By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, where the heater is asking for overtime because it works all day, from first NCAA tip-off to last NCAA horn, with some NIT and some World Baseball Classic sprinkled in.
—A TOUGH BREAK: That was a thriller in the World Baseball Classic Saturday night, a USA comeback win over Venezuela, 9-7. With his team down, 7-5, in the eighth inning, Trea Turner hit a grand slam home run.
But one had to feel empathy for the Venezuelan pitcher, Silvino Bracho. He came into the game to face Turner with the bases loaded and threw an 0-and-2 change-up right down Route 1 and Turner hit it into the Great Beyond.
Bracho, 30, was signed by the Cincinnati Reds to a minor league contract with an invitation to the major league camp. He has made three appearances this spring — three innings, one run, two hits, three walks and a strikeout.
He has been trying to stay in the majors since his debut in 2015 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In six seasons, he made 95 appearances for 94 innings and was 2-and-2 with a 4.88 earned run average.
The empathy part? Bracho’s 30-year-old sister, Yuniedes, was killed in an automobile accident, so Bracho and his wife, Evenilly, adopted his sister’s young son.
Clearly, the guy is a class act.
—WORKING AT HOME: Umpiring behind the plate is the most difficult job in baseball, where the umpire has to call 300 or more balls and strikes per game.
That didn’t bother Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem. As a senior umpire, The Old Arbitrator assigned himself to home plate for every game during the latter part of his 16-year career, never working the bases.
A young writer once questioned a call and Klem said, “Young man, I’ve never missed a call in my heart.”
Former American League umpire/comedian Ron Luciano described an umpire’s home plate duties this way:
“In addition to balls and strikes calls, an umpire must keep the game moving, handle lineup changes, argue with plays at home plate, argue with the catcher, argue with the pitcher, take care of the baseball supply, cover plays at home plate, check the bats and baseballs to make sure players aren’t making illegal alterations, work with the official scorer and agrue with the batter.”
He forgot the most important thing: Cleaning off home plate with a whisk broom.”
—SHOCK AND AWE: So you thought Wichita State was the Shockers? Now we all know who Fairleigh-Dickinson is, right? Do we know Tobin Anderson? He is FD’s coach and he said to his team before the Purdue game, “Let’s go shock the world.”
Well, by beating Purdue, the Knights certainly shocked nearly everybody who filled out a bracket sheet. And do you believe what Purdue coach Matt Painters said? “Ninety-nine times out of 100, we would beat them. This was the one.”
I don’t believe it because Purude has lost six times to double-digit seeds in the NCAA. In its last three appearances, the Boilermakers have lost to number 13, 15 and 16 seeds. Fortunately for them they can’t lose to a No. 17 seed. There is no such thing.
Where did FDU get its name? Colonel Fairleigh S. Dickinson was an early benefactor. After the Purdue shocker, he was promoted to Major General Fairleigh S. Dickinson.
Side Note: Shouldn’t Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson be playing for Fairleigh Dickinson? Nope. At 7-foot-1, he is way too tall. FD’s tallest player is 6-foot-6.
—TREE-HUGGERS: The Guttiest Team Trophy goes to the University of Oregon basketball team. The Ducks played the first round of the NIT with three starters on the bench with injuries. And they beat UC-Irvine, 84-58.
Of course, the game was played at Oregon, where the floor is painted all over with trees and the Anteaters (UC-Irvine) probably couldn’t see the basket through the branches.
—DIGGING DEEP: Some stuff that surfaces while passing time learning things during March Madness & Sadness:
**West Virginia has no players on its roster from West Virgina, so how can anybody call it Mountain Momma?
**There is a player on the Montanta State roster from Palmer, Alaska, population: 6,094. He must have played a lot of one-on-one.
**UC Santa Barbara has players on its roster from Sudan, Serbia, Kenya, Belgium and Croatia. . .and a couple from California, which some people believe is a foreign country.
**Iona has no players from New York, but has players from Ghana, Nigeria, Ireland and Rwanda. Wonder how many languages coach Rick Pitino knows. . .or does he have a team of interpreters follow him.
**Texas A&M-Corpus Chrisit has a 7-foot-3 sophomore on its roster, Connor Kern, who didn’t get into the game when the Islanders played in the First Four in Dayton. The poor kid must not be able to run the floor without tripping over the foul line.
**Furman, which upset Virginia in the first round (I picked that one on my sheet) has a player from Xenia, Alex Williams. He scored six points in 25 minutes on 2 for 5 shoot, 1 of 2 from three. And after bragging about picking Furman, my pick to win it all was Arizona. I used my bracket sheet to light a cigar.
**The Mountain West had lost 11 straight first-round games until San Diego State beat the College of Charleston, 63-57. Yes, I picked CofC to win this one and SD State turned it into ashes.
—FOREIGN AFFAIRS: If there ever was a question that college basketball isn’t international, it astounded me after I researched it and discovered that 47 different countries are represented on the 68 teams that qualified for the NCAA tournament.
Take a deep breath and read this list that sounds like the United Nations:
Canada, Australia, Argentina, Russia, Sudan, Croatia, Belgium, Turkey, Serbia, France, Sweden, Lithuania, Mali, Estonia, Mali, Togo.
Dominican Republic, Nigeria, The Bahamas, Congo, Cameroon, Angola, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Ireland, Italy, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Ghana, Rwanda, England, Israel, Kenya.
Slovenia, Barbados, Netherlands, New Zealand, Ukraine, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Spain, Greece, Nicaragua, Romania, Uruguay, Suriname, Finland.
—WHAT’S IN A NAME?: There are so many boring nicknames of teams in the NCAA tournament — too many Tigers, too many Wildcats, too many Bulldogs.
Fortunately, there are a slew of team with nicknames nobody else uses, like if you say Volunteers, you know it’s Tennessee or if you say Crimson Tide you know it’s Alabama.
Some others: Sun Devils (Arizona State), Razorbacks (Arkansas), Paladins (Furman), Fighting Illini (Illinois), Hoosiers (Indiana), Golden Flashes (Kent State), Ragin’ Cajuns (Louisiana), Terrapins (Maryland), Norse (Northern Kentucky), Boilermakers (Purdue).
Aztecs (San Diego State), Horned Frogs (TCU), Longhorns (Texas), Gauchos (UC Santa Barbara), Catamounts (Vermont), Musketeers (Xavier).
Unfortunately, the Banana Slugs (UC Santa Cruz), the Anteaters (UC Irvine), the Salukis (Southern Illinois), the Mastadons (Purdue-Fort Wayne), the Jaspers (Manhattan) and the Blue Hose (Presbyterian) didn’t make the NCAA field.