not like the new bats robbing him of his “Chicks dig the long ball” approach to the game, but the new speed of the game will give him time to make the scene at a party much sooner. Unless the lower scoring games lead to more extra inning games like KU has played in two of their first four games.
That could drive Sheen to drink. Then “boom.” Sheen is back on TMZ.