Today, I'm reminded of a story.
It was during that  southern trek that he watched a University of Georgia baserunner try to score from second base on a single to center when a strong throw home seemed to beat the runner. When the umpire yelled “safe,” Michigan catcher Goodloe Rogers spun about and hit the umpire while players swarmed onto the field.
“Rogers was always getting into fights,” said Rickey later, in barely concealed glee. “I never could find out whether or not he started them, but he was always involved. We were down playing Georgia. I was on crutches as a result of a broken leg [a batted ball in practice had fractured a small bone in his foot]. Well, as usual, a fight started around home plate, and I hobbled off the bench and must have prodded several players with my crutches.”
Rogers, the team’s colorful, zany, and angry man - the sort of person Rickey always loved to have on his ball clubs - watched his coach in action.
“When the brawl was over, there lay B.R. flat on his back near home plate, his leg in a cast sticking straight up in the air. On of his crutches was found in the Georgia dugout. The other was in the stands.”
That came from an biography of Branch Rickey. It's been a rough year as a Michigan sports fan. Sure, volleyball was fun, but the last year has been one disappointment after another in the big sports that most of hang on to dearly.
Last year's opening day post at Varsity Blue came in a much different time. It had been a mild winter, and spring had already been starting to crack through to end the dreary season. Michigan was coming off 3 straight BigTen regular season titles. There was a warm feeling all around.
Every Opening Day, I have this tradition. I pray -- hard. One prayer for each loss in the previous season. It usually takes all day. But I think it's working. - Royals fan "Troy" in Liberty, Mo.
This year was something a little bit different. The Michigan athletics curse of 2009-2010 began to creep. After a dominant start in the BigEast/BigTen Challenge, Michigan started to struggle. Pitchers fatigued, players were injured, and ugly losses began to rear their head.
It ended up being a tough year, but as the saying goes, hope springs eternal. This spring is no different. Michigan has reloaded with the #18 overall recruiting class in the country, something nearly unheard of for a Northern program. The Wolverines return all but one major contributor to the 2009's best Big Ten pitching staff. Several key players have an extra year's experience.
This year we're hungry. Last season was a bad call by some crack-pot, home-cooking umpire from Georgia in 1912. This season is a fight for respect. Michigan is back at full health and they've got no other use for these crutches. Michigan is coming out swinging.
Weekend preview after the jump.
Quick note: I'll be doing these a bit shorter than I did last year (example: here), especially not for the non-conference. I found out rather quickly that too many games come up too quickly to offer as good of previews as I'd like. Hopefully I can devout enough time to the Big Ten when the time comes.
Michigan Preview Links
Just a reminder, I've recapped the following previews for those of you who missed them: Initial Schedule Reaction, Maloney Podcast, A Look Back, Pitching, The Infield, The Catchers and Outfield, Breaking Down the BigTen. This weekend has the chance to be a little tough on the Wolverines, but neither opponent is that daunting.
Or ask commenter TTUWolverine. He's a meteorologist and at Texas Tech.
- Friday 1pm CT – Live Stats
Tyler Burgoon vs Daniel Watts
- Saturday 1pm CT – Live Stats
Alan Oaks vs Jordan Beistline
- All Time Series: 0-1 (Loss 1-3 in 2000)
Jacksonville State is picked to finish second in the Ohio Valley Conference and is home to Todd Cunningham, a junior outfielder listed as a 1st Team Preseason All-American in Ping! and Baseball America's rankings. He was also voted the Cape Cod League’s Outstanding Pro Prospect by the MLB. That's one heck of an honor.
However, after Cunningham, Jacksonville doesn't have many other names of note. Their Friday starter, Daniel Watts, was their third best starter last year with mediocre stats (5-5, 5.16 ERA, 53 Ks in 59 innings). Their Saturday starter had similar numbers (3-4, 4.56 ERA, 26 K in 51 innings). Their closer Bill Henke is worth keeping an eye on. He registered 9 saves in 25.2 innings last year, striking out 21.
Michigan should do well against the Gamecocks, but with just one day to practice outside, we'll have to wait and see.
- Saturday 4pm CT – Live Stats, Watch ($)
Matt Miller vs Bobby Doran
- Sunday 11am CT – Live Stats, Watch ($)
TBA vs Louis Head
- All Time Series: 0-0 (150th opponent to ever play at Law Field)
Texas Tech, despite being a Big 12 team, isn't a very good one. They've been picked to finish last in the Big12 this season, despite returning almost their entire squad that made the Big 12 tournament championship last season and a 93 RPI. Either way, a win over a Big 12 team is a handy skin to our backs if we can take it.
We don't know much about either pitcher yet. Doran is a JUCO transfer that had been drafted in the 36th round out of high school. His stats at the JUCO level were pretty good, but that isn't always relevant to Division 1 ball. He's their number two starter behind the ace Bettis, so it'll be wait and see. Head is a sophomore with meh stats last year as well. He's their fourth starter, so I don't expect him to be outstanding.
The Red Raiders do have two solid batters in their line up with shortstop Joey Kenworthy and Taylor Ashby. Kenworthy hit .335 last year, but he is contact or nothing. He didn't accumulate many walks (.378 on base percentage) and his slugging percentage was only .417. Ashby is much the same with an average of .330, slugging percentage of .420, and on base percentage of .392.
Catcher Jeremy Mayo is their top returning slugger, with an OPS of 1.071. His 11 homeruns is top among returners. His arm will also be tested this weekend. Last year, 42 of 66 base stealers were successful, which is about average for college catchers.
Texas Tech Preview from Lubbock Avalanche Journal
Tech has high hopes as season opener arrives
“We’ve actually got a great indoor facility, but its not the same as being outside,” [Rich Maloney] said. “Our guys are chomping at the bit just to get outside and see a fly ball, see a pitch that’s out in the open versus in between walls.”