Serving a hot-scorching variety pack of "David’s Appetizers, assorted musings and observations on the sports scene:
Ever since he retired from professional baseball, Conway’s Chris Curry has wanted to become a college baseball coach, eventually in the Southeastern Conference. That’s a prime reason for him being a volunteer assistant the past two years for the Arkansas Razorbacks — to learn the major college game inside and out. He witnessed a College World Series, the rigors of NCAA playoffs, helped coach some great players and experience some great victories and crushing defeats.
The only thing missing from his baseball resume was head coaching experience.
He’s going to get it as the new head coach at Meridian Community College in Mississippi, one of the top juco programs in the country and one of his alma mater.
It’s a great head-coaching entry point for Curry, a energetic student of the game, a reprsentative product of Conway coach Noel Boucher’s developmental system and a class guy who has learned his craft literally from the ground up.
The six Arkansas members of the Gulf South are joining forces with three Oklahoma institutions (Southeastern, Southwestern and East Central) to form a new Division II conference.
The stated reason is reduced travel costs, thereby minimizing lost class time. The unstated reason is size and competitive resources. And it’s a lot of both.
Most of the Arkansas schools have a competitive disadvantage in size, facilities and resources for most of the leading schools in the Gulf South, particularly Valdosta State, North Alabama, West Georgia and Delta State. When the University of Central Arkansas was in the Gulf South, Valdosta State chartered its own plane to fly to sites in Arkansas. No Arkansas school in the Gulf South charters has the resources to charter planes.
The three Oklahoma schools are experiencing similar difficulties in expenses and resources in competing against Lone Star Conference powers Abilene Christian, Central Oklahoma, Texas A&M-Commerce and A&M-Kingsville.
It appears a good match — according to size and philosophy. The Arkansas institutions had very active and competitive rivalries with those universities in Oklahoma in the 1970s and 1980s.
The performance of rival managers Joe Girardi of the American League and Charlie Manuel of the National League was less than all-star caliber.
Neither distinguished themselves in trying to handle 34-player rosters, which were built for showcase rather than competition.
With the home field advantage for the World Series at stake, Girardi picked A-Rod (whom he didn’t intend to play because of injury), then got stuck as A-Rod his only option as a possible pinch-runner for the lumbering David Ortiz, who was forced on a base hit in one of the turning points of the game. Manuel seemed to use his roster randomly rather than strategically and was lucky to prevail.
The larger roster was designed to prevent ties. However, if the AL had tied it in the eighth, it would have been out of available players and the NL would have been thin. There was a re-entry rule but that takes away from the pure baseball strategy.
What made baseball’s all-star game the best of such pro events was most of the starters played — and played hard — most of the game and you had multiple confrontations by the game’s top batters and pitchers.
Now, it’s just another "everybody gets to play all-star game" for show and celebrity. It’s entertainment rather than a game.
We’d prefer a game.
The contest got its lowest-ever rating, even lower than that meaningless joke they call the Pro Bowl. There’s a reason.
A friend and former college classmate, who now works for Newsday in Long Island, N.Y., and a Yankee fan, noted to me the softer side of the iconic Yankee owner who died Tuesday. She said that there were three people at the newspaper who had crossed Steinbrenner’s path and ended as beneficiaries.
She’s a traditional hard-nose copy editor. But Judy said when she heard the news about Steinbrenner’s death, she sobbed for 10 minutes. She said, "It was unreal I was crying because George Steinbrenner had died ... Clearly, he was part of my life’s infrastructure and one of the beams had just been kicked away."
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)