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Mandy Mitchell

College baseball just getting to its prime

Posted June 7, 2013

Current South Carolina head baseball coach Chad Holbrook remembers life playing in Chapel Hill well.

"When I played there, the cages were all dirt," he said laughing. "Coach (Mike Roberts) would run us, and it was so dusty, we would spit up dirt. It would come through my nose."

A fine illustration of what college baseball used to be back in the day. Way back in 1990, that is, when Holbrook played for the Heels. Not that long ago by normal standards, but it is a different world for the sport these days.

"I went to a regional my freshman year and we played on a football field. In a regional," Holbrook said.

Now every regional game is broadcast online and many on TV. Most coaches are very quick to thank ESPN for the growth of college baseball. The network certainly deserves a bulk of the credit, but I think it goes way deeper than that.

Take Boshamer stadium for example. UNC spent a bunch of money in 2008 to renovate. The capacity is now up to 5,000. The park includes a suite level. It has a lot of the comforts of a major league park. The players have access to a state-of-the-art clubhouse. They have indoor batting cages and a player's lounge. Needless to say, these guys won't be telling stories of coughing up dirt when they reflect on their glory days in 20 years.

The sport also owes some of the boom the last few years to the change in bats. The NCAA changed to a more "wood-like" bat in 2011. Some thought this would hurt popularity at the time of the change, but it's made the game much more watchable. You see fewer 16-14 games and more strategy. You see more high-level pitchers giving the sport a try thanks to the new bats. They know their development will be more like the minor leagues. That wasn't the case in the "ping-era".

"It's made a lot of big strides and improvements," said UNC head coach Mike Fox. "Just sitting (in front of a bunch of media) is new. It's exciting."

And it just continues to get bigger. It's one sport where the "good ol' days" may be now.
 

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  • Hokies94 Jun 11, 6:30 p.m.

    Mandy. You certainly picked the best topic of all other writers in this one. To have two teams next door going to the Super deal is really awesome. I'm kinda close to UNC because of my son, but, I wouldn't bet a dime on this one. Rodon is still the best in my humble opinion. Pitching most times decides all of our close games, but when the bats get hot, then it goes on and on...

  • GunnyGoesArrrgh Jun 9, 2:00 p.m.

    Basketball may be King in these parts, but it is good to see baseball get some recognition. Having State and Carolina with such good teams helps, and the ACC has a lot of excellent teams. Hope an ACC team wins the CWS this year.

  • Alex25 Jun 8, 9:41 a.m.

    How pervasive is the UNC-CH NCAA cheating scandal with the baseball team..?

  • BattlingBishop 5 Jun 8, 9:00 a.m.

    Glad to see baseball get the recognition it deserves. Get rid of the silly agendas, do the right thing, let CU in next time 'round, and all will be well in Baseball Land.

  • Hokies94 Jun 7, 8:15 p.m.

    I'm really proud of the Heels and the PAck to make it to this point. Either team has the potential to go deep.

  • Toddler10-21 Jun 7, 7:31 p.m.

    Still feel for Cambell. Gonna be a great next few days in the triangle!! GO PACK, GO HEELS!!

  • cjw6105 Jun 7, 7:17 p.m.

    These are the good ole days? Not in Buies Creek.

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