SInce 2009, cold-weather teams have descended upon the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area to open their season at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge. This year, 20 teams from the two conferences will play a total of 30 games over the three days of opening weekend, at four different fields located at current and former MLB spring training facilities.
It seems logical that teams from those two cold-weather conferences would want to open their season against other cold-weather teams in a warm location, rather than have to face a Southern opponent that has already been practicing outside for weeks. But the Challenge will have a different look in 2013, according to Angel Natal of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission, which hosts the event.
"Apparently the Big Ten coaches voted against having to attend the event through the conference," Natal said in an e-mail.
But the event is not being discontinued altogether. Natal said six total teams have committed for a three-versus-three event next year. He said the Sports Commission hopes to continue with a four-on-four format in future years, and they hope to keep the title of the event the same, though it will no longer be a bonanza for Northern scouts, who love seeing players from 20 teams in one stop.
The Sports Commission hosted a junior-college tournament this past weekend, and going forward it intends to kick off the season with the JC tourney, followed by a Division II tournament the next weekend, and the scaled-down Big Ten/Big East event the weekend after that.
The University of San Diego unveiled plans for a major stadium project to begin after this season. The new stadium will be built at site of the current Cunningham Stadium, but it will be renamed Fowler Park and Cunningham Field. Construction on the $13 million facility is scheduled to be completed in time for 2013.
"There's an opportunity for us to jump to a level of excellence that, in my mind, represents what the campus represents," USD executive director of athletics Ky Snyder told BA contributer Kirk Kenney in the San Diego Union-Tribune. "We've been a little behind what the campus represents."
Check out a gallery of impressive renderings of USD's new park here.
Miami catcher Peter O'Brien has finally been cleared to play in 2012 by the NCAA, according to Hurricanes coach Jim Morris.
O'Brien slugged 34 homers over the last two years at Bethune-Cookman and was drafted by the Rockies in the third round last June. He did not sign, instead transferring to Miami for his senior year. He applied for an eligibility waiver from the NCAA on the grounds that the Miami Gardens native was transferring to be near his mother, who was battling health problems. It took several months and a lot of paperwork, but his request was eventually granted this morning.
O'Brien is a key piece for the Hurricanes. He will join with Rony Rodriguez to give Miami a powerful one-two punch in the middle of the lineup. His receiving has also improved during his college career, and he has a strong arm behind the plate. But his best tool is his well above-average raw power—during his 2010 summer with Team USA, scouts marveled at his strength. He'll make a major impact for the 'Canes.
My favorite part of last week's American Baseball Coaches Association convention was talking with former North Carolina bullpen catcher Chase Jones about his ongoing work to raise money for childhood cancer research through the St. Baldrick's Foundation.
Jones' story really begins in 2006. One day after baseball practice, he started getting terrible headaches. UNC's student health services initially thought he was suffering migraines, but it turned out he had a brain tumor. He had surgery on Oct. 5, 2006, then underwent five rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.
"I was fortunate being 18 and being healthy and physically fit, so physically it wasn't as taxing on me," Jones said. "Mentally, it was the hardest thing I've ever done, as far as going to a treatment that makes you feel worse, and you don't know what the end result is going to be. Going to something that makes you feel like crap, and then you've got to go do it the next day and the next day—that was really shocking. But it was so inspiring to see kids next to me doing it the same thing, at such a young age, taking on the same things I did. That just changed my whole perspective."
In 2010, Jones organized BaseBald for the Cure at UNC. Before a game, players and coaches shaved their heads to raise awareness and money for cancer research and treatment. For every $100 donated to the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center, one Tar Heel baseball player shaved his head. That first drive raised $6,400. They did it again the next year and raised $15,000 more. [...] Continue Reading »
The coaching carousel is usually quiet in January, but today we've got a pair of head coaching changes to report in the Northeast. Wagner coach Joe Litterio is leaving after 12 years to take a job as an assistant at his alma mater, Rutgers. And Michael "Butch" Caulfield, who was set to serve as "head assistant" at New York Institute of Technology, confirmed to Baseball America that he has resigned for reasons he declined to discuss. (Note: a previous version of this story incorrectly stated Caulfield was named head coach this fall.) College Baseball Daily first reported that news earlier Wednesday.
Litterio went 240-372 as Wagner's head coach, leading the Seahawks to the program's only regional appearance in 2000. He was a standout player at Rutgers from 1990-93, and long-time Scarlet Knights coach Fred Hill approached him to fill an unexpected coaching vacancy over the holidays. Assistant Darren Fenster accepted a job as the hitting coach at low Class A Greenville in the Red Sox system, according to a source. Litterio said that within a week of that development, he agreed to join the Rutgers staff.
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