After Further Review

Fayetteville Officially Back on Professional Baseball Map by Thad Mumau

Well, it’s official now … Fayetteville is back in the baseball business, back in the Carolina League and back in the victory column.

The latter taken care of with the 15-0 pounding our Woodpeckers administered on Potomac in Woodbridge, Virginia, in the season opener.  The BIG opener, of course, is the April 18 unveiling of Segra Stadium, with more than 5,000 folks on hand.

That will mark the return of professional baseball to Fayetteville after a 19-year absence triggered by the departure of the Cape Fear Crocs following the 2000 season.

As for the Carolina League, the last time a local team was part of that was in 1956 when the Highlanders finished fourth in the regular-season standings before knocking off High Point and Danville in the playoffs to win the league championship.

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AGE IS JUST A NUMBER

At 5’ 11” and 210 pounds, I’m the same size as the average NFL cornerback.  But, at 65 years of age, those pounds are distributed a little differently.  In fact, my doctor says I’m officially obese.  Nonsense!

In my mind, on the field, I can still run an out and up pass pattern.  On the court I can still lead a fast break, and I can still jump and touch the rim. And on the diamond, I can still run down that deep fly ball, and steal second base – standing up.  In my mind – but not in my heart.  In my heart, I know those days are behind me. I know it, I understand it, but I have a hard time accepting it. It’s tough getting old – mentally as well as physically.

But that’s okay.  I can still live vicariously through the local high school and college teams.  I can reminisce and remember as I sit in the stands or press box and watch the kids on the gridiron, the court, or the field.  I can watch my grandsons as they are learning the fundamentals and basics of sports, and revel in their simple joy of playing a game.  Any game.  And I can tell stories of old heroics, and even impart my wisdom, such as it is, and hope it makes a difference.

When did it all change?  Overnight, it seems.    Read more

Dear Mom and Dad: Cool It

Here’s an important message from the NC High School Athletic Association:

If you are the mother or father of a high school athlete here in North Carolina, this message is primarily for you. 

When you attend an athletic event that involves your son or daughter, cheer to your heart’s content, enjoy the camaraderie that high school sports offer and have fun. But when it comes to verbally criticizing game officials or coaches, cool it.  

Make no mistake about it. Your passion is admired, and your support of the hometown team is needed. But so is your self-control. Yelling, screaming and berating the officials humiliates your child, annoys those sitting around you, embarrasses your child’s school and is the major contributing reason North Carolina has is experiencing shortage of high school officials.  Read more

Shrine Bowl Wrap Up

There is an old adage that “a tie is like kissing your sister”.  I’m not sure of the origin, and I don’t have a sister, but I’d be willing to bet that the two teams in the 82nd Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas would disagree.  This year’s game, played at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC, ended in a 10-10 tie.

While the winner of the Shrine Bowl – either the North Carolina or South Carolina All Stars – gets bragging rights for a year, the real winners are the children in the 21 Shriners Hospitals across the nation.  A total of $1,541,320.18 was raised this year by the six shrine temples involved in operating the game, and adds to the over $75 million total since the game’s inception in 1937.

For the players and coaches, a highlight of the week is a visit to the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital in Greenville, SC.  To many, this visit is a sobering glimpse into the lives of children with medical problems – specifically orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate.  It’s also an uplifting experience to many because of the smiles, hugs, and positive attitudes demonstrated by the patients. Read more

Enigmatic Pinson Sporadically Sensational by thad mumau

In the last three blogs, I have discussed players whom I feel should be in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. The basis of my argument is how 

Tony Oliva, Tommy John, Jim Kaat, Luis Tiant and Lee Smith stack up statistically against Cooperstown residents with comparable numbers.

This column deals with someone who, like Oliva, appeared headed for the Hall. Unlike Oliva, he was not derailed by injuries but by a dropoff in production when he was still a young man.

We’re talking about the enigmatic Vada Pinson. He burst onto the big league scene with such flash and dash that he was instantly mentioned in the same conversations with a couple of iconic all-time greats.

His 3.3 speed to first base brought comparisons to Mickey Mantle and the way he glided across the outfield grass reminded folks of Willie Mays. A center fielder, just as they were, he could hit for average and power, just as they did. Read more

Lee Smith’s Hall Omission Hard to Figure by thad mumau

The all-time major league saves leader is not in the Hall of Fame. That is only because his mandatory five-year waiting period since retirement is not complete. But you can be sure Mariano Rivera’s plaque is in the back room at Cooperstown.

The greatest reliever ever will be eligible next year, and his 2019 induction is about as certain as tomorrow’s daybreak. The New York Yankees’ closer will lead the voting for the new class. Heck, he might even be a unanimous selection.

Trevor Hoffman, No. 2 in career saves, is already in the Hall, having joined Chipper Jones and four others in the large group of inductees this past summer.

Rivera finished with 652 saves, Hoffman with 601.

There probably aren’t many folks, other than hard-core followers of baseball, who can name the No. 3 saves guy. (without Google, I mean.) He’s Lee Smith, who amassed 478 saves over an 18-year career that saw him pitch for eight teams. Read more

Cooperstown Elections Not Totally Objective by thad mumau

The numbers usually tell the story. But not always.

As mentioned in this space recently, there are certain numbers that pretty much guarantee entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, not every member of the Cooperstown club has a 300 or 3,000 or 500 on his resume.

The rub with this is that without so-called “requirements”, subjectivity replaces objectivity in the selection process. As is the case in almost every walk of life, what that boils down to is politics and personalities.

Voters, therefore, are sometimes influenced by whether they like a candidate. Many of the same baseball writers who fill in Hall of Fame ballots also decide winners of awards such as Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year. The voters are not always fair.

The best example of what I’m talking about here is Ted Williams, who was snubbed twice in MVP voting. Looking at his sensational stats those two seasons, there is no other explanation for his failure to be chosen. Read more

Knees Blocked Oliva’s Path to Cooperstown by thad mumau

Tony Oliva really did have it all. Except for good knees.

 The only modern-day player to win batting titles in his first two years in the majors, the tall left-handed hitter with the sweet swing limped through the final five seasons of his career.

 Several knee surgeries reduced Oliva to a designated hitter role during that time and also took away the speed that had made him a stolen-base threat. It should be remembered that knee operations were not as sophisticated back then, and neither were the results.

Oliva came to the United States from his native Cuba when he was almost 23 years old. A couple seasons in the minor leagues included a stop at Charlotte where he hit .350 and knocked in 93 runs against Class-A South Atlantic League pitching.  Read more

Claytor Endures ‘The Grind’ in Seeking PGA Dream by thad mumau

Daniel Claytor shares a dream with hundreds of other young men. Like many of them, he has the capacity for making that dream come true, enormous potential rooted in the ability to hit a golf ball. To hit very good golf shots frequently.

Earning a PGA card is an elusive quest. Daunting at times. So close and yet so far, as the old saying goes. Because it’s not simply a matter of playing well. WHEN you play well is the ticket.

Claytor, 27, is a native of Rocky Mount, NC, where he graduated from Northern Nash High School. At Barton College, he was a three-time All-America, the first athlete to accomplish that in school history. He won six NCAA golf tournaments.

He was the points leader in the Swing Thought Qualifying School Scholarship Race last year, placing third in Player of the Year points and second in money earned in National Series tour events. He was named the 2017 Daniel Converse Award winner. The honor is based on performance, integrity and exceptional professionalism on and off the golf course.

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Thinking About Cooperstown Numbers by thad mumau

For years there have been magic numbers regarding entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Career numbers like 3,000 (hits by a batter, strikeouts by a pitcher); 500 (home runs), 300 (pitching wins).

Such numbers were not required, mind you, just thought of as “guarantees” that a plaque would be hung of players who amassed them.

Then along came chemicals men ingested (by swallowing or absorbing), causing heads and statistics to swell beyond normal proportions. (see Barry Bonds on both counts.)

Hence, some of the numbers once considered automatic ticket punches to Cooperstown have not been viewed so reverently. Because, of course, cheaters were recording those numbers.

As a result, those who receive Hall of Fame ballots these days must adjust their thinking.

For other reasons, too. Today’s pitchers are not ringing up as many victories. Pitch counts – also known as babying hurlers – reduce innings, which means guys aren’t around long enough to pick up as many decisions. Read more

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