Life goes pretty fast at Stanford. It’s easy to go through your time here and miss so many opportunities.
With only a year and a few weeks left, I know I certainly won’t see everything that I could here. But there are some things you can’t miss, and one of them happens tonight.
Go watch senior starting pitcher Mark Appel pitch tonight at 7 p.m. at Sunken Diamond.
I don’t care what your dinner plans are; I don’t care which frat party you need to pregame for. This is your last chance to watch one of the best college pitchers of a generation—for free if you’re a Stanford student—pitch in one of the nation’s most beautiful college baseball stadiums.
Appel is a remarkable talent. In many ways, he is college baseball’s version of Andrew Luck ‘12. I thought I had seen the last of Appel at the end of 2012, but after a shocking Major League Baseball Draft that saw Appel slip to No. 8 overall, the righty decided to come back. We couldn’t be luckier.
In so many ways, this Stanford baseball season has been a disappointment. Sure, Stanford lost a lot to the MLB Draft last season, but with Appel returning and a strong core of juniors continuing to mature, I thought this season could be special, and maybe even end up at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
But barring some sort of miraculous run—and after watching No. 12 Stanford women’s tennis win the NCAA title Tuesday, I won’t count anything out—Appel and this year’s squad will see their season end short of that magical destination.
Omaha has been a dream of mine ever since I started broadcasting Stanford baseball games for KZSU during my freshman year with Jack Blanchat ’12—yes, it is possible to reference Blanchat in a context outside of men’s basketball head coach Johnny Dawkins. It’s still hard to believe that, with all of the talent I’ve witnessed at Sunken Diamond, there’s a good chance I won’t ever make it to Omaha as a broadcaster.
As tough as that may be for me to swallow, I can take solace in the memories of three years of Appel starts. On Friday nights, I’ve seen the progression that I’ve wanted from the whole squad.
In 2011, I remember Appel having great stuff, but he wasn’t dominant. I knew he could be great, and he was pretty darn good already, but it felt like I was watching someone with tremendous raw talent start to figure out how to use it.
The next year, during Appel’s all-important junior season, I saw the next step. The ballpark had a special feel on Friday nights. Every time you walked into Sunken Diamond, you came with the knowledge—perhaps even expectation—that you were going to see something special. There’s something very cool about seeing more scouts than there are MLB teams sitting behind home plate at every one of a pitcher’s starts.
I still remember Appel’s first outing in a scrimmage against his teammates before the 2012 season. He faced three hitters, getting two strikeouts and a weak groundout, as an absurd number of scouts looked on in awe.
Most scouts walked out that day knowing that their teams’ first draft pick would be way too late to have a chance at reeling in Appel’s talent. He was just too good.
Somehow Appel got even better this year. The slider is sharper, and his changeup has come out of nowhere to be a pitch to lean on late in games. Every time I walk into the ballpark on Fridays, a part of me wonders if it will be the day when I see a no-hitter or perfect game. He’s just that good.
Whether you’ve seen him a dozen times or never been to Sunken Diamond, tonight is your last chance to catch Appel’s greatness. It truly is a special experience, especially given how close you can get to the action. I’m just looking forward to being able to give Appel the standing ovation he deserves as he walks off the mound for the last time.
And, who knows, maybe we’ll see that perfection.
In three years, Sam Fisher has never come close to perfection in a column. Give him some summer practice tips to prepare for his senior season at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @SamFisher908.