McDonnell again raises expectations for UofL baseball

Former UofL baseball players Will Smith, of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Brendon McKay, of the Tampa Bay Rays, shared their experiences (Mike DeZarn photos)

By Barbara Springer

Seven words.

“Grass. Track. Wall.”
“That ball is gone!”

Words from play-by-play announcer Sean Moth that get University of Louisville baseball fans on their feet, roaring. Words that inspire and challenge baseball players to strive even harder. Words to drive this team all the way to Omaha.

Ranked number one by D1 baseball, this 2020 team begins competition February 14 following a 51-18 record last season. The 2019 team made it to the semifinals of the College World Series, their fifth trip in Coach Dan McDonnell’s 13 seasons here. He begins this season with four seniors to lead a team heavy with freshmen and sophomores.

Junior pitcher Adam Elliott was awarded the Muhammad Ali Leadership Scholarship by Ali’s widow, Lonnie Ali (Mike DeZarn photo).

Last year’s team had its highest final ranking in program history, with a No. 3 ranking, and the winningest program in all of Division 1 baseball. Moreover, the players posted the most conference wins since 2015 among Power 5 programs. Fifteen former Cards have made Major League debuts since 2014.

Coach McDonnell announced during the team’s Leadoff Dinner Friday evening that the motivational theme this season is “Somewhat Higher.” Since August, the fall semester GPA was a record 3.35, with 25 hours of community service per athlete. The players enjoyed a team-building trip to the Dominican Republic last fall, stretching themselves as they worked with children in teaching and fun, as well as community service. Coach Mac recalled the trip, saying it “opens your heart and lights a flame. Keep it lit and serve in Louisville.”

Al Greener, the UofL Pep Band Director who plays the organ at games, was doing his thing.

Just a few years ago, at a luncheon, McDonnell spoke to the challenges of luring quality players to Louisville, where the season may very well begin on a cold and rainy day. Or with snow falling. When the stands might be fairly empty on a weekday night. But, somehow, he has found a way to convince prospects to take a chance, to challenge themselves.

Maybe he has succeeded because of the facilities, which have undergone dramatic transformations in the last few years. Maybe the attraction is the coaching staff, which has remained very stable.

Maybe recruits and their parents want to be a part of the program’s notable successes. Maybe even the caliber of the opponents is the attraction.

Whatever, he has succeeded, and with all the pageantry and fanfare and video excitement of the evening plus the presence of former players and current pros, the coaching staff pulled out all the stops and brought the legendary Brendan McKay and Will Smith out. Both have their faces and numbers on that outfield wall at Jim Patterson Stadium.

McKay made his big league debut last June on the mound for the Tampa Bay Rays, while Smith took his position behind the plate in May for the LA Dodgers. The audience enjoyed listening to their conversational Q&A with emcee Moth for 30 minutes.

It is a given that fans in the audience Friday night will show up at Patterson Stadium, even for a cold February or March game, waiting, no, expecting to hear GRASS. TRACK. WALL. THAT BALL IS GONE!

Seven words.

Omaha Bound

Gearing up means gearing down for female UofL football fans

Typical female fan’s purse will no longer conform to new policy.

A few years ago, we were en route to Orlando but decided suddenly to divert to an overnight in Tampa so we could cheer on the Cards versus South Florida at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ stadium.  Imagine my chagrin at having my purse “sized” upon entering.  Fortunately, my bag was just small enough to be allowed through.

Flash forward to Monday when the newly announced policy regarding bags for entry into PJCS was announced.  “Each ticket holder is allowed one small clutch purse (no larger than 6.5 x 4.5 inches) and one large clear bag, either a one-gallon clear Ziploc-style storage bag or a 12 x 6 x 12 inches clear tote bag.”

See-through Cardinal tote bags are available from Cardinal Authentic for $11.99.

I sized my favored UofL logo purse, which is really just the size for the items I think necessary for a three-hour-plus game experience.  Too large.  As well, not clear.

So, I guess my options are these:

–Buy a new, smaller, clear plastic bag, the durability of which is highly questionable.

–Buy a clear tote, although bulker, yet still plastic.

— Buy both, which would be necessary for colder weather (gloves, handwarmers, earmuffs, etc.)

— Scale down what I take into the stadium.

-Stuff my pockets.  Which will result in my slowing down the entry line as I empty said pockets, then reload them.

Oh, yes, how much will these new bags cost?  Sure, I can just keep using freezer bags from the pantry.  But I will then have to buy Cards decals to decorate them.  EACH TIME these have to be replaced.

Stated policy: “Approved clear tote bags are available for purchase from Cardinal Authentic.”  AT THE STADIUM.  (Or PURCHASED from other venues.)  Not such a problem for a Louisvillian who can drive to the stadium.  How about fans from out of the city?

My questions continue: What about blankets?  In or out of containers?  Clear containers?  And what about binoculars?  Same sizing requirements?  Clear containers?  Some people like their expensive binocs to be better protected by a case sturdier than plastic.

Were there any women on this policy-deciding committee?  What about women who really would prefer that some of their necessary items not be clearly visible?

Now, I know some of my questions may seem ridiculous to some people, but are they really?  What kind of allowances will be made at the gate?  And by whom?  Teenagers with their scanners and wands?

Continue reading “Gearing up means gearing down for female UofL football fans”

Al Greener brings vast repertoire to Louisville baseball

Al Greener is back at the organ at Jim Patterson Stadium. He began 11 years ago in 2006, the same year Dan McDonnell came on board (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands….” the lyrics go, and there was a lot of hand clapping Wednesday at Jim Patterson Stadium as the University of Louisville baseball team crushed Eastern Kentucky 19-3.

With that tune and many others orchestrating the game, organist Al Greener pulled out all the stops (pun intended) as one after another batter tried to subdue the Cards’ 2017 home opener energy. Greener, a University of Iowa grad, has been doing UofL baseball games for 11 years, coming on board with Coach Dan McDonnell in 2006.

Fans were in for a musical blast when the stirring Sandstorm rumbled from the loudspeakers, revving up the crowd on a beautiful springlike winter day. And also when All-American Brendan McKay hit his first Grand Slam of the season, giving the Cardinals a 4-0 lead in the first inning.

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Scandal turns fan’s Louisville basketball world upside down

When I was a child, we played a silly game called fruit basket turnover.   These last few weeks, I have felt as if I have been in a fruit basket,  turning topsy turvy.  My emotions about “SkankGate” are all jumbled.

At first, I was stunned with the news reports.  Shocked.   Thrown back against the wall.

Mystified.  How could this have happened?

Barbara Springer wonders what hit the program.
Barbara Springer among many UofL fans reeling.

Angry.  How could this be truthful?

Disgusted.  Wall-to-wall media coverage, conclusions reached prematurely.   Guilty until proven innocent.

Betrayed.   By her.   By Andre McGee, maybe.  By players we cared about.

Aggravated.  By media attention spotlighting a brazen, money hungry  prostitute.

Outraged.  By a mother who puts her children in harm’s way.  And brags about it.

Sad.  That a whole student body, a fandom,  and a city itself are smeared by her outrageous  story.

Skeptical.  If the scenarios in the book are true,  is  UofL  the only school where this happens?

Curious.  How could this go on for several years with not one “leak” on any social media?

Embarrassed.  By some fans calling for Coach Pitino to resign or be fired; some  threatening to no longer wear their red and black.

Ashamed.   Of those “fans”  for rushing to judgment.

Frustrated.  The investigation process will drag on a long, long time.

Impatient.   For answers.  For rebuttals.  For explanations.

Encouraged.  That there is at least one local sportswriter (Eric Crawford) in the mainstream media who tries to be objective and thorough.

Charmed.  By two teammates who brave a media storm to answer questions about a scandal of which they had no part.  And their honesty and good humor.

Hopeful. The season still can be a success.  And fun.  And even laudatory.

But  mostly  tired.   Of the whole mess.

Choosing from all the UofL gear can be daunting

Let me see now…2009 Big East Champions?  No.  Cardinal Faithful?  No.  Destination New Orleans?   No.  Cut the Net?  No.  National Champions 2013?  Maybe.   It’s All About the Ville.  Yep, that’s the one!closet

Settling on which top to wear to a University of Louisville game has become way too hard.  And it cannot be just any shirt.  It has to be THE shirt.  Red, black, white, maybe pink.  One half of a closet of agonizing decision-making.

And buying a Cards shirt can be just as challenging.  Just go to a game and you will see such a variety of designs, you can feel at once thrilled and overwhelmed.  Where do all those fans find all those different designs anyway? The days of having only one choice at the old Bacon’s department store a distant memory.

UofL slogans just about anywhere you go.  Eye-catching.  Clever.  Memorable.   On celebrities like JLaw and Leo.  Even far out into the Commonwealth, one can spot a proud wearer of the L1C4 slogan.

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 8.07.16 PMCheck out Pinterest boards related to UofL or the Cards and the representations are remarkable.  Tonight I saw a few pins  that go far  beyond the usual  tee shirt or décor stuff.  How about some nail polish splashes?  Want a Cards darts cabinet?  Or a Cardinal tutu?  Phone covers, well, of course.  Need a stethoscope cover?  Really?

For me, this proliferation of UofL art on shirts, hats, ties, purses, flags, ad infinitum, is awesome, and those who know me know I reserve the use of that word for something that is, well, truly awe-inspiring.

I personally favor “The Ville.”  I googled that recently and discovered that there is no other “Ville” but our “Ville.”  As a matter of fact,  a “Ville” tee shirt recently drew favorable comments in Las Vegas, and that was from a Gonzaga alum.

Continue reading “Choosing from all the UofL gear can be daunting”