SUN CLASSIC SIDEBAR
SPY is still collecting notes on a few games we did not see and will publish Game Notes later tonight or early Thursday.
SPY has posted 287 photos from the Sun Classic at Wide World of Sports on our Picasa web site: www.picasaweb.google.com/spysoftball. Quality is not as good compared to photos shot for years by Dennis Andersen who is somewhere in the mountain wilderness of Panama.
WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS ATTRACTIONS
Some of the many attractions at Disney World are internationally famous and attract visitors from around the globe. The spacing of the games last weekend allowed many teams an opportunity to visit the Magic Kingdom and other venues. Several players told me they had not visited Disney World prior to the Sun Classic.
Having toured Disney World, Epcot, etc years ago with Kathryn and Allison, I visited ESPN’s Broadcast Center. ESPN technicians demonstrated the state-of-the-art equipment they were using to broadcast the eight Sun Classic games. Eight wall-mounted screens let the manager select different views of the games, as well as scoreboards, dugout shots, etc., from the constant filming by the cameras placed around Field 13. Very sophisticated people expertly using very sophisticated computers, cameras, etc. Off in a side room, I was shown the future of television – sports in three dimensions (3D) which offers a viewing perspective on the north side of incredible. You watch full-body views of golfers, just as if you were there on the links. The magic of video tape and digital photography! (I know a bit about high altitude photography and the aerial cameras which produce the imagery essential to our national security).
They have the technological capability to record games electronically, ala Gametracker, which would allow coaches, players and parents to review games – and enable people who did not attend the Classic to monitor games (also help aging sportswriters who can only see just so many games, even working late into the night). This would require scorekeepers to use computers, rather than scoresheets, but the scorekeepers I met with in the Tower were more than capable of providing this service – which was a bonus at the Premier, ASA Gold, and World Series. While Steve and Jess did a great job of posting scores promptly at the main complex, electronic monitoring could help grow the sport nationwide. Hopefully, the Classic organizers can negotiate this step-up for next year.
You expect Disney to set the bar high for all the perquisites. The fields were constantly maintained in super playing condition. The concessions were a bit more varied than at many ballparks. The bathrooms were continuously cleaned; only a few parks have enough toilet facilities – Hall of Fame, Barber, Rising Stars – while some are well behind the curve – such as Harvard Park, Edison Park in NJ, Canada Cup – and some are so poorly maintained as to be offensive – like Huntington Beach (a good block of C4 would do wonders). The bleachers were not only adequate for a large tournament, they were repeatedly cleaned – even wiped off after the intermittent rain.
In sum, the softball facility at Wide World of Sports is one of the truly premier softball sites in the United States.
The main softball complex has a system of screens which ESPN officials say makes it very rare for a foul ball to zing through the walking areas. While much safer than other stadiums like Boulder, the Disney magic shield can be penetrated. The golf cart which Spy used was hit three times! (Reminded me of the first Gulf war when the powers assured us that the Patriots would shut down all the Scud missiles from Iraq; the Patriots had a worse average than the Nationals. We were given medals which showed a Patriot blowing up a Scud; put it in a drawer.)
The electronic scoreboards were much appreciated; few mistakes. There are still too many tournaments which do not have regulation fences, acceptable field maintenance, adequate seating – yet they charge sums which are sufficient to make improvements.
Hopefully, next year, there will not be a conflict with Special Olympics, which caused the Classic to lose several softball fields. ESPN scraped off five baseball fields in an effort to provide enough fields but the preference will always be for fields dedicated to softball.
If possible, ESPN should provide a small recreation area for all the little ankle-biters who trail along with their big sisters – sand box, swings, etc.
The organizers, principally Jim Barsalona and Kevin O’Donnell, who worked tirelessly for long hours each day, deserve a special thank you for contracting with a caterer to provide lunches for the 227 college coaches who attended. The coaches books were among the best I’ve seen in 15 years of covering tournaments. I usually avoid combines but the Thursday combines were very useful in gauging the skills of prospective recruits – not to much the line drills in the morning, but the squad games in the afternoon not only tested skills but adaptability to melding with and playing with athletes from other teams. A tip of the Spyglass to the many college coaches and assistants who guided the players through the drills and the games; well done.
And, kudos to all the players, coaches, parents and other spectators who endured the biting cold on Friday and Saturday nights.
Umpires. Basically, a better than average job but, as the UIC acknowledged when we talked privately, there were some glitches which he said were discussed afterward by the umpires. In one game, a batter-runner collided hard with the player at 1st, dislodging the ball; interference should have been called. The collision looked deliberate. In another game, the catcher squatted on the left field line, almost over the plate, and the runner had no access to the plate – period. The umpire should have called obstruction. In another game, a batter-runner was so far out of the line running to 1st that the infraction was flagrant, but not called. There was also some inconsistency. Barsalona said he urged the umpires to adhere closely to the rules. To say that the So Cal Athletics were surprised when a slapper was called out for being out of the box when she made contact is an under-statement; seldom see it called on the West Coast, even in college ball. Yet, there were several instances in which umpires seemed to ignore this violation; an East Coast team comes to mind. To my knowledge, there were very few illegal pitches called.
Birthday celebrations. Actually, there were two persons celebrating November 7 (along with 180 million Russians): Allison Davis of the Vienna Stars and Rayburn Hesse. Unbeknownst to me, daughter Allison posted a birthday message on SPY, and old friend Gerry Glasco posted a greeting on Spy’s Facebook page. As a consequence, greetings poured in on email and Facebook – some from softball players and coaches I haven’t seen in a while. But, the novel moment came during the first game on Sunday, when the PA system announced my birthday, and the people in the stands began singing “Happy Birthday.” Then, at lunch time, college coaches shared in an awesome birthday cake that the caterer whipped up, at the request of Carol Barsalona. A photo of the cake is on Spy’s Picasa site. (I also want to thank the many who asked me to convey regards to my daughter Allison; they know she is the Spy webmaster who designed the site, manages Facebook, and the myriad tasks which are beyond my ken.)
The Future. The organizers have a five-year contract with ESPN – and not just for travel ball. Plans are well under way for a college tournament in February, featuring many of the higher ranked teams in NCAA competition. More, they plan to expand the Classic, which this year fielded 69 teams.