While I got ya, here are nine things and one crazy prediction:
1. Texas had an impressive ride this post-season that in some ways mirrored Mississippi State, which once stood 15-15 in the SEC and one strike away from elimination by regional host Florida State. (What exactly does MSU interim coach Gary Henderson, a onetime English teacher, need to do to prove he should be the permanent head coach?) The Longhorns were much better than MSU in the regular season, but it’s all about peaking in May, which they did by sweeping TCU in the final regular-season series to claim the Big 12 title. And they will be better overall in 2019 with a hopefully deeper pitching staff, thanks to big-potential newcomers like Cole Quintanilla and possible closer Donny Diaz, who are both coming off Tommy John surgery, as well as Ty Madden and Coy Cobb.
“When you get a taste of this, it makes you hungry,” said coach David Pierce, who added that players need to embrace their roles. “And this motivates you and this builds a culture of expectation from our program. And that’s the beauty of it. Their accomplishments were great, but what they’ve done for Texas athletics and Texas baseball is tremendous.”
Pierce will have a wealth of options on defense and will consider returning Masen Hibbeler to the infield, perhaps first base. Outfielder Austin Todd showed glimpses of his live bat with two pinch-hit singles in the College World Series. Versatile freshman Bryce Reagan and power hitter Alec Carr as well as intense grinder Chase Roberts are talented players who will fight for playing time in the infield. Could Kam Fields be a center fielder/reliever? I think Texas is scratching the surface, but it has to hit better than .250 in the CWS and leave 22 on base.
2. The NCAA has to do something to improve and shorten the rain-drenched CWS. ESPN’s Kyle Peterson, the best analyst in the college game, shared his bold suggestions with Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel. I loved all of them. Among them are holding the major league draft in the days leading up to the CWS (or have it after); and playing the opening CWS games on a Friday instead of a Saturday to allow the best-of-three championship series to begin on the second Saturday and Sunday instead of a workday Monday so there are always games on the weekends. And another of his suggestions — scheduling a regular-season major-league game at TD Ameritrade Park on a Wednesday night — actually was announced on Wednesday (Royals-Tigers). I’d go even further. Make Peterson the NCAA baseball czar.
3. Got to love the creativity of baseball teams during these rain delays. Washington played hangman in the locker room. But Oregon State really used its imagination during the four-hour, 31-minute delay, playing a game of Mafia. Beavers first baseman Tyler Malone explained that certain players adopt the roles of a Mafia, a sheriff and a doctor. “So the Mafia chooses who they want to kill or take out of the town,” he said. “And the sheriffs try to determine who was in the Mafia, and then the doctor tries to save him. It gets pretty heated.” Then there’s the rally banana of MSU.
4. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey told me in Omaha that he welcomes the two new NCAA rules changes that allow football players to play four games in a season and still keep their redshirt status and let dissatisfied players have more control on notifying their current school of their transfer plans rather than asking for permission. “I don’t know if I’d say they are going to be monumental, but we had to move away from controlling the communication, the destination and the financial aid,” Sankey said. “It’s a good thing to make those decisions more cleanly.” He also thinks the change in the redshirt policy will give coaches “a little bit more flexibility, but I think it remains to be seen how coaches will adapt. It’s an opportunity thing. But we want to avoid any tampering concerns.” Sankey doesn’t necessarily believe the change could lead to five years of eligibility in part — which would end all redshirting issues but won’t be passes because schools ridiculously claim poverty — because “more people are graduating in 3 1/2 years.”
5. Mo Bamba, who along with former linebacker Malik Jefferson may be the two most socially conscious athletes ever at Texas, has revealed he once went to a chess tournament in Philadelphia. “I got second or third,” Bamba said. “I came home with this trophy, and my brothers are bringing massive 6-foot trophies.” Bamba said he’s only 1-7 against his chess mentor. The former Longhorns center also said he had a goal of visiting every continent before he turned 21 but still has to check Europe and Africa off his list. He calls himself a hybrid 5 who defensively can guard anyone on the floor. “That fits in with direction of the league.”
6. Brooks Koepka’s defense of his U.S. Open crown continued an impressive string of five straight majors by Americans in their 20s, joining Masters champion Patrick Reed (27), PGA champion Justin Thomas (25), and British Open winner Jordan Spieth (24). Koepka is 28. Americans have won seven of the last nine majors and came close to making it eight but for Henrik Stenson’s one-stroke win over Phil Mickelson in the 2016 British Open. Golf’s in good hands. Uh, American tennis, not so much.
7. Count me among those who thought Mickelson should have been disqualified from the U.S. Open for clearly trying to take advantage of a curious rule and taking a two-stroke penalty for striking a moving ball. He disrespected the integrity of the game and should have been out of the tournament. Or disqualified himself. Wasn’t golf once a gentleman’s game?
8. Texas Tech is enjoying one of its best years ever in the money sports. Tim Tadlock’s Red Raiders baseball team was due to play Arkansas on Wednesday to determine which team would start 2-0 in the CWS, and Chris Beard’s basketball team reached its first Elite Eight level with the second-most wins (27) in school history and a No. 6 final national ranking. Kliff, you’re up. Fix football and Tech may have the best three coaches in the Big 12’s bread-and-butter sports.
9. Saw on the internet a list of the top 10 baseball movies of all time, but no such list can be complete without “Sandlot,” a 10-ducker, and “Eight Men Out.”
10. Crazy prediction: Kawhi Leonard will be a Boston Celtic.
BOHLS, GOLDEN PODCAST
Columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden are taking a week off from their weekly “On Second Thought” podcast, which normally pops up on Thursdays.
HOW CRAZY WAS HE?
Looking back at Kirk’s crazy prediction from June 21, 2017 — that Texas football would win at USC last fall. The Longhorns ended up taking the No. 4-ranked Trojans to overtime but fell 27-24. The rematch is Sept. 15 in Austin.