APRIL - MAY 2008 ARCHIVE
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SATURDAY, MAY 31- 1:19 PM
Sure, we are one game from elimination in Tempe.
I'm not going to give one of those inspirational speeches. I'm just not good at it.
But I thought it would be a good idea to show other examples of people who never gave up the fight.
So here we go...
Did Brooke White ever stop crying on American Idol (or even restart her songs after forgetting the lyrics)?
Did McLovin ever quit being McLovin?
Did Dana Carvey ever stop choppin' broccoli?
Was Rick Astley ever going to give you up (rick roll!)?
Did Carrie ever stop stalking Mr. Big (not that I care)?
Did the Shockmaster stop shocking people?
Did the New Kids ever stop making boy band music (even though they aren't boys anymore)?
Did Dora ever stop exploring?
Did Chris Farley ever stop wearing that little coat?
Would Craig Kilborn ever drop off the face of the earth?
Would Flavor Flav give up his love for New York?
Did Jermaine and Bret ever stop going to Murray's band meetings?
Did Bill Belichick stop filming his opponents signals?
Did Mike Myers stop making annoying characters (or overacting for that matter)?
Did Spatula City ever stop selling spatulas?
And finally.. Did Journey really ever stop believin' (even without Steve Perry)?
FRIDAY, MAY 30- 9:21 AM
Thursday's Roundup from Tempe
First, make sure you check out a couple of interviews from yesterday to get ready for the Commodores game with Oklahoma Friday in Tempe, Ariz.
You can watch Joe Fisher's video interviews with Coach Corbin and Ryan Flaherty following the Commodores practice session to get their thoughts on the matchup.
I took some photos from practice as well, so take a lookie when you have a chance.
VIEW THURSDAY'S PHOTO GALLERY
Also, Corbin took time to discuss the regional with the 104.5 Wake Up Zone and announced who today's starting pitcher will be.
After practice yesterday, the team was given a couple of hours off to relax and unwind. Since it was insanely hot weather, several of the guys decided to spend the afternoon at the hotel pool.
Of course, I took the tougher road and went to San Felipe's Cantina for lunch.
Now, there was nothing wrong with the actual food - it was solid. It was the amount of food.
Our baseball SID Thomas Samuel somehow convinced me to order the El Gordito Burrito (also known as "The Fat One").
This bad boy was twenty dollars worth of burrito. The restaurant would give me a free t-shirt if I could devour it.
It sounded like a challenge I couldn't pass up... but, of course, I would soon regret my decision once the waitress brought it out. That massive object must have been about the size of three or four Qdoba burritos put together. It took up the entire plate. Maybe this was a bad idea.
Check out these pictures to see if I won the shirt and conquered the beast. (I am a big, dumb animal)
EL GORDITO BURRITO PICTURES
Yes, I must admit... I felt pretty good about my accomplishment (almost like a hero), until a waiter came by and said he saw a guy eat two of 'em one time. Thanks for diminishing my feat.
Anyway, the challenge had me thinking about John Candy's character in the movie "The Great Outdoors". You know, where he takes on the Old 96er. Just Classic.
We closed last night with a team activity at Chase Field to see the Arizona Diamondbacks take on the San Francisco Giants. Randy Johnson was on the hill against the 100 million dollar man (and 1-8) Barry Zito.
It was cool seeing Johnson mow down the Giants lineup in person, even if San Fran looks like a farm team these days. Johnson recorded nine strikeouts on the night to tie Roger Clemens for second all-time in that category. It was something I can tell my grandkids about one day (or maybe not).
Overall, it was a great time at the park, but I think everyone here is ready for the regional to start.
We'll be providing the only live video of the game today in case you didn't make it to Arizona. You can watch the webcast starting a 4 p.m. CT on VUcommodores.com.
I'll close today with some more videos that have been emailed in. These two have to do with celebrities and baseball.
First, the lovely Mariah Carey.
In Mariah's recent hit "Touch My Body", she sings the following line:
If there's a camera up in here, then I'd best not catch this flick on YouTube.
Well, this clip made it to YouTube for the rest of the world to enjoy. So enjoy!
Second, can you figure out which celeb provides the call to this game? ("And... THAT happened!!!")
THURSDAY, MAY 29- 1:36 AM
Fearless February Prediction
Well, we are officially in Tempe to begin preparations for this weekend's NCAA Regional at Winkles Field-Packard Stadium.
Right now, the weather forecast for Friday's 4 p.m. CT matchup with Oklahoma is mainly sunny with highs close to 100 degrees (As Randy would say on American Idol... "It's a molten hot lava bomb!").
If you want to get an idea of what it's like being in 'Zona, then check out some of my photos from the road on Wednesday at the following link (with notes next to most of the photos):
VIEW WEDNESDAY'S PHOTO GALLERY
Now, coming back to the state of Arizona for the second time this season had me thinking about our first appearance at Arizona State in late February for the DeMarini Invitational. Just a day after Vanderbilt opened the tournament (and season) with an impressive 8-1 victory over two-time defending NCAA Champion Oregon State, the Commodores were soundly defeated by a top-ranked Sun Devils team that pounded out 16 hits including three homers (final score was 18-6).
Even after this lopsided loss, ASU head coach Pat Murphy was convinced that Vanderbilt would be a team to be reckoned with during the year.
In fact, Murphy made a prediction about the Commodores in front of several national media during his postgame press conference. Here's what he had to say:
"I'm just going to tell you right now and make the prediction: Vanderbilt will play in the College World Series.
"This kind of stuff (today's loss) is good for Vanderbilt. They went the whole year last year as number one and when you're number one the whole time, it's tough. ... They're a great team and I know Corbin well, so I hope he doesn't take this loss hard. Things went our way today and and I think Vanderbilt's got one of the best clubs in the country and you guys that are writing the polls and stuff, just keep an eye on Vanderbilt. They didn't make it last year, but that was a hiccup. They'll be there this year."
Of course, those of us in the Commodore Nation hope his prediction is right.
And if in fact it is, it would mean Murphy's ball club wouldn't make it past the first round of the tournament.
We'll see how it all pans out.
One stat not in our favor. Arizona State has rolled to 11 straight postseason victories on its home field and hasn't dropped a NCAA game at Winkles Field-Packard Stadium since Texas eliminated them from the 2000 Regional.
For those of you concerned about not seeing the action this weekend... We plan to webcast Vanderbilt's regional games live on VUcommodores.com. Stay tuned for more information as we iron out the details.
To close today's post... here's another video that was submitted by a Commodore fan. This one's from the American Gladiators (the old school version). I was thrilled to find out that Mike Adamle, AG's announcer back in the day, recently landed back on his feet with a gig with the WWE.
As Malibu would say... "Sweet!"
TUESDAY, MAY 27- 11:13 PM
It was April 18 and Shea Robin's batting average had dipped down to .262 after the senior catcher had only four hits in his previous 22 at bats.
With Auburn coming to town the next day, Robin was approached by Vanderbilt baseball's sports information director Thomas Samuel about the slump.
"I was talking to Thomas and he was giving me a hard time about how I hadn't been hitting too well," recalled Robin. "He said if I got above .300 by the time the SEC Tournament was over, then I could shave his head."
The challenge to .300 was set.
And it didn't take long for Robin to get back on track.
He tallied seven hits and four RBI against the Tigers that weekend and raised his average to .298 in the blink of an eye. His hitting tear continued through the remainder of the season as he stood at .316 entering last week's SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala.
After a 2-for-17 slump during the tourney dropped his average to .298, Robin had one last crack at .300 Saturday night against Ole Miss. Robin stepped to the plate in a critical situation with the Commodores trailing 8-4 in the eighth and two runners in scoring position.
While Robin had no clue "the challenge" was at stake with that at bat, those of us in the press box knew that a hit would probably mean the end of Samuel's full head of hair.
Robin proceeded to rip a single up the middle and seconds later, the stat monitor flashed .302.
"I didn't realize that I had eclipsed the mark until after the game," said Robin. "Thomas saw me and we were just talking about the game and as I was walking off, he congratulated me. I didn't really know what he was talking about. And then he kind of smiled and I figured it out."
So before Tuesday's practice, Robin had the pleasure of shaving Samuel's scalp.
"He took his punishment just like a man and didn't try to get out of it or make any excuses."
Even though Thomas stood up to his end of the challenge, he'll have some explaining to do to his wife.
"I'm going to wear my hat and surprise her when I get home," said Samuel. "Hopefully she doesn't kick me out."
Well, the team will head to Tempe Wednesday afternoon. I will try to do some updates from the road as the Commodores prepare for another NCAA Regional.
One side note... Before practice today, Coach Corbin brought in a special guest speaker to address the team. Nashville Predators color commentator Terry Crisp talked to the guys about two things: the importance of having fun on the diamond, and what it takes to win championships.
Crisp knows a thing or two about that. He won two Stanley Cup titles as a player with the Philadelphia Flyers (also known as the Broadstreet Bullies) in the mid-seventies and also coached the Calgary Flames to the Cup in 1989.
I'll leave you with two videos of the day that were emailed to me... remember to submit your favorite YouTube videos at the box at the top of the blog so I can share them with other Commodore fans.
First, some halftime fun with classic video games. (You'll See)
Second... even though we're headed into a tough regional at Arizona State... I will take the advice of Mr. Billy Ocean and the cast of the 80's movie "The Jewel Of The Nile" ... When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going.
Oh, and check out the height difference between Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito and Kathleen Turner.
THURSDAY, MAY 22- 12:58 AM
SEC TOURNAMENT NOTES - DAY ONE
One of the keys to Wednesday's 7-3 victory over Florida was the production from the bottom half of the Commodores' lineup.
Vanderbilt's six thru nine hitters pounded out nine of the team's 14 hits, led by three apiece from Steven Liddle and Andrew Giobbi. Alex Feinberg also added a hit, a walk and two runs, while Jonathan White had his first multi-hit game since March 19 against Lipscomb.
"I think this time of year usually every team has three or four hitters at the top that you fear like we do," said head coach Tim Corbin, "but when you get the bottom half of the lineup hitting and contributing the way that they did, it adds to the potential of your ball club."
Corbin admitted in his postgame press conference that he had gone back and forth on who to start at the designated hitter spot after the Commodores were swept in Gainesville last weekend.
White, who began the day hitting only .241 with just two starts in the last eight games, ended up getting the call and made the most of his opportunity. Not only did he provide some punch at the plate with two hard-hit singles, but also showed why he's a threat on the base paths with his tenth stolen base in as many attempts.
With postseason officially underway, it was just the type of performance Corbin was looking for.
"If you look at the stats, he (White) hasn't played a whole lot," added Corbin, "but as I told the kids, 'This time of year, someone who was not a factor (during the regular season) becomes a factor.'"
OTHER RANDOM STUFF
First, I went to the movies last Friday in Nashville and watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Pretty good flick, but the one thing that wasn't forgettable was my visit to the concessions stand.
Now, I have no problem with the price of movie theatre food.. not because I'm rich, but because it's something you grow to expect. The thing I thought was interesting was that they had value combos you could order, but there was no price for the meals on the signage promoting it. I asked the cashier how much it was to order a #3... and she responded with the cost. Still a little suspicious since there was no price on the signage, I decided to do the math and figured out that the price of the combo was the same price as if I had just bought the items separately.
I thought (or assumed) like most people that the point of a combo was the reduced price. So I kindly pointed it out to the cashier... and by judging her response, she looked as dissatisfied as I was. I think it would be safe to say she's been asked about it more than a handful of times, adding to her job displeasure (that, and people complaining about not getting enough butter on their popcorn).
Anyway, the point of the story is that there's no price saving... buyer beware!
Second, I watched the Preakness on TV last Saturday and congrats to Big Brown on winning the second leg of the coveted Triple Crown.
Now, as much as I enjoy horse racing, I think they should add a new event after the main race to spice things up.
I mean, who wouldn't want to see those guys (and gals) race six furlongs around the track? Count me in!
Third, I was flipping the channels on the tube Sunday night and came across an old episode of Soul Train, so I had to watch it for the remainder of the episode (it's the law).
None other than Ray Parker, Jr. was performing on the stage... and he sang a song that wasn't named Ghostbusters. Don't know what it was, so I'm at a loss. And even though he lip-synched this tune to a live audience (what's the point of seeing someone live if they aren't singing live, right?), just seeing Ray at the prime of his career was all I needed.
Finally, as you know, I like to post videos from time to time that have nothing to do with sports. Whether it's a really bad music video or a clip from Saved by the Bell or whatever, these vintage clips have a home in the blog.
That being said, several eyes are better than one... so if you see a classic clip that deserves attention, submit the name and link of the video in the box I just added at the top of this page, and I may just post it for the rest of my three readers to enjoy.
And remember - keep it clean!
So, to start things off, here's a video that was emailed to me the other day.
SUNDAY, MAY 18- 2:29 PM
I just posted part two of last week's interview with Shan Foster. Foster talks about preparing for June's NBA Draft as well as how he'd like to be remembered by Commodore fans during his time wearing black and gold.
Hope you enjoy it!
FRIDAY, MAY 16- 12:27 PM
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Shan Foster last week just after he graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in Human and Organizational Development.
Vanderbilt's all-time leading scorer is now preparing for the NBA and will be attending team workouts and camps leading up to June's draft.
In part one of a two-part interview, Foster talks about succeeding in the classroom as well as his unforgettable 42-point effort on senior night.
Come back for part two in a few days... and while you're daydreaming about the weekend in your office with no windows, check out this highlight reel on Foster from the past two seasons on our VUcommodores YouTube page.
THURSDAY, MAY 15- 1:03 PM
The Going Yard crew from CBS College Sports (formerly known as CSTV) was on campus last week for our baseball game with Tennessee Tech. They put together two nice video features that I thought you'd enjoy watching.
First... the Commodores know how to entertain, even if they're not playing.
Second... Ever wonder what it's like to be the #1 prospect in the country, to play for nationally-ranked team, and to be able to hit absolute moonshots?
You can check out more Going Yard videos at www.cstv.com/videos.
Also, two of our stations here in Nashville recently posted some good stories on the baseball program.
Starting pitcher Caleb Cotham shows Fox 17's Dave Foster how to conquer the Rubik's Cube. WATCH
And Nathan Brooks from WKRN catches up with Pedro Alvarez to talk about how the slugger's recovered from his early season injury. WATCH (video on the right of page)
That's it for today. Don't forget, baseball starts its final regular season series tonight in Gainesville (starts a day earlier to give teams an extra day before next week's SEC Tournament in Birmingham).
TUESDAY, MAY 13- 11:54 AM
Happy Tuesday to everyone.
Here are some quick notes for all of you browsing the web right now, even though you should be working.
As I mentioned in my last post, Vanderbilt's spring graduation took place last Friday. Katie Feyes, one of the academic counselors, was nice enough to share a few photos from the ceremony... so here are two you might enjoy (make sure you click on the image to see a bigger version of the pic).
First, here's the entire group of student-athletes standing outside of Kirkland Hall with Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos.
And here's a photo of the 2008 baseball graduates...
If you want to read a good article about the success of our student-athletes in the classroom, then click here.
Now, not only did graduation take place that morning, but our nationally-ranked baseball team also hosted SEC-leader Georgia that same night. After receiving his diploma earlier in the day, senior Dominic de la Osa provided one of the highlights of the year with this video clip below. Just one of several clutch homers that Dom has hit during his time wearing Black and Gold. (Make sure you visit our VUcommodores YouTube Page for more videos)
And since we're on the topic of graduation.... I will never forget where I was when Donna Martin graduated.
And if you didn't know, I celebrate Beverly Hills 90210's entire catalog.... which is why one of the biggest things I heard all week (thanks to LG) was that the CW channel is going to bring back the kids from West Beverly in a spinoff scheduled to air this fall.
Of course, the high schoolers will consist of a bunch of new faces, but some of the oldies are jumping back on board like Jennie Garth. Garth has already signed on to play Kelly Taylor once again, this time as a guidance counselor.
One of the students will be Shenae Grimes, who was a regular on Degrassi "The Next Generation" as Darcy Edwards. Not surprising that the new 90210 studio execs got someone from that show... the "Next Gen" was sort of the same concept as this new nine-oh show, where the originals came back as teachers and parents.
Also joining the cast is Lori Laughlin, who's best known to me from Full House and some really bad but great 80's movie like Secret Admirer (oh and congrats to C. Thomas Howell, also from Secret Admirer, on his role in VH1's reality show on magic called Celebracadabra.. check it out because it will be worth your time).
Now, who really knows if this new 90210 show will be any good... but if Steve Sanders comes back as a regular, it's bound to be TV gold... and I'll put my stamp on it. Maybe Stevo can pass the legacy key down one more time to the next generation.
And you can't have a reprise without Nat and the Peach Pit. Execs must make it a priority to lock down Joe E. Tata to a lifetime contract (really, it shouldn't be hard since he hasn't had a gig since 2001).
Well, have a good rest of the day and check back for a blog update or two later this week.
FRIDAY, MAY 9- 6:45 PM
I'm currently sitting in the press box at Hawkins Field watching
the Commodores and Bulldogs square off in the first of three critical games this weekend... and
thought I'd post some news and notes.
First, congrats to women's tennis head coach Geoff Macdonald. Macdonald (pictured to the right) picked up his 300th win at Vanderbilt earlier today when the 'Dores defeated Indiana State, 4-0, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. If you're in the Nashville area Saturday, stop by and watch the Commodores take on SEC rival Kentucky for the right to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
Today was also a busy day on campus as several Commodore student-athletes officially graduated with a degree from Vanderbilt University. One of the graduates was basketball star Shan Foster. Foster finished off a degree in Human and Organizational Development and is now preparing for June's NBA Draft. In case you missed it, there were a couple of great pieces recently published on the Kenner, La., native.
NCAA Champion Magazine featured Foster on the cover of its spring issue. The story also included some nice photos from a recent campus shoot.
And if you haven't read Jennifer Johnston's story on Shan, then stop what you're doing and take five minutes to find out how the senior swingman excelled not only on the court, but in the classroom.
And keep your eyes out... we sat down with Shan today to get his thoughts on graduation and the upcoming draft. Look for that video interview sometime next week.
Also, there were some other good articles on the web today that you should check out.
Teresa Walker's AP story: Alvarez showed smarts, boosted draft stock
Brett Hait's Friday Q&A with basketball's A.J. Ogilvy
Rocky Mountains News: Jay Cutler raises money and profile
Finally, we posted a new YouTube video.
Fans had emailed about wanting to see video of Pedro Alvarez's monster home run (approx. 430 feet) against Memphis at Pringles Park Tuesday. The blast soared over the right field scoreboard within the blink of an eye... and legend has it that it might be one of only a couple of homers that have ever been hit over the Double A park's scoreboard.
A couple of things to notice while watching the video.
First, Pedro had already homered earlier in the game when he was greeted by "overrated" chants as he stepped to the plate. You'll see what happens.
Second, this game was the first time the 'Dores broke out their gold pinstriped jerseys and pants. I would say there's a chance we'll see these again since we're undefeated (1-0) wearing them. Something you won't see again are the white shoes they played in a few times this season. After losing the Kentucky series, it was determined that they contained "bad karma".
Finally, listen to the crowd reaction once the contact takes place. There was no doubt in anybody's mind where that ball was headed.
Anyway... Hope you enjoy it. I'll see you out at tennis and baseball Saturday.
TUESDAY, MAY 6- 5:04 AM
Congratulations to the baseball team for its second straight sweep over Tennessee last weekend. Here are some post-Tennessee notes I jotted down with quotes from Coach Corbin. And fans.. this week just gets bigger. The 'Dores will host their final four regular season home games starting Wednesday with Tennessee Tech, followed by SEC-leading Georgia coming to town for a three-game set beginning Friday. Over 700 tickets remain for each game, so call 615.322.GOLD and make sure you pack the park!
It was time for a change.
In their series loss to Kentucky two weekends ago, the Commodores committed six overall errors, capped off by four miscues in Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Wildcats, prompting head coach Tim Corbin to make a move for the Tennessee series.
"I was down about the way we played defense against Kentucky," said Corbin. "We didn't hit the ball, but run prevention has always been the theme in this program.
"I thought we were going to play defense first and if we got offense, fine, but I wanted energy and clean baseball in the field and that's what we got."
Corbin started his defensive adjustments against UT by putting Brad French's sure-handed glove back at first base for the first time since April 15.
"He's just played a lot of games over at first and he's been out in the field in tough situations," said Corbin. "Yeah, he doesn't give you the typical first baseman numbers of .350, 20 jacks and 60 RBI, but he's alert. I like his legs, I like his mind, and I like his alertness and that just kind of bleeds into the rest of the team."
In addition to French, Corbin liked Steven Liddle's defense in left field, a position that has seen five different players earn starts during the season. That decision meant the lefty would be in the lineup against two southpaw starting pitchers on Friday and Saturday. Alex Feinberg also played second base after spending time in and out of the lineup since suffering a broken jaw April 5 at Ole Miss.
The moves paid off as the Commodores were error-free in their first sweep of Tennessee in Knoxville since the SEC went to three-game series in 1986.
"To me it's about trying to lessen the run production of the other team while trying to increase the run production of our team. It's paramount that we play good defense and I think that had a lot to do with the success of the weekend."
WITH DEFENSE COMES OFFENSE
Corbin not only made some defensive moves against Tennessee, but also shuffled the batting order to try and spark an offense that produced just six total runs against Kentucky, which included going a dismal 4-for-26 with runners in scoring position.
"There was no rhythm in the lineup," said Corbin. "We weren't getting people on base, and when we were getting people on base, we weren't driving them in, so I said forget it and let's just bump everyone up."
Corbin stayed with David Macias at the top of the lineup (who's been placed there for every game this season), but moved Dominic de la Osa up to the two spot, followed by Pedro Alvarez in the three hole with Ryan Flaherty hitting cleanup.
The top four jumpstarted the offense, combining to go 20-for-53 (.377) with 13 RBI, 14 runs and eight extra base hits on the weekend.
"I think it's just a matter of getting your best hitters up there and getting them as many at-bats as they possibly can because when it really gets down to late in the game, you want those guys back up there again."
But the hitting surge didn't stop there.
In fact, it was contagious throughout the entire order.
Steven Liddle led the 'Dores going 5-for-11 (.455) with three doubles and three RBI against the Vols. After some early season hitting struggles, the redshirt freshman has battled back to raise his average to .299.
"Steve's a kid who was hitting about .220 for most of the year, but it was the hardest .220 I had seen," remarked Corbin. "He was just hitting hard line drives and fly balls all over the place. I think he's a good RBI guy. He seems to pick up guys when they get on base and he's very aggressive with the bat."
Shea Robin also continued his offensive tear over the last few weeks by hitting 6-for-14 (.429) with two homers, a double and four RBI. The senior has raised his average an impressive 55 points in three weeks to .317.
"My running joke with Shea is that I don't need him for offense because he can't hit, so just give me defense," quipped Corbin, who labeled Robin as the best defensive catcher in the SEC. "Ironically, all along we recruited him because of his bat and what he's given us in return is a solid bat."
Alex Feinberg looked like he's returning to form at the plate with four hits including his first homer since March 4 against Louisville. Andrew Giobbi knocked in two runs in Saturday's win, while Brad French contributed with his second multi-RBI game of the season in Sunday's victory.
Overall, the Commodores exploded to score 27 runs on 42 hits versus Tennessee, while the team hit .356 with four homers, 14 doubles and a triple in the three games. VU also rebounded by going 20-for-51 (.392) with RISP and converted 10 two-out RBI as well.
It was a nice turnaround for a team looking to hit its stride at the most important time of year.
"As a coach, you want to be playing your best ball of the year," said Corbin. "We've fought through a lot of adversities earlier in the year with injuries. They're not excuses but they're thunderbolts and they hit you and knock your team down a little bit and you see how they react to them.
"I think now we're starting to bloom a little bit. Hopefully we're playing our best down the stretch."
Well, that's it for today. Thought I'd go old school on the blog and include a video of the day.
At Tennessee this weekend, they tried to play "Sweet Caroline" in Friday's game in the eighth when UT was trailing 8-0. Let's just say it fired up the Commodore faithful that made the trip to Knoxville.
Now, this version below isn't the original by Neil Diamond (which is far and away the best). It's a cover by the King himself, Elvis. I love just about anything Elvis --- young Elvis, fat Elvis, tiny Elvis... heck, even the Elvis impersonator I met in Vegas last summer that was from Paducah, Kentucky (yes, that's a true story... I have the picture to prove it). My favorite part of this video is when Elvis makes his swivel movements to the part in the chorus that's known for the horn section.
And by the way.. there was no way I was posting David Archuleta's "Sweet Caroline" cover from American Idol this season. As much as I love Idol, young David should have been voted off for even trying it. As Simon said, it was "amateurish." David Cook should win it all based on who's left. I personally thought Michael Johns was just as good, but he was voted off weeks ago. And how Jason Castro has survived this long in a competition based on talent, I'll never know.
THURSDAY, MAY 1- 6:23 PM
Here are some of the headlines to get you ready for the Commodores (31-13, 11-9 SEC) critical road series with Tennessee (25-20, 11-10) this weekend in Knoxville.
REBOUNDING FROM THE KENTUCKY SERIES
Vanderbilt's series loss to Kentucky last weekend was the team's first home three-game series loss since falling to the Wildcats in 2006 at Hawkins Field. That home streak extended over 13 series overall including nine SEC series, a pretty good run considering how tough the league is year in and year out.
The big question is how the team will respond to last weekend's disappointment.
"The feeling of what happened last weekend doesn't really deter where we're going to go and what I think we're about to do," said Coach Corbin. "We need to take on the challenge of trying to win some more ball games down the stretch and try to become the best team we can be at the right time of the year."
"Coach (Corbin) met with us Monday and told us to put that series behind us," said junior shortstop Ryan Flaherty. "We've got to learn from that and not let it happen again. After Friday's win, we let a couple of games get away from us and we didn't play our best baseball, that's for sure. Now we all of a sudden have to get ready for a series in Knoxville."
The Commodores were able to take a couple of days off following Sunday's 3-1 defeat to Kentucky because of final exams.
"I gave them two days off because I wanted to get them away from the field for awhile because I felt like a lot of things were piling up on them," said Corbin. "They had exams, and a lot of things to do and I just felt like giving them a couple of days off at this time of year was the right thing to do. Sometimes you need that break more than needing to get right back out there, so it was time to kind of cool the engines down a little bit."
From here on out, the team will be able to focus 100 percent on the diamond without having pressure from tests and assignments in the classroom... something the guys are looking forward to.
"Getting done with exams is always a good thing," said Flaherty. "Now all of a sudden you become kind of like a pro baseball player where you're spending all your time towards baseball. But you have to take care of your time now. You've got a little free extra time and can spend it in the weight room or getting extra swings, so it should help us."
INTENSITY HEATS UP FOR STRETCH RUN
Right now, the Commodores stand in fourth place in the SEC and are only a half game behind second in the East.
But that positioning doesn't mean there's security in the standings.
With nine SEC games still left, including six on the road with the lone home series against overall leader Georgia, the 'Dores could drop out of the top eight if they don't produce down the stretch. VU's only 2 1/2 games from falling to ninth place, a position that doesn't get you in the conference tournament, which could impact their shot at a NCAA bid.
"If you don't play your best baseball on a weekend here (SEC), you're done, you're cooked because you're not going to have a shot of winning a baseball game," said Corbin. "It's very difficult. It comes down to a pitch, an at-bat or a play always. I know that's been said many times before, but it's the truth, and that's why it's said so much.
"We've got nine games in front of us right now that are very important to finish at the top of the conference and they're very important in terms of postseason play. The first goal is to try to get to Birmingham and play in the SEC tournament and I think that's paramount right now."
The players also know the importance of turning it up to the next level this time of year.
"If you look at the SEC, it's a tight race and nothings close to being resolved yet," said Flaherty. "If you look at us, our future lies ahead. We're got three SEC weekends left and we're playing three teams on our side of the conference that are right with us or ahead of us, so these are a big three weeks and we kind of hold our own fate as far as we're concerned."
"Everybody's beating up on everybody, it seems like," said starting pitcher Mike Minor. "No team is just dominating everybody. It's anybody's game right now and everyone just needs to play their hardest. We need to play at the top level of our game in every inning and every out."
It should be noted that the team is still playing for a SEC championship and the right to host a regional like last year, so there's a lot on the line with every game from here on out.
THE RIVALRY WITH TENNESSEE
Not only are the stakes high with the season winding down, but the most crucial series of the season to date comes at instate rival Tennessee.
Corbin has had a lot of success against the Vols, going 12-5 overall in his six years at Vanderbilt (winning four of five series), but this year will mark the first time he will face a UT team not coached by Rod Delmonico.
Tennessee hired Todd Raleigh from Western Carolina last June after he spent eight years with the Catamounts, winning two Southern Conference titles and making two NCAA appearances.
The Vols come into the series struggling of late, dropping seven of its last 11 ball games. But don't get too excited based on that stat alone. UT hasn't surrendered a home series all season at Lyndsey Nelson Stadium. And even though the 'Dores swept Tennessee last year in Nashville, the three games were decided by a total of four runs.
"It's a big series with the SEC East being all bunched up," said Tennessee head coach Todd Raleigh. "It's against our rival, it's instate, and they've kind of been the class of the East over the last couple of years. It's a big weekend. This week's probably got a little special meaning to it and we're looking for it."
Corbin downplayed the rivalry, though, by saying that he doesn't see the series with UT being any different than any other opponent in the SEC.
"It's just another opponent that you have to play well against in order to get to the next step," said Corbin. "Outside of that, I don't go into a war room and start slamming my fist on a desk saying, 'This is a big rivalry and we got to have this game.' I don't treat it like that at all. I treat it more like any other team we play."
So with all the rivalry talk amongst fans and media, has Raleigh noticed anything about it since arriving in Knoxville?
"I think people want this rivalry to be nasty," said Raleigh. "I want it to be a heated rivalry and I want it to be great, but I don't think it's ever going to get to the point where we're ever going to cross those lines. Life's too short for that."
COACHING TIES BETWEEN TEAMS
Not only are there ties between the players (Tennessee has 17 players from the state and Vanderbilt has 13), but there's a strong connection among the coaching staffs of both teams. Let's see if I can break this down.
*Both Tim Corbin and Todd Raleigh were mentored by Jack Leggett.
*Raleigh played for Leggett when he was at Western Carolina (1988-91) and Corbin was an assistant coach for Leggett at Clemson (1994-2002).
*VU assistant coach Erik Bakich played for Raleigh for one season (1999) at East Carolina.
*UT assistant coach Bradley LeCroy played for Clemson (1997-2000) while Corbin was an assistant coach, and was also teammates with Mike Calitri, VU's Director of Baseball Operations.
So, after sorting it out (sure I messed part of it up), here's what was said about the relationship between the coaches:
Raleigh on Corbin
"I've known Tim, I don't know how long," said Raleigh. "He coached with my mentor, Coach (Jack) Leggett, so I have nothing but respect and admiration for Tim.
"There are so many ties between us and Vandy that it's going to mean more. There's no question about it. But our kids don't see that so it really doesn't come into play. I won't even bring it up to our kids because they're not getting into that deep with it."
Corbin on Raleigh
"I know Todd very well," said Corbin. "We have a lot of common from the standpoint of we're both northeast guys, and we both worked for a head coach who put us in this position to coach where we are right now.
"I was very supportive of him getting that job and I felt all along that he would do a great job. I just felt like he would bring a mentality and a disposition to those kids that was different. I thought once he got things together he'd bring in a new energy to them that I think the kids would respond to. I think that's been seen and they've had a lot of good wins."
EXTRA WEEKEND NOTE
Finally, keep your eye out for Dominic de la Osa's stat line this weekend. The senior outfielder is only five hits away from breaking Karl Nonemaker's school career hits record of 283. Good luck, Dom!
THURSDAY, APRIL 17- 12:54 PM
David Macias is a prime example of why baseball players return for their senior season.
Halfway through the conference slate, The Woodlands, Texas, native just may be Vanderbilt's most valuable player.
Known more during his first three years for his stellar defensive play in centerfield, Macias has shined at the plate in his final season, ranking fourth in the SEC in hitting (.394), while leading the Commodores in hits (61), runs (43), total bases (88) and slugging percentage (.568).
Macias has also shown an extra pop in his bat, a nice surprise for a leadoff hitter in a lineup full of big sticks. Entering 2008 with only one career homer, he's ripped six long balls so far, the second most on the team.
"He thrives on getting hit, walking, or doing something to drive the other team crazy," said head coach Tim Corbin. "I think the element that he's added to his game is his ability to hit for extra bases. He's driving doubles and hitting the ball out of the ballpark. He's doing it from both sides of the plate. He's become a very potent, dangerous offensive guy."
During the Commodores seven-game winning streak, the SEC Hitter of the Week has an eye-popping .545 average (18-for-33) with a double, triple, homer and four RBI with 11 runs scored. Macias credits his success to changes he made to his swing in the off-season.
"As a leadoff hitter I'm just trying to get on base," Macias said, "and fortunately I'm getting good pitches to hit and a couple of home runs have happened here and there."
But don't be fooled.
Just because his offensive production has increased doesn't mean that there's been a drop off in the field. Macias has recorded five assists this season and made a couple of jaw-dropping catches at Mississippi State last weekend to show why he's the best at his position in the SEC.
"He plays centerfield as well as anyone in this conference," stated Corbin. "It's not because he's a flyer out there. It's because he's got good instincts. He makes good reads on the ball. He's alert. He can throw runners out."
"I just go out there in the outfield and play as hard as I can in practice," added Macias, "that way it carries over onto the field to help our pitchers out."
Corbin credits Macias' energy level as the main reason for his achievements at the plate and in the field.
"Here is a guy that has played in the SEC for four years and he's never slowed down one step whatsoever. He's still laying out during batting practice when nobody is in the stands. It's what he is use to doing. He carries that same mentality to the games.
"He's hitting home runs, stealing bases, driving in important runs and making great catches... He's doing everything."
MORE ON MACIAS:
Here are a couple of extra tidbits on Macias from Monday's media day.
Taking the beanball
Those that follow Commodore baseball know about Macias' uncanny ability to get on base in a variety of ways, including being able to draw a high number of hit-by-pitches during his career (46 to be exact).
So... Does he practice this art?
Macias: "To tell you the truth, when I hit in the cages, I tell the pitchers to hit me sometimes so I don't get out of the way when it comes to game time. I guess sometimes it is something I work on. I'm the leadoff hitter so I do whatever it takes to get on base to get those guys behind me to drive me in."
The clubhouse joker
During the preseason last fall, a couple of players commented about David being the funniest guy on the roster. So what did Corbin and Macias think about it?
Macias: "I just go in the dugout and locker room and be myself and I guess they think it's funny and they enjoy it."
Corbin: "Macias is funny, but I don't think he tries to be funny. He says things that are so innocent and out there that he catches people off guard, and they start laughing. He's one of those guys that says something funny, and he's not laughing, but then when he sees everyone else laughing, he starts laughing. He's a piece of work."
TUESDAY, APRIL 15- 4:45 PM
SEARCHING FOR CONSISTENCY
Baseball head coach Tim Corbin was searching for consistency from his ballclub after the Commodores were reeling from a 1-4 record in the first week of April including being swept at Ole Miss.
During that span, the 'Dores struggled in all phases of the game: the offense hit only .262, the pitching staff allowed almost eight runs per game, and the defense committed 11 errors.
The Commodores were in last place in the SEC East and had to go back and refocus as a unit to turn things around.
"After Sunday's game, I talked about how we had to break it down to the point we're playing pitch by pitch, inning by inning, and game by game," said Corbin.
"We just tried to get back to the basics," said centerfielder David Macias. "Practicing hard and practicing like you play. Ultimately it carries over and we got a good week out of it."
A good week indeed.
Vanderbilt responded to the tough stretch by posting its most consistent week of the year, winning all five games including midweek wins over Western Kentucky and Austin Peay, as well as a three-game sweep at Mississippi State.
The Commodores excelled in all areas of the game that had given them problems the previous week: the offense heated up with a .340 average, the pitching staff posted a 2.60 ERA, and the defense made only three errors in 185 chances.
"Every aspect of the game is contagious," added Macias. "Once everyone starts doing well it just goes throughout the whole team."
So what was the turning point?
Trailing Mississippi State 7-3 in the fifth inning last Friday, Vanderbilt found itself in a hole once again on the road. Instead of getting rattled in a tough environment, the Commodores battled back to score nine runs over the next two innings and eventually won 15-8, setting the tone for VU's first sweep in Starkville since 1914.
"When we got behind, it could've been a situation where they said, `Oh boy. Here we go again,' but it wasn't like that at all," added Corbin. "We kept pecking away. Then when we won, and I thought this could turn us around."
The Commodores followed Friday's emotional comeback by winning in two different fashions: A 16-0 rout of the Bulldogs on Saturday and a 4-3 nail biter on Sunday to give VU its first road series win of the year.
"If you win a series like that, you're doing things well," stated Corbin. "I thought we had a pretty positive approach in all of those games that week."
Vanderbilt will try to carry over last week's momentum into the rest of the year, starting with two midweek road games before hosting Auburn for a three-game series this weekend at Hawkins Field.
"We're only halfway through the SEC season," added Corbin. "We've got a long way to go. We figured out something for the time being, but it all starts again this week with Lipscomb Tuesday."
MORE OF COACH CORBIN'S QUOTES FROM MONDAY'S PRESS CONFERENCE:
On the younger bullpen thriving in adverse situations:
"We've been on the road three times. We've put them out there in adverse situations."
"In Sunday's game, the game was 4-3 with one out and the bases loaded. We brought in (Richie) Goodenow, and he strikes out a guy. We brought in (Russell) Brewer, and he strikes out a guy. They both had a 2-0 count on each hitter. The crowd was on their feet, and it's difficult to pitch in that situation for the first time for each of them.
"Every time we have a moment like that, it builds upon itself. Every time they succeed, they get more confidence the next time they go up there (on the mound). If I don't give them opportunities, then I won't know how they'll react in the situation. If I give a guy an opportunity like that, and he reacts well to it, then he'll get the ball again in that same situation."
On making the team think like a contender instead of a pretender:
"I told our team last Thursday that the problem is that other teams think more of us than we do of ourselves. I said to them that we're playing like a pretender rather than a contender. We've got to get to the point where we feel like we're the contender. We need to play like the team we're capable of playing like, and I think we started to do that this past weekend."
MONDAY, APRIL 7- 11:15 PM
Alex Feinberg is as tough as they come.
During the first game of a doubleheader Saturday in Oxford, the senior second baseman was on the receiving end of a 92 mph fastball from Ole Miss ace Lance Lynn that hit him just beneath the mouth. What was later determined to be a broken jaw, he ignored the injury and sprinted to first base as if the ball had never hit him.
"He's a tough kid," said head coach Tim Corbin. "He never went down on the ground (after being hit by the pitch) and his face was all over the place. You could see all the way through to his teeth and he said, 'I'm not coming out of this baseball game. Find a way to stop the bleeding and I'm playing.'"
After Vanderbilt's medical staff assessed the situation, Feinberg had to be taken out of the game and immediately returned to Nashville that night for surgery the following morning.
Before being sidelined, the Orinda, Calif., native was in the middle of his best season as a Commodore, ranking fourth in the SEC in hitting (.400) and third in the conference in on-base percentage (.521). He's also been a rock in the everyday lineup, starting all 27 games on the year before getting hurt as well as 62 of 67 games last season.
Not having his toughness in the lineup will be missed as the 'Dores prepare to get back on track with midweek games against Western Kentucky and Austin Peay as well as a weekend road tilt at Mississippi State.
"He's your grinder, he's your Phil Garner, he's your guy who's just a battler and never takes no for an answer," added Corbin. "His injury is a loss because there's a confidence level he plays with that goes to our team... The kid wants to play right now, but he's not going to play for another two weeks."
Feinberg is expected to be out until April 18-20 when the Commodores entertain Auburn. Utility man Brian Harris, who excelled as a starter during Pedro Alvarez's injury, will replace him during his absence.
Feinberg was unavailable for comment at Monday's media day (undergoing care while his jaw is wired shut), but emailed a thank you to Commodore fans for their support.
"I sincerely want to thank everyone who has supported me since my injury on Saturday," he said. "The cards I have received really mean a lot to me, and I just want everyone to know that I am doing well and should be back in action soon."