Born To Be A VandyBoy (via Baseball America)

donnyCLARKSVILLE, Tenn.—Cars never drove down the street in front of Forney Abbott’s house.

Born in Houston and raised in 1940s Palestine (No, not the Middle East. Palestine, Texas. Pronounced PaleSTEEN), Abbott’s formative years came before cellphones and Xboxes and color TVs. He didn’t even have a diamond nearby to play on, no chalky foul lines or fertile grass, just the white lines and the hot, black asphalt of a mostly deserted street.

When he was 7, 8 years old, Abbott would take a baseball and march onto that street like he was Joe DiMaggio and it was Yankee Stadium. Instead of throwing from foul pole to foul pole, he’d go light pole to light pole, hurling the ball as far as he could over the power lines that stretched above his head and aiming for the pole 100 yards away.

He did this every day, until one day, a car did drive down the street in front of Forney Abbott’s house. And inside that car were two scouts for Major League Baseball teams, one for the Pirates and one for the Cardinals. Abbott, now 77, doesn’t remember their names—a few too many blows to the head in the boxing matches of his youth sapped him of those memories. But he remembers them stopping their car, on their way to some recruiting mission in nearby Houston or Tyler, and talking to this 7-, 8-year-old kid out on the street and watching him throw. That car would continue to stop, usually once every month or so, and the Pirates scout—who lived in a small town about 15 or 20 miles away—would give the young Abbott pointers. OK, here’s how to throw a baseball.

The scout kept coming by until Abbott was 11 years old. For that, he’s always been thankful. Still, as a teenager, playing for his high school team and summer league teams, Abbott would draw criticism for the way he threw. Other kids would always tell him he was throwing the wrong way. But he knew they were the ones who were wrong. He knew he threw hard. He didn’t have a radar gun to prove it, but he always felt as though God had granted him the ability to throw a baseball with velocity.

Abbott never had the chance to test his arm in the professional ranks. He joined the Army. Served in the Korean War. And when he returned, he moved to Clarksville, Tenn. He turned his attention to coaching kids, just like that Pirates scout once coached him. He felt, again, as though God had given him this gift for a reason. God wanted him to share it.

Over his adult life, Abbott has helped thousands of kids—and some of those kids’ kids. At any time, he could have several 11- or 12-year-olds out in his front yard—instead of in the street like he was—working on drills to strengthen their bodies, arms and minds.

There was one kid, among those thousands, who was different. One kid that no uppercut to the jaw could ever jostle free from his memory.

Abbott will never forget Donny Everett. … Read More

(via Baseball America)

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Everything’s Coming Up Black & Gold: A Remarkable Night for Vanderbilt Baseball

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Last night might have been the second-best night in Vanderbilt baseball history, surpassed only by the evening nearly one year ago when they won their first national championship. On the fourth birthday of Grantland.com, a sporting internet website named for VU’s second baseball coach, the Commodores completed their super regional sweep of Illinois and secured a spot in the 2015 College World Series.

Soon after the game ended, three Vandy starters– Dansby Swanson, Carson Fulmer, and Walker Buehler– were selected in the first round of the MLB amateur draft, with Swanson as the first overall pick.

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As they make their way to Omaha, here’s hoping this team has a few more good nights left in the tank.

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Previously
Vanderbilt wins the College World Series

ALDLAND Podcast

There is much to discuss on the ALDLAND Podcast this week, and your two favorite cohosts waste no time in getting down to business. First up is discussion of Vanderbilt University’s first ever national championship in a men’s sport, as well as talk about the reasons behind why they won. Also on the menu is the United States of America’s upcoming soccer match against the nation of Belgium, as well as which country has the better food and drink, soccer hairstyles, and whether strikers in soccer are bigger divas than NBA superstars or NFL wide receivers. So dig into this action packed podcast before you go out to support the greatest country in the world, the United States of America.

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Vanderbilt wins the College World Series, claims its first-ever mens’ national championship

After struggling through the first two games of the College World Series, Vanderbilt came out looking like a team that belonged in the final pairing in a much tighter game three. The Commodores drew inspiration from energetic and emotional starting pitcher Carson Fulmer, who really limited the Virginia bats for the first time this series. Timely hitting finally arrived for Vandy as well: Although they only plated one run in an extended first inning, the only inning for UVA starting pitcher Josh Sborz, VU claimed the only home run of the series, John Norwood’s solo blast that proved to be the game winner, in the eighth. After that, Vanderbilt reliever Adam Ravenelle dealt two innings of solid relief to close the door on Virginia and secure the 3-2 victory. (Fans of the MLB team that drafted Ravenelle, the Detroit Tigers, are already asking whether he’s available to help stem the club’s bullpen woes this season.)

For Vanderbilt, a charter member (1932) of the Southeastern Conference and a university with an interscholastic athletic history dating to the 1800s, last night’s win was especially remarkable, because it was the school’s first-ever national championship for a men’s team, and just its second national championship overall. (The women’s bowling team claimed the school’s first national championship in 2007.) This win certainly feels like the culmination of the steady development of the VU baseball program by coach Tim Corbin, and with a very young roster, it shouldn’t be surprising if his Commodores are back in Omaha next year to defend their title.

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Postscript: Like any overdue collegiate athletic victory, last night featured a post-game marriage proposal. After his team won it all, Vanderbilt pitcher Brian Miller came away with a win of his own as well. Long live college sports.

History at stake in the College World Series finale tonight

The outcome of tonight’s game between Vanderbilt and Virginia will decide the College World Series. A victory for the end of the alphabet is guaranteed, but for Vanderbilt, the stakes are higher: a win would be the school’s first national championship for a men’s team, and only its second overall. (The VU women’s bowling team won it all in 2007.)

After winning game one of the best-of-three series on Monday, the Commodores had a chance to clinch last night. They were unable to hold an early 2-1 lead, however, and ended up falling 7-2. While some are criticizing Vandy coach Tim Corbin’s decision to leave starting pitcher Tyler Beede in to pitch the seventh inning, during which Virginia’s 4-2 lead expanded to a 6-2 lead, the real problem lies with Vanderbilt’s absentee offense. There remains plenty of attention on Vanderbilt’s nine-run third inning in the first game, but UVA still owns the run differential advantage, 15-11, over the two games. Take out that wild third in the opening contest, which was as much a result of an early and unexpected pitching collapse as it was Vandy plate discipline or hitting, and that expands to a 15-2 advantage for Virginia. The truth is that VU has been unable to generate its own offense in this series, and outside of one disastrous frame, Virginia has been in control. The Commodores aren’t a power-hitting bunch, and the conditions in Omaha won’t do anything to change that, but one has to believe the Vandy bats are due to come alive. They must do so tonight if the Dores are going to claim this national championship.

While a Vanderbilt win tonight would make school history, and last night’s bid may itself have been historic as (possibly, I haven’t researched this) the school’s first actual opportunity to win a men’s national championship, the Cav-Hoos are carrying the mantle and burden of a conference into tonight’s game: The ACC has just one College World Series win, and it came in the 1950s, when Wake Forest topped the Broncos of Western Michigan.

ALDLAND Podcast

ALDLAND is in finals mode . . . NBA and NHL finals that is! Your favorite hosts are here to break down, or at least pay lip service to the championship rounds in both hockey and basketball. And that’s not all. Stay around after finals talk for a quick discussion on the upcoming Vanderbilt-Stanford series in the NCAA baseball tournament. It’s really the most fun you can have listening to a podcast.

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Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here:

Nike strikes out at bats

The PostGame reports:

Every college under contract with Nike has been let out of its commitment to use Nike baseball bats during the upcoming season.

Of the top 20 teams in home runs last season, not a single one used Nike bats.

Major schools such as Southern Cal, Miami, Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky all used Nike bats and experienced major drops in offensive production. Home runs were 20 percent lower and slugging percentages 44 percent lower for those teams than for the rest of the NCAA.

The Tuscaloosa News, which led the reporting on this story, notes the Hurricanes hit an average of more than 93 homers a season between 2008 and 2010, but last season with Nike bats they slammed just 33 dingers. That’s a staggering 64.5 percent drop in power.

Alabama’s power dropped 86.6 percent over the previous three seasons.

Nike is not an equipment company. Nike is an apparel company. They’ve done a good job of convincing us that apparel is just as important to athletic performance (and even recruiting) as equipment, but there’s a reason you don’t see players wearing Louisville Slugger dri-fits. It takes a different set of institutional knowledge and skills to make things like baseball bats. Keep reading…