I have a confession to make. I’m not ready to accept that Stanford’s football season is over.
I didn’t realize I had a problem until I sat down to write this column. Every idea that popped into my head was about football.
Two weeks ago I wrote about the 2013 schedule. Last week I wrote about Manti Te’o. This week I hit a dead end.
The unfortunate reality that I face is that the season is over. It’s done. In a season of the highest of highs—beating Oregon at Autzen and winning the Rose Bowl—the lowest of the lows might be the fact that it has to end.
But why is this year so much harder than ever to move on from? It’s finally the combination of a good ending, a promising future and high expectations.
In 2010, it was all new—I was gleefully ignorant of the success to come. In 2011, the painful Fiesta Bowl ending, and the NFL departures immediately following, made it easy to move on.
Now, there’s only one thing to help me move on, and thankfully, it’s finally here. That’s right, at 2 p.m. today, Stanford baseball finally “begins” with intrasquad scrimmage at Sunken Diamond.
There’s nothing quite like an afternoon at Sunken Diamond. Stanford is known for having one of the most beautiful campuses in the world, but no place on campus comes close to Sunken Diamond.
The feeling of watching a baseball game there is almost therapeutic. From the end of January until Memorial Day—except for the rare weekend when the team travels and I’m stuck at home—I settle into the most comforting of routines. From Friday after lunch to Sunday evening, it’s all about Stanford baseball, and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.
I’m not here to tell you that every Stanford student has to go to baseball games. What I am here to say is, if you are a baseball fan, you have to check out Sunken Diamond. Assuming it is not raining as you read this, start this weekend with the intrasquads.
For those of you who are interested in making it out this weekend, or any time early in the season, there are a few things you should look out for.
Today, and every other Friday this year, you only need one reason to head to the ballpark—a chance to watch senior starting pitcher Mark Appel dominate. Appel was a top-10 draft choice of the Pittsburgh Pirates last June, but passed up millions to come back to the Farm for one more year. Appel’s fastball comes close to 100 mph at its fastest, so make sure you don’t blink.
If you like drama and competition, then definitely pay attention to how some of the intense positional battles play out over the next few weeks. It’s rare to see a team ranked fourth in the nation in preseason with so many slots to fill—Saturday and Sunday starting pitchers, catcher, third base and left field, to name a few—which says a lot about how much talent the Cardinal squad has. Still, no matter how much talent you have, it has to be a bit scary to head into February with so many questions.
This weekend could shine a lot of light on the competition, especially for the weekend pitching starters. Seniors Garrett Hughes and Dean McArdle, along with sophomore John Hochstatter, all started at times last season. Hochstatter is an interesting option, as he started last season with nine no-hit innings over two appearances but finished with a 4.53 ERA.
But the big shakeup in this battle could come from some freshman, who will have three weeks to prove to head coach Mark Marquess and pitching coach Rusty Filter that they are ready for the weekend spotlight. Freddy Avis’s name has been thrown in the ring by many, but the Menlo School star has yet to pitch this year due to arm issues in the fall. Daniel Starwalt, Marcus Brakeman and Andrew McCormack round out the contingent of freshmen looking for a starting spot.
There’s more to look out for than just pitching and positional battles. If you, like chicks, dig the long ball, then you have to show up just to have the opportunity to see Austin Wilson swing the bat. Wilson, who could be one of the first five players drafted this June, has absurd power. Last year I saw scouts laughing after he flied out to the warning track when he just flailed his hands at a breaking ball in the dirt—his misses are more impressive than most people’s perfect swings.
But the most exciting part about the weekend is just the opportunity to sit in any seat at Sunken Diamond and just watch everything unfold. Don’t make me sit alone.
Sam Fisher is slowly overcoming his football withdrawal by watching a replay of the Rose Bowl every night before he goes to sleep. Explain to him why that’s not okay at firstname.lastname@example.org.