Thursday, February 27, 2014

Future 'Cats take that right turn at Albuquerque

As you have been reading here on the blog, the US College Baseball season is underway!
Yes that’s crickets you hear...
One thing you find out quickly when researching college ball, is that it ain’t football. Or basketball. The college baseball machine – the one that turns out almost 50% of all major league ball players – lives in relative obscurity in the US college sports landscape. While the Sweet 16 basketball tourney is the most watched amateur sporting event on the planet, and NCAA football games are often played in front of audiences in excess of 80,000, the majority of college baseball games are played in venues older and smaller than Royal Athletic Park, in front of hundreds of fans, not thousands.
Take for instance, my focus team this week, 2013 HarbourCats slugger Alex Real’s University of New Mexico Lobos... Remember those cold mid-week games at RAP last year when he looked up and saw no more than 1000 Victoria fans spread around the stadium? Well that’s a sellout at Lobo Field in sunny Albuquerque New Mexico... 
Lobo Field - lots of parking available!

It's small, but it's no hole-in-the-ground... Built in 1960, Lobo Field has undergone some significant renovations in the past couple of years and is a jewel on the UNM campus. New dugouts, playing surface, and lights (which allowed for the first ever night game to be played this season) are just some of the key upgrades that make this a beautiful, if not quaint stadium.
Alex Real is back with the Lobos this season as a junior (meaning veteran), on a team where 13 seniors from last year have graduated and moved on. Our big man has been elevated to a full-time catcher, where he has started every game so far. Last year he caught only 8 games all season, spending the majority of his time as a DH or first baseman. In his first 8 games this year, Real is hitting a respectable .323 with 10 hits (all singles), and 4 steals. He is one of only four upper-classmen on a very young Lobos team this year, and will be expected to lead both on and off the field – which as we remember, he seems more than capable of doing.
If the Lobos are to return to their regional championship for a fifth year in a row, they will need to rely on some new and upcoming young talent. This includes two players who will make Victoria and the HarbourCats their summer home this year – LHP Carson Schneider, and OF Danny Collier. The two Froshes are just beginning their NCAA careers and are no doubt adjusting to college life on a campus  of almost 30,000.
Danny Collier (L) and Carson Schneider (R)

Collier has left the bench only once so far, going 0-1 in his only pinch-hit plate appearance. Schneider has seen a bit more action, coming out of the bullpen three times for a total of 2.2 innings. He’s given up a hit each time, plunked a dude, but still has his virginal 0.00 ERA intact.
We’ll continue to report on our Lobo boys as the season progresses and they see more action!

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