I was heading to Memorial for practice on Monday when I received an update on the Cal/Stanford baseball game at Evans: top of the 9th, two outs. It sounded exciting and innocent enough.
The next day, when I mentioned to a coworker that I had stayed til the end, he asked if it was as exciting as it seemed in the Daily Cal. No. It was cold, frustrating, anti-climactic, and above all cold, but exciting isn’t what I’d call two failed bunt attempts followed by a runner doubled up on appeal because he didn’t tag up. Irritating is more like it. TwistNHook, an A’s fan, might call it "familiar".
They players must have been frustrated too. Giving up the tying run with two out in the top of the ninth and the bases empty stings, but it probably really stings when you proceed to play 4 subsequent innings and leave the diamond without resolution. In the bottom of the thirteenth, when it was clearly too dark to start another frame, Cal lead off the inning with a walk. You could feel the air leave the 5 remaining fans and the dugout when the second batter bunted a third strike foul. The next player hit into an inning (and, most likely, game) ending double play. Thus ended 5 hours of baseball. The Daily Cal writer asked for lights. I’d ask Esquer to order Tom Emanski’s instuctional video to teach this team how to bunt.
Maybe Tom can help Cal win Back to Back to BACK National Championships too! Worked for the Royals!
Cal was taking care of business against Santa Clara on Wednesday so I set off to Memorial. Practice was lively, and the players clearly aren’t doing it for the crowd; at most, there were maybe 15 people in the stands, and Tedford et al kept things moving at the usual crisp pace. A few obversations:
- Jonathan Okanes at the CC Times has been raving about Tad Smith throughout the spring, with good reason. Smith fully extended vertically to make a catch between two defenders early for the first highlight of the afternoon. For a guy who just moved from defensive end, he runs downfield very well and has great hands.
- Cameron Morrah also had a great catch in the corner of the endzone, bringing it in with one hand as he fell. The tight ends looked better than the receivers, but watching them block during live action and individual drills left me wanting Stevens.
- Receivers and QBs struggled throughout much of practice. Nate was in sweats (it looks like he may miss the rest of spring ball with a pulled pec), leaving the 1st team reps for Riley, 2nd for Mansion, and 3rd for Cory Smits. Mansion had a tough time and Riley was not a world beater by any stretch. We all know about Nasty Nate’s fourth quarter woes, but most of us don’t see the very average practice by Riley, and the fans labeling Riley a "gamer" shouldn’t be enough to make him a starter. Hydro, you’re welcome. The receivers dropped a number of balls, but started hooking up with the QBs on outs/comebacks towards the end of practice and Jeremy Ross had a nice scamper after the catch.
- Best and Vereen were in red (no contact) jerseys, so Slocum, DeBoskie, and a few walk on fullbacks got the reps at tailback. Nothing spectacular, though the fullbacks ran hard. DeBoskie looks really skinny - my very early hunch is that he’ll redshirt this year to put on some weight, even though we’re not exactly deep at tailback.
- Cignetti was in the middle of the action, and it’s pretty clear that Tedford trusts his expertise and and instructions to the players. At one point, when the offense lined up in the wrong formation, he commanded "Back to the huddle! Bullshit!" while Tedford looked on. Maybe Hydro can comment on what Cortez was like in practice, but my feeling is that Tedford is allowing Cignetti to work more independently than past coordinators.
- The defense was exclusively running a 3-4. Tedford has said, particularly in regards to the 3-4, that the spring is a time for experimentation and that we shouldn’t read too much into the prevalence of the formation in practice, but it was a little jarring to see it used on every play. The defense was able to get decent pressure even when only rushing three and outside runs were almost entirely shut down, but the offense was able to rip a couple nice runs up the middle. This is a common problem for a 3-4 defense, especially one without a dominant nose tackle. Derrick Hill is supposed to become that guy but he isn’t there yet and couldn’t prevent big gains between the tackles. Of course, going against the best center in the country might have something to do with that. I don’t remember Sederick Ellis of USC doing much against Mack last year, and he’s going to be a top 10 pick in a few weeks.
- The defensive ends, especially Rulon Davis and Cameron Jordan, did a nice job in drills and during live action. Rulon is very vocal and is constantly barking and encouraging the other D-Linemen. The whole unit seems to have a bounce in their step, led by Tosh, who has two.
- Devin Bishop was the star of practice, delivering a couple of big hits to the running backs. Syd Thompson continues to improve on playing the ball; he had a number of passes defensed and near interceptions.
- There were a couple of recruits on the field, including a big RB/DE sophomore from the southeast. He certainly looked the part and people sitting near me were shocked how big he was as a sophomore.
After practice and a brief dinner (watching Cal football in any form puts me in the mood for Top Dog), I attended an intimate meeting on the Student Athlete High Performance Center (SAHPC) lawsuit. There must have been some pretty high level donors in the room because Sandy Barbour, lead counsel for the University Charles Olson, and top level University communication officers were all in attendance.
Sandy and Charles both seemed cautiously optimistic that Judge Miller would rule in the university’s favor; a ruling is required by June, but Miller has indicated and Charles Olson believes that it could arrive in less than a month. Of course, the University could lose, and we could face an appeal if we win, but the University Director of Public Affairs Dan Mogulof emphasized that in the long run, CAL CANNOT LOSE. Charles Olson reiterated this point based on the fact the that the laws in questions (CEQA and Alquist Priolo) are procedural and cannot determine the final outcome of the project. If the University "loses," they will simply be forced to redraft (and recirculate and hold another round of public hearings…) the specific portion of the EIR found insufficient by the judge. Even though it’s been a very long trial (15 months now!), especially for a CEQA case, it’s heartening to know that the plaintiffs cannot prevent the project from being initiated.
This isn’t to say that the delay hasn’t been damaging, or that delay wasn’t the plaintiffs’ primary goal all along. Mogulof mentioned that very conservative estimates put the cost of the the delay, just in terms of rising construction and project costs, at 11 million dollars, straight from donors’ pockets (the project is funded entirely by private donations). When Jeff Tedford introduced our latest recruiting class at the Bancroft Hotel, he sounded more frustrated by the situation than I’ve ever heard before.
Still, good signs abound. Barclay Simpson (lead donor of the project, not the bank) remains "150% supportive" of the project, according to Sandy. My personal favorite news of the evening was that Sandy wants to stay at Cal "for as long as you’ll have me [within reason]". The group compromised on thirty years.
I’ll have more on the lawsuit in the coming days as I receive correspondence from the meeting. Sandy, Charles, and the other University officials requested specific help from alumni and Berkeley residents, so if you’re interested in keeping Tedford at Cal, better recruiting, far better strength and conditioning training, and the health and safety of the 400 students and coaches who use memorial stadium daily, keep checking in with the Golden Blogs. If not, and if you’re Tom Emanski, at least go help our nationally ranked (#5!) baseball team with their bunting.