The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

April 3, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: Baseball in summer would drive in fans

MORGANTOWN — The great Roger Angell, the groundbreaking essayist of the New Yorker magazine who this year won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for his career accomplishments as a baseball writer, changed the art of baseball writing forever back in 1972 with his first book on baseball.

He titled it “The Summer Game.”

College baseball didn’t take the hint and now Randy Mazey, the coach who is reinventing baseball at West Virginia University, believes it’s time that they do.

He is pushing to have the sports season changed from spring to the summer, a revolutionary idea that makes so much sense that it’s almost certain the NCAA would never accept it.

Saying that doesn’t faze Mazey one bit.

“That’s what drives me, people saying I can’t do something,” Mazey said.

It’s hard to argue with the points he makes about playing The Summer Game in the summer.

“Look at us,” he said, standing down the left field foul line at Hawley Field Wednesday as his team practiced for their weekend series at TCU. “If we were standing here next Wednesday doing this interview, we would have played 28 games – the season would be half over – and we have played on this field one time.

“You can’t get a fan base established. Who’s going to start coming to games when the season is half over? There’s all the reason in the world to play the game in the summer time and I’m going to beat my fist on the desk until the person who is highest on the totem pole says to turn around and go home.”

“I said it a bunch, ever since I’ve gotten here we’ve talked about Big 12 baseball, Big 12 baseball, and people haven’t seen us play it yet. They aren’t going to drive to Charleston from Morgantown to watch a series,” he continued.

Yet that was what people in Morgantown had to do all of last year if they wanted to see Big 12 baseball, and they didn’t do much of it.

Not that the crowds would have been good at Hawley Field, either.

But what if, as Mazey wants it, baseball would start in March with “spring training” then play the season beginning in mid-April?

“We could then play the season and play the College World Series in the middle of August. Then school starts in the fall,” Mazey said.

Think of that for a moment, being the only game in town. No other sports would be going on at WVU and the only school would be summer school.

“The TV package would be incredible,” Mazey said, magic words to the financial people who now run college athletics. “There’s no college sports televised in the summer time. There’s literally no competition.”

But play in the spring and you are battling so many things, the weather just being one of them.

“Last night, when we were playing Pitt, when the first pitch was thrown there were eight people in the stands. I counted them. If we played Pitt on June 25 – either here or there – there would be 3,000 or 4,000 people, you would think.

“Maybe not there, where they have the Pirates, but definitely here in a small college town.”

Mazey even has this dream of his for a showcase week.

“I’ve set aside July 4th in my mind as “Rivalry Week.” Think of it, an Ohio State-Michigan weekend series on July 4th. You would have to play it in a big league stadium. There might be 20,000 of 30,000 people who would want to come watch that series.”

So who would come out against this?

The Southern schools, that’s who, schools that recruit on their weather and the fact that they can play when the northern schools can’t. What’s more, they would not want to play their games in the 90 and 100 degree temperatures and humidity you can get in Florida and Georgia and Mississippi and Alabama and Texas in the summer, to say nothing Arizona.

“You know, the Diamondbacks do it, so I don’t see why they can’t do it. When I brought it up at the Big 12 coaches meeting every school but one voted for it. You’re talking about some Southern schools,” Mazey noted.

“There’s every reason in the world to do it – financially, socially, academically. It’s just a matter of whether some people are going to be willing to give up their obvious competitive advantage that they have over Northern schools.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel

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