COLLEGE BASEBALL, for a variety of reasons, rarely draws huge crowds in the Pacific Northwest. There’s the sheer volume of games, dicey weather, afternoon games when people are working or going to school, games played after the school year ends, etc. School is out at Washington State, but this weekend presents an ideal opportunity for Cougar fans to turn out in droves.
Because they'll have the chance to enjoy a) great baseball; b) great weather; c) great dislike -- or however it is you'd characterize your feelings about the Washington Huskies.
The Cougars and Huskies wrap up the regular season at Bailey-Brayton Field this weekend. Game times are 5:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday. It’s the last chance for most fans to see the Cougars before they likely make their first NCAA post-season appearance in 19 years next week.
Bring your suntan lotion and your appetite to Pullman. Which reminds us: How does anyone in the Cougars’ bullpen keep their mind on the game with those heavenly smelling burgers and hot dogs cookin’ on that grill just a few feet away?
Baseball, food, sun and fun: Honestly, does life get any better than that?
HATS OFF: Cougar senior outfielder Jared Prince who was just named Pac-10 Player of the Week for his 11-for-23 work at the plate -- with a home run and 10 RBI -- to lead the Cougs to a 4-2 record last week. He was 6-for-10 with four RBI in the three-game series at Oregon State.
ROLL CALL: Almost twice as many Cougars (31) as Huskies (16) have made it to the major leagues over the years, but Washington has a 2-1 edge over WSU in terms of active big leaguers. Literally.
Former WSU basketball star Mark Hendrickson, who played only one season of college baseball before heading to the NBA for a few seasons, is a pitcher with the Baltimore Orioles.
The ex-Huskies in the bigs are reigning Cy Young Award winner Tim Linceum of the San Francisco Giants and relief pitcher Sean White of the Seattle Mariners. The Chicago White Sox just shipped utilityman Brett Lillibridge to the minors.
WSU’s list of former major leaguers includes former all-stars John Olerud, Ron Cey, Aaron Sele and Gene Conley. Former Boston Red Sox catcher Sammy White, ex-Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Kevin Stocker and current Mariners broadcaster Mike Blowers are among the players Washington has sent to the bigs.
FOOTBALL FACTS: When The New York Times recently ranked Washington State 114th out of 120 teams in big-boys college football for 2009, some Cougar fans were fairly steamed.
Arguably, 114 is too low for any Pac-10 team, never mind one that appears likely to improve from a year ago with so many players returning after gaining substantial playing time last season.
In the Times’ defense, however, it is a fact that WSU’s current quarterbacks have combined for a career total of four touchdown passes and 17 interceptions; wide receivers and tight ends have caught just five touchdown passes; and a defense that allowed 44 points per game lost its leading tackler (Greg Trent).
PFLUGRADS QUIET: The rumor mill is working overtime amid speculation that former Pullman High School football star Aaron Pflugrad may transfer to WSU or Boise State. Pflugrad announced last week he is leaving Oregon, and he took a serious look at BSU before signing on with the Ducks.
Pflugrad starred at Pullman with current Cougar backup quarterback J.T. Levenseller, then moved to Eugene after father Robin left WSU to take an assistant coaching job at Oregon. Pflugrad showed promise in two years with the Ducks and was starting at wide receiver in spring ball, but he presumably was upset that his father was let go by new head coach Chip Kelly.
Phone messages for the Pflugrads have not been returned.
DILLON CATCHING ON: Former Coug receiver Charles Dillon has caught 29 passes for 435 yards and 12 touchdowns as the No. 3 receiver for the Spokane Shock.
The Shock is 7-0 and ranked No. 1 in arenafootball2. That’s the minor league associate of the suspended Arena Football League. The Shock has been wildly successful on the field and at the turnstiles during its four years of operation, routinely drawing sellout crowds of 10,000-plus to the Spokane Arena.
Players earn just $200 per game in af2 -- with a $50 bonus for wins -- but they do receive free housing and some free dining.
Family blood flows even stronger than Cougar blood in the Midles household. Dwight Midles has been a diehard Cougar supporter since his days as a hammer thrower at WSU, but he wears a Husky jersey at track meets to support his son, Washington’s Zack Midles. Zack came in third in the hammer at the Pac-10 Championships last weekend.
Quarterback Mike Reilly, who left WSU after one redshirt year and blossomed into an NCAA Division II All-American at Central Washington, signed a free-agent contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The WSU women finished sixth at the Pac-10 Rowing Championships last Sunday. “Pretty rough day for the Cougs,” coach Jane LaRiviere summed up. The 15th-ranked Cougar varsity eight came in sixth, but all five crews that beat WSU were ranked even higher.
Trent Bray, who was all set to play football for the Cougars until father Craig left WSU to become an assistant coach at Oregon State (where Trent wound up starring), has been named linebackers coach for San Francisco in the new United Football League.