Final MVC thoughts---
I want to congratulate the staff at Indiana State for running a good Missouri Valley Conference baseball Tournament. The commitment they made to a facilities upgrade was significant, beyond that their organization and hospitality made the week in Terre Haute a real pleasure. It helped that the weather was perfect and the baseball good. Dallas Baptist is going to be a factor in this league as long as they’re in it. Head coach Dan Heefner is the third youngest coach in division one history to reach 250 wins and he hasn’t done it with luck, little wonder that Wichita State tried to hire him last year.
In fact, Heefner and Illinois State’s Mark Kingston are two of the most rapidly rising stars in college baseball. Both are relatively young guys, with an already established winning track. Heefner has, essentially, been the architect of baseball at DBU, where they’ve had more players drafted over the last two years than any other university in Texas. Yes, that includes such powers as Texas, Baylor and Texas A&M.
Kingston has won better than 32 games in each of his first five years at ISU; no other Redbird coach has five 30 win seasons in a career. He was in the late mix for the opening at Oklahoma last year and is thought to be the top candidate for the just opened job at Tulane, where he was an assistant for seven years; either way one doesn’t get the sense that he’s long for Illinois State.
As bad, or as down, as the Valley was in basketball this year---it was good in baseball. The league boasted five teams with 31 or more wins, all of which were in the top 100 of the RPI, two (Dallas Baptist and Indiana St.) will reach the NCAA. It was one of the best years I can remember for pitching the league and that’s sure to be reflected in the upcoming draft.
Always thinking hoops---
Anytime you’re in Indiana basketball is never very far off the minds of the locals. There was a lot of conversation about the Valley about who might step forward to challenge Wichita State. The overwhelming consensus continues to be the Shockers and everyone else, which isn’t necessarily good for the Valley. Gregg Marshall has set the bar high—he’s the best coach, with the most talent, at the most well-funded program in the conference, with the league’s best fan base. It’s a lethal combination for the rest of the conference’s rank and file and, frankly, there seems to be a certain amount of resignation about it.
Pacers and Indy 500---
As you would expect, there’s a lot of interest here in the Pacers and their NBA playoff with the Heat, which Miami now leads 2-1. But the Indianapolis 500 is far more deeply rooted in the sporting fabric of Indiana. The locals are fiercely protective of this tradition even as it’s become a more provincial event for the rest of us. I mean, how often do you really pay any attention to Formula One, or any kind of open wheel racing? I was thinking about this I listened to a couple of guys debate who this weekend’s favorites were and it occurred to me that I’m familiar with just a few names in the field at Indy. I’ve never watched this race from start to finish, but I was always aware of it growing up and knew well who Mario Andretti, AJ Foyt, the Unsers, Rick Mears and many more were. When and why did the Indy 500 fall out of the mainstream of sports?
My friend Roger Cornish swears by this event and his been many times. His passion for it has always made me curious and it’s probably still top three on my sports bucket list—The Masters, Kentucky Derby and Indy 500, there’s got to be a reason that it’s still called the greatest spectacle in racing.
Back on the air tomorrow---
After eleven games in five days for ESPN3 and Fox, it'll be good to get back to a little less hectic schedule. Please join me tomorrow on a holiday edition of Sports Daily; it’s always good to hear your observations on the events of the weekend. That’s Monday through Friday from 9:00-11:00am on KFH, 1240AM, 98-7FM. Have a safe Memorial Day.