May 2, 2010
Pittsburgh, Pa. - We had a good practice Thursday afternoon. Along with some nice swings, I saw a lot of guys scratching beneath their collars. I'm assuming most of the players got haircuts that morning. If they're at all like me, a trim is a great way to spend part of the day after a loss. No real baseball guy gets a haircut after a win. It is sacrilege to mess with a streak. As Crash Davis tells Annie Savoy in the classic movie, Bull Durham, "...a player on a streak has to respect the streak...You know why? Because they don't -- they don't happen very often."
In 114 seasons of baseball at the University of Connecticut, no team had ever won twenty-two games in a row. Our guys accomplished that before falling to Central Connecticut on Wednesday. Before the Blue Devils beat us, we had last lost at Louisville on March 27.
It was a heck of a run. The streak helped vault us into the national rankings, and it put us in a position to win championships this year. Now that it's over, it is time to rededicate ourselves to our basic goals of winning series and championships. We won't have a chance to win a series this weekend, as we split yesterday's doubleheader with another nationally-ranked Big East club here, and today's series finale with the Pitt Panthers has been rained out. In an attempt to best spend recently-found time on this Sunday afternoon, we are staking out the awe-inspiring Cathedral of Learning and the quiet William Pitt Union in order to get some studying done. Our evening flight will take us back to Connecticut in order to begin a week of final exams tomorrow. We'll have to wait until next Saturday to play again while the guys put the finishing touches on another semester with what we hope will be lots of A's and B's.
If we have enough one-game win streaks (that's how we looked at the 22-gamer -- just 22 one-game win streaks) over the remaining eleven or twelve regular season games (we're already looking for an opponent to replace the game we can't play today), we have a great opportunity to win a Big East championship, and qualify for the NCAA tournament. We played two very ugly defensive games yesterday, and managed to win the first behind some stellar pitching from Elliot Glynn and Dan Feehan, along with another big game from Mike Olt. As we competed somewhat foggily through a muggy doubleheader, it looked like we could use a little break from the diamond. We surrendered a lot of free 90s during both games, and I'm hoping a couple of days off might help. The team has done a nice job of playing the game one pitch at a time for the last month, and we'll need to get back to doing just that next weekend against Cincinnati in Storrs.
We arrived in one of the many big cities on the Big East circuit Friday night, and as we pulled out of the Fort Pitt Tunnel and the beautiful downtown skyline popped into view (that never gets old), it got me thinking about the places we've already seen on the road. One thing that is rather unique to the Big East Conference, is the quality of the places we get to visit. While, we're often in town just for three or four days, and there is important business to conduct in the form of throwing strikes and driving in runs, we try to allow the guys to explore a bit when we plunk down in town for a series.
With Philadelphia, Washington, Pittsburgh, Tampa, New York, Cincinnati, and Louisville all part of the Big East loop, our young men get a great taste of some of America's biggest and best cities. I'm sure the SEC boys enjoy Tuscaloosa, Starkville, and Fayetteville. The ACC folks might love visiting Blacksburg, Winston-Salem, and Durham. Yet, there can't be any argument that the student-athletes and coaches of the Big East have the undisputed best destinations on the college circuit. Admittedly, Fodor's doesn't publish travel guides for Storrs, Morgantown, or Piscataway, but from top to bottom, east to west, and north to south, the Big East corners the market on popular places and has the edge over all the other conferences when it comes to travel possibilities.
In some out-of-conference travel this year, we even got to experience Los Angeles on our spring break trip. From LAX, we flew into Atlanta with Snoop Dogg in order to get to Knoxville, and when one considers our flights to O'Hare or Midway for regular visits to South Bend, our Huskies get to see Chicago too. We flew out of Boston to go to St. Petersburg for our opening weekend this season and saw Fenway Park and Tropicana Field from two interstates on that trip. Through the years, the Huskies have seen much through bus windows. In March and April, we looked to our right to see the Hollywood sign on the freeway in LA (with apologies to Miley Cyrus, that's for Tess), and to our left to glimpse the Watergate building in D.C.
A Fisch and a Bird: Right-hander David Fischer with a buddy on the Santa Monica Pier
We're not possessed. Our coach just has a bad camera: With Honest Abe before the Georgetown series
Down the Stretch they Come: Some of the guys check out Louisville's Churchill Downs
In years past, the head coach has been known to encourage our driver to take detours in order to hit historic sites before leaving town. Different editions of Huskies have been through the JFK assassination site in Dallas's Dealey Plaza, as well as the Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination site at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. In consecutive weeks this year, our guys could have dangled their toes in Tampa Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Ocean. In 2010 alone, they've seen the LA Coliseum, peered through a fence at the White House, walked the Santa Monica Pier, crossed the Rocky Mountains in a plane, and touched Babe Ruth's bat (at the Louisville Slugger Museum). If the bus windows opened, we all could have spit in the Connecticut, Ohio, Potomac, Tennessee, Monongahela, and Charles Rivers as we crossed them all during the last three months.
The 2010 Huskies pose in front of the site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Summer Games
You can take the boy out of Berlin: Coach Malinowski's first time in the Pacific
Throughout the travels, they've bonded as a team by establishing new traditions and routines that make the constant movement and change a little more comfortable. One of the funniest is the all-denim breakfast tradition begun by lefty Teddy Hurvul (lefties and funny seem to go together). When we've had a chance to sweep a team on the final day of a series, the guys have begun to copy Teddy's denim tuxedo look by wearing similar get-ups to our pre-game breakfast. Here is a look at some of the guys at breakfast before last weekend's sweep of Rutgers:
As terrible as they all look (for verification check out the photo above of our Friday night starter, Elliot Glynn in his shorts along with from left: Kevin Vance, Ted Hurvul, John Sulzicki, Trent "That's a Whole Lot of Dungaree" DeLazzer, Greg Nappo and Matt Burnett), there is no better sight to behold than the all-denim breakfast for the coaches. If we see it, that means we've won a series already and are going in for the kill of a sweep. Some folks enjoy looking at a sunset or a Rembrandt on the wall, nothing looks better to me than seeing Sunday denim on our players.
With new haircuts, a confident team, a few days to focus solely on the books and recharge our bodies for the stretch run of the season, I hope we can continue our fun journey for a long time. Who knows, along with the Nike apparel deal, perhaps with a few more productive series, we could secure another contract from Wrangler, Lee, or Levi Strauss?!
Dr. Seuss's last book before his death is titled, Oh, the Places You'll Go! In this season of commencements, the book will often be presented as a gift to graduates. Like all of his books, it has a great message. I hope the last four lines he ever published will be prophetic for the Huskies:
You're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way!
While we've already seen some great places, we hope to see many more over the course of May and June. The mountain of finals and a tough upcoming stretch of games is a daunting one, but after winning 22 in a row, and climbing since August, we can finally see the summit from the trail. We're on our way...