Disaffected with the pros? Try college baseball

In the lead-up to the settlement of the Major League Baseball lockout, I saw a lot of grumbling in the Twittersphere about how fans were contemplating bailing on the big-league teams, their greedy owners and some pouty players. Minor-league and college baseball were offered as strong alternatives because, well, because they are.

Anyone who lives just about anywhere in the United States has close or at least fairly close access to minor-league teams, even as MLB does its darndest to eliminate as many farm teams as they can. College ball is even more ubiquitous, and it’s thriving.

Tom Chmielewski delivers from the mound against Yale on March 27, 2022.

I love baseball at all levels, and I’ve become partial to the college game in recent years with an affiliation through the athletic fellows program at Princeton University. I was at Clarke Field yesterday for a portion of the home-opener doubleheader against Yale, and even thought the Tigers fell twice to the Bulldogs and a storm blew in during Game 2, it still made for an entertaining day.

It’s good to have the Tigers at home. Like other Northeast baseball squads, they start the year in Southern states with warmer weather and drier fields. As I write this post about two hours before the first pitch of the final game of the series, the forecast calls for wind and rain with temperatures in the low 40s — in other words, great weather for Milwaukee!

Even with challenging weather, the Ivy League games I get to watch are compelling. As I looked into the Yale dugout yesterday, I looked at one player on the bench whose facial features reminded me of an Eli pitcher years ago, Ron Darling.

Matt Scannell of Princeton signals himself safe after beating the throw to Yale first baseman Colton Shaw.

That’s one of the attractions of watching college ball: you never know if there’s a future major league star on the field. But it’s the game itself that draws me in. The young men in the Ivy League and occasional non-conference games I see are solid, skilled players who execute well and get even better as they learn under the leadership of coaches like Princeton’s Scott Bradley, himself a former major league player.

Members of the players’ families come to the games, and I’ve been pleased to get to know a number of parents in recent years. Best of all, I’ve gotten to know many of the players. With COVID having knocked out last year’s season and all but a few early road games the year before, I’m looking forward to connecting more with the players in 2022.

Princeton’s baseball games (as with women’s softball) are open to the public and free of charge. Come out and catch one of the games — at Princeton or whatever school is nearby — and watch for love of the game, without the greed.

Nadir Lewis has just stolen second base and no doubt is plotting how to get home.

7 thoughts on “Disaffected with the pros? Try college baseball

  1. Free of charge! That’s a gift, a wonderful one. I like the reference to Milwaukee – “great weather for Milwaukee!” College baseball is such a hidden gem and so different than the other major sports like basketball and football who embrace the college game. I was reading on another blog this morning that Virginia is 21-1, their best start in its 134 year history. Glad to read your post. Keep em coming.

      1. damn retractable dome now or maybe i’m being nostalgic angry? it’s my young years being at the opening day and post season county stadium brewers in the early 80’s. my dad got us tickets for some of those games and though i don’t remember much, it’s pleasant when a colder breeze hits me because i’m vaguely reminded of those times and that stadium. did you write for the brewers?

      2. WordPress is being weird and doesn’t show a reply button to your follow-up comment so I’ll put it here. I wrote not for the Brewers but for The Associated Press. I wasn’t a sports writer but I wrote a lot of sports stories, including that the Brewers had traded Gorman Thomas to Cleveland. I took a call from the Brewers’s PR guy on that one. That was huge news.

  2. After the greedy MLB owners refused to punish the Cheatros, and after they cut 40 MiLB teams in a money grab move, I turned my back on MLB. The whole farce between the owners and the players during the COVID pandemic, of who should carry the losses, made me sick.
    Luckily, I am living in Europe, so I don’t need US baseball to be entertained. Sure, the level overhere doesn’t come close to MLB or even college in many countries, but at least it is baseball.
    As far as I am concerned, I wish MLB a slow death (figure of speech).

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