Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Back to the Future

Ages ago, SoBB promised you profiles of the '07 newcomers akin to our brief glimpse of Dan Zailskas. Time has lapsed and the team has official profiles upposted its own profiles, but eventually, I'll get around to tossing in some bonus Google results for the die-hards.

But first: Something's gotta be said about this solid profile by Kurt Swoboda of Harvard (who needs some sort of nickname other than Kurt the Harvard SID around these parts). He did a great job, but of course, he doesn't have the luxury of prognosticating and recklessly editorializing from afar. SoBB does.

As Harvard baseball fans tend to be a pretty literate bunch, I won't duplicate much here: you can read the profile. But I'll pull a few bullet points in summary:

* I'm experiencing deja vu. What do I mean by this? Pitching is the strength of the team--but you'd better pray none of the starters gets hurt. You've got a big bat in the middle (Steffan Wilson) and a whole lot of question marks in the way of protection. You've got a some potential pop in the form of about 3-4 different guys who could be complementary bats as catchers. Man, this sounds familiar...

Hop in your time machines, kids, and ride to an era pre-Farkes/Klim/Salsgiver/junior-year Mann and re-introduce yourselves to the 2002 Crimson! With Shawn Haviland as Ben Crockett, Adam Cole as Justin Nyweide (or, in the best of all possible worlds, a pre-injury Marc Hordon? We saw glimpses of both last season), and Max Perlman or Eric Eadington as potential immediate Chaney Sheffields (this is, particularly for immediate purposes, a compliment). Steffan Wilson is Trey Hendricks, and the Matt Kramer-Andrew Casey-Justin Roth platoon can only hope to inspire memories of Brian Lentz and young Mann in the aggregate. Matt Vance--who seems set to move to shortstop if for no other reason than to feed this analogy--is your Mark Mager presence, with added turbo boosters on the bases. Jay Brown, having become the team's favored option out of the pen last year, is your presumptive Barry Wahlberg-esque righty closer...

I continue this (by now) tired comparison to illustrate a couple points:
1. We've been spoiled by power the last few years, but it's worth remembering that Ivy League championships can be won even if it isn't raining homers.
2. Relatedly: It ain't gonna rain homers this season.
3. The 2002 team managed to overcome any number of flaws (there were few glaring ones) and significant injuries (there were quite a few of these) with poise and determinaton. As some observant if overly verbose Crimson columnist noted at the time, a lot of that had to do with the incredible senior leadership on that team (nine seniors saw serious time, all contributed mightily to a wild title run). This bunch, though similar on paper to that bunch in a lot of ways, is also much younger). They may have to grow up in a big hurry.

* Versatility? Or just uncertainty? You say tomato... There are very few sure things in this lineup. Steffan Wilson's bat and Matt Vance's feet and Brendan Byrne at second. That's it. Sophomore Matt Rogers? Ideally your #2 hitter, but Walsh's expectations for him seem tempered this time around, and he'll have something to prove in the early games. Tom Stack-Babich? After his arrival was heralded a year in advance, the transfer from Wake Forest's first season in Allston was disappointing. Whether he works his way back to the lineup, let alone its heart, seems an open question to those of us who haven't followed the team up close this winter. Jeff Stoeckel, who apparently has looked great? Harry Douglas? Griff Jenkins? Jon Roberts? Max Warren? Who knows? All are multiple position guys whose fate could just as easily as anything be determined by whether Vance's transition to shortstop works out or not and what happens in the resulting squeeze. Toss in potential power bats Walsh is careful not to talk up too much in Zailskas and Andrew Prince (he's far more effusive about his freshman arms than either of them, and notably, less gushing about either than he was about Adam Cole at the start of last season, although that might just be smart), and who knows how much or how little we'll see of anyone, or who'll be starting at first (assuming Wilson stays at third), short (if not Vance--although you'd like to think Taylor Meehan's experience there would be dispositive) or any of the outfield spots, really. Yes, that was a horrible mess of a sentence. But it'll take you less time to figure it out than it'll take me to fix it.

* And then there's catcher. I'm gonna come out and say it: I loved Matt Kramer's bat out there last season, and I loved his attitude (even if he got a little overzealous here and there). I thought he should've been the full time guy most of last season, and if he's looking as improved as Walsh says in that interview, the job should be his to lose, unless Stoughton's Wortzman is the second coming. If Justin Roth hits like people think he can hit, fine, I'd love to see both in the lineup.

* Also, needless to say, this preview only assumes that Shawn Haviland will continue to be among the best pitchers in the Ivy League. No reason to even begin to think otherwise.

Enough for now, gang.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Field Of His

Joe O'Donnell of O'Donnell Field fame visits the team under the bubble and gets this write-up at the official site. I have little to add here, except that money is an awful nice thing for a baseball team to have, and it's great having strong supporters.
Update: Pic from Kurt.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Welcome to the Terrordome

Future First Ballot Harvard SID Hall of Famer Kurt has generously sent over a couple of shots of team practices in the bubble. Behold, the advent of domeball:

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Bubble up!

As of this past week, the Harvard stadium bubble is up and hosting offseason practices by spring teams. The pictures here aren't great; if anyone can take anything better, please e-mail it to

Still, this looks even more awesome than the preliminary reports had indicated:
The playing field is accessible through a revolving door located at the open end of Harvard Stadium. The bubble is attached to a permanent concrete base that lines the perimeter of the playing field, while the interior area is pressurized and climate-controlled.

"The excitement in practice has hit new levels," said Joe Walsh, the Joseph J. O'Donnell Head Coach for Harvard Baseball. "We have accepted the challenge of playing nationally ranked teams each season, and this renovation will not only allow our ballclub to compete with NCAA powers, but to help us beat them."
I can only imagine a development like this being a big lure to prospective recruits as well, demonstrating that the Harvard athletic program is committed to improving its facilities and becoming even more competitive across the board. Hats off to Bob Scalise, the donors, and everyone who made this possible.