A few hours after Sunday’s historic baseball victory, the Louisville baseball folks were calling families and telling their kids not to come to campus the next day. What was that, some kind of weird reverse psychology for recruiting?
No, the Cardinal coaching staff was scheduled to host the first session of its summer youth camp this week, but something came up unexpectedly. Instead, U of L will have to prepare for its first trip to the College World Series, and camp will have to wait a couple of weeks.
“We hate to have to call and cancel this week’s session, but I hope the families will understand,” said U of L head coach Dan McDonnell during a press conference Monday. His Cardinal team (46-22) will face No. 2 seed Rice (54-12) this Friday in Omaha, Neb., at 2 p.m. (ESPN2) in the opening game of the NCAA event. U of L will be honored at a free, downtown send-off rally in Louisville on Tuesday (4:30 p.m.) at Fourth Street Live!
“There’s been a lot of smiling around here,” admitted a stoic McDonnell (pictured left). “But you have to go about your day-to-day business and realize how fortunate we all are. There’s a lot of joy going on. Even though I might not show it, inside I’m smiling real big.”
What have the hours been like since the Cards clobbered Oklahoma State, 20-2, to earn a trip to Omaha?
“We’ve felt a lot of satisfaction,” McDonnell said. “I’m so happy for our players and my family. My wife has sacrificed so much and given me the opportunity to do what I love to do. It’s nice to sp/files/storyimages/time with your family, and I encouraged our players to do the same with their friends and relatives who came here for the games. I told them to enjoy this moment.”
Although his squad will be facing former national champion Rice, McDonnell plans to stick to the simple formula that has lifted his team from a bubble team to one of the final eight playing college baseball.
“We take a lot of pride in our scouting reports; we have a lot of detailed information,” he said. “But ultimately the ball has to cross the plate. Both teams have to throw it across the plate, we both have to make routine plays and we both will be trying to get some big hits. Right now, the process is mainly about what we’re doing and making sure we’re mentally ready to play this weekend.”
Certainly, the Cards will be considered underdogs since they’re first-time visitors to Omaha. But McDonnell notes his players have a right to be confident.
“At this point, we’re one of the best eight teams in the country, because we’re still playing,” he said. “As I’ve always said, you can’t back your way to Omaha. We definitely went through the front door, and I’ve had some people tell me we knocked the front door down.”
En route to the College World Series, U of L defeated Miami (Fla.) twice, Missouri twice and Oklahoma State twice, all quality wins against proven, and in some cases legendary, programs.
BROWN COULD HAVE BEEN RED – If you were impressed by the talented Oklahoma State right fielder Corey Brown (pictured left), whose spectacular throwing arm was a factor in last weekend’s NCAA Super Regional series, imagine this: he could have been playing for the Cardinals.
Three years ago, Brown, a native of Tampa, Fla., was recruited to play at U of L by former coach Lelo Prado and had decided he would sign with the Cards. The 6-2, 210-pounder was a baseball and football prospect who also drew significant interest from coaches at Florida, Florida State and Miami. However, there was the matter of a very serious criminal matter in Brown’s past. Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich and Prado conferred, and ultimately decided they should pass on signing Brown who later accepted a scholarship to att/files/storyimages/OSU in Stillwater, Okla.
To his credit, Brown straightened out his life and became a collegiate all-star. He was a three-time All-Big 12 Conference selection for the Cowboys, earning first-team honors in 2005 and 2007. He ranks in the top-10 all-time at OSU in home runs (47) and slugging percentage (.693).
Last week when he was in Louisville, Brown was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in Major League Baseball’s supplemental first round. He was the 59th player taken overall, just three spots after U of L pitcher Trystan Magnuson (56th) was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Brown was just one of a cast of Cowboys who were drafted this year. Third baseman Matt Mangini went to the Seattle Mariners as the 52nd overall pick and second baseman Tyler Mach was the fourth-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies (143rd overall). In all, 11 Oklahoma State players were drafted, surpassing the school’s record of nine who were picked in both 1985 and 1995. U of L had a total of nine players picked this year.
SPEAKING OF MAGNUSON – The Cards’ ace relief pitcher Trystan Magnuson (pictured left) may have had brief, conflicting thoughts about Louisville’s recent run to the College World Series. It seems the rash of late-season victories probably cost him major-league dollars.
Because of the rules regarding the MLB Draft and Magnuson’s status as a fifth-year graduate, had the Cards not advanced past the Missouri Regional, he could have been a virtual free agent with 32 teams bidding for his services. But according to rules, the bids couldn’t start until his team played its final game, and of course, the Cards are still playing. Once the new Draft day dawned, Magnuson was placed back in the pool of players for this year and now will only be able to negotiate with the Blue Jays.
A graduate of Louisville’s duPont Manual High School and U of L’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering, Magnuson will have plenty of good career options regardless of his salary and success in the pros. As one Cards’ official quipped, “Don’t worry, one day Trystan will probably be designing the next generation of space craft. He’s a U of L mechanical engineering graduate. He’ll do fine.”
NOTE: Daily columnist Ron Steiner also appears on the Red & Blue Review, a weekly statewide TV sports show (Insight Ch. 2), is published weekly in the Voice-Tribune and is a guest each Friday (5:45 p.m.) on the Cardinal Insider radio program (KRDS, 790AM). He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]