Saturday, April 19, 2008

Q&A with Lance Goulbourne

As his senior spring winds down, Lance Goulbourne kindly emailed us his thoughts on his game, why he chose Vanderbilt, and what he'd tell undecided senior Brad Tinsley. Lance projects as a prototypical small forward with range on his jump shot and an ability to finish down low.

Sports VU: How would you describe your game to someone who has never seen you play?
Lance Goulbourne: I play primarily on the wing. My game is multi-dimensional where I can take advantage of what the defender gives me. If you give me some room then I'll shoot it or if you crowd me then I'll go right by you. I play well in transition because of my athletic ability and like to get up and down the court.

SV: What position do you see yourself playing at Vanderbilt?
LG: I see myself playing the 3 and maybe some 2 later on down the line.

SV: What other schools did you look at? And, what drew you to Vanderbilt?
LG: At the end of my recruitment, the other schools I had interest in were Virginia, Marquette, Notre Dame, and Rutgers. I chose Vanderbilt because I felt comfortable with everything about it. The coaches, players, and overall life in Nashville and on campus made me feel at home.

SV: What were your thoughts when Vandy lost to Siena?
LG: I was a bit confused because I couldn't see them losing, but I definitely couldn't see them losing by twenty. I felt for the seniors because that was a rough way to go out! I think nine times out of them, they would beat Siena and that was just the one time they would lose.

SV: We hear you're quite good at tennis, any chance you'll be a two sport athlete at Vanderbilt? (As a fellow tall tennis player, I can't imagine how hard your serve is...)
LG: I thought about it, but it would be pretty hard for me to play both because both seasons conflict with each other. My focus will be on basketball, but thats not to say I won't get out on the tennis court with some of the players. (And yes, my serve is pretty strong)

SV: Do you know what your major is going to be yet?
LG: I'm not exactly sure, but I think I want to get involved in business. I don't want to rush into anything so early. I have some time to decide.

SV: What sorts of things do you feel you need to work on to take your game to the next level?
LG: My biggest weakness is my ball handling which has gotten better, but there is always room for improvement. Although I am a pretty good shooter now, I want to become better so I will be depended on to make big shots! Also, I need to get stronger because SEC play is physical and adding a couple pounds of muscle would take my game to another level.

SV: Have you interacted with the team at all this year, if so what are your first reactions?
LG: Yes, I have talked to a couple of the players periodically and I always talk to the coaches. I am ready for next year to get to know the guys better on the court and off the court. I'm looking forward to a great couple of years and I feel that these are the right group of guys to help me enjoy my time.

SV: It's possible that Brad Tinsley (point guard from Oregon) might be joining your class. What advice would you give him in making his decision?
LG: Well he previously made a decision to attend Pepperdine, but took it back so I think he knows what he wants in a school. This time around I would just say go where you are most comfortable and where you can play. I think there is a good oppurtunity for a player like him to come in to Vanderbilt and contribute right away.

SV: Anything else you think Dores fans should know about you?
LG: Nothing really except I plan on winning a couple championships while I'm a commodore.

SI's Kevin Armstrong further explores Lance's tennis prowess here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

Well, the Eastern Conference is not nearly as exciting as the West because I think that the Celtics are clearly the best team, but there are still reasons to watch these games...

1) Boston Celtics vs. 8) Atlanta Hawks
First game: Sunday 7:30 p.m. CT(TNT)

From worst to first..., the Celtics needed to revive their franchise and did when they acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen over the off-season. Their three stars: KG, Allen, and Pierce have played very well together as all of them are in search of that elusive NBA title. Rajon Rondo has been a great surprise this year and shown flashes of brilliance while complimenting the trio. The Celts also have some veteran leadership with Sam Cassell and P.J. Brown not that they need it since they have KG, the best leader in the league. Meanwhile, the Hawks are back in the playoffs, breaking the longest active playoff drought of any team in the NBA . The Hawks have a lot of really good young talent in Horford, Marvin Williams, and Josh Smith combined with Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby. Unfortunately, the Celts are very experienced and very very good. I see the Celtics sweeping the Hawks.

2) Detroit Pistons vs. 7) Philadelphia 76ers
First game: Sunday 5:00 p.m. CT (TNT)

When I look at this matchup, I ask myself "How are the 76ers even in the playoffs?". They have a decent team with Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala is sick, but after that they don't have much of anything. Meanwhile, the Pistons are always a threat to get to the NBA finals. They have a great core with Billups, Hamilton, Wallace, and Prince and their bench isn't too shabby either. This should be a boring series unless Rasheed Wallace gets into a fight with a Philly fan.
Detroit sweeps the 76ers.

3) Orlando Magic vs. 6) Toronto Raptors
First game: Sunday 11:30 a.m. CT (TNT)

I think this will be the most entertaining series in the East. You have two of the best young big men in the league going up against each other in Dwight Howard vs. Chris Bosh. Dwight Howard has a little more help with Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, but the Raptors have T.J. Ford back along with Jose Calderon. I think this series will be determined by which teams star plays better, and I like Dwight Howard because although Bosh is a beast too, Bosh has been injured off and on this season, and I question whether he will be 100%. Not to mention everyone knows that Toronto is a hockey town. I have the Magic in 6.

4) Cleveland Cavs vs. 5) Washington Wizards
First game: Saturday 11:30 a.m. CT (ESPN)

Two words... Lebron James. You shouldn't need any more reason to watch than that, but this should also be a close, entertaining series. The Wizards finally have Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler back after Arenas was injured most of the season, and Butler was injured for about a month. Antawn Jamison has carried the team while Arenas and Butler have been out, but other players like DeShawn Stevenson and Antonio Daniels have also played well and gained experience and confidence. The Cavs made a pretty big trade to acquire Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West, but Wallace isn't the player he used to be and the other two are just role players. Big Zydrunas will be a handful for the Wizards because the Wizards don't have great size, but i think that the trio of Arenas, Jamison, and Butler will be better than basically Lebron by himself, and the Wizards will win in 6.

I'm off to Rites...

(Photo courtesy of GettyImages)

Commodore Banter (4/18)

Chris Low writes a must read on Vanderbilt football captain George Smith. It was in yesterday's banter, but it's worth highlighting again.

Kevin Stallings threw recruit Brad Tinsley batting practice on his official visit. Within this piece, Maurice Patton talks to recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer, who gives some great insight on Tinsley and Jeff Taylor.

"They can really use some help in the backcourt," Meyer said. "Tinsley is a true 'combo' guard; he's a legitimate point guard, a legitimate shooting guard. As far as speed and quickness, he's probably more of a '2', but he can run the point and he has a high basketball IQ. Taylor's more of a 2-3, a 2-3-4. He's got the athleticism to go inside."

The Auburn Tigers know they have their work cut out for them when they visit Hawkins Field for a three-game series beginning tonight. For the Commodores, Mike Minor will the opener, and will be followed by Caleb Cotham and Nick Christiani. revisits their preseason projections to see what they predicted correctly in the 2007-2008 NCAA Basketball season.

With the 17th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings select Chris Williams, according to this mock draft.

Men's tennis got a big help from James Moye as it avenged an earlier season loss to Arkansas as the team advances to the second round of the SEC tournament.

Tennis player Evan Dufaux was named to the conference's community service team.

Baseball put in perspective for Vandy's Westlake

It's stories like this one about Vanderbilt freshman Aaron Westlake that put sports in perspective. reports that the first baseman was taking batting practice April 7 when he noticed he could not extend on his swings. Teammates saw that his right arm was turning purple and swelling so Westlake headed to the team's training room and then the Vanderbilt Medical Center emergency room, where he was diagnosed with a blood clot.

Over the next few days, a total of four potentially fatal blood clots were discovered. The first three were removed and now doctors are trying the dissolve the fourth by putting the 19-year-old on blood-thinners.

According to the article, the doctors diagnosed it as Paget-Schrotter Syndrome, which can come about through constant exercise of the shoulders. As a baseball player, Westlake did just that, making him susceptible.

Westlake remained in the hospital on Tuesday, although his father, the head trainer at Maxim Physical Therapy, said he is improving and could be released today.

"The best way you can describe it is he isn't out of the woods yet," Steve Westlake said, "but there's daylight between the trees."

Our thoughts are with Aaron and we certainly wish him well in his recovery.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The NBA playoffs: Western Conference Preview

While I realize that most people prefer the passion and heart displayed in college basketball over the lack of defense played in the NBA, the NBA playoffs start Saturday and could shape up to be the best in a long time. Plus, everyone knows NBA teams actually start playing when the playoffs come around.

While I prefer college basketball as well now that I am in college, throughout my last two years of high-school I had season tickets to the Memphis Grizzlies, my hometown team, so I still have a soft spot for the NBA. My Grizz are lottery bound in hopes of landing either Michael Beasley or better yet the local kid Derrick Rose, but I will still follow the NBA playoffs this season because of the parity in the league especially in the Western conference and the excitement that is sure to accompany it. Today, I will preview the West. Tomorrow the East...

The Western Conference games will probably be more exciting than the East for the simple fact that there is more parity in the West. The seedings were not determined until last night because of how close the teams were. Plus, when the defending champion Spurs are the three seed you know it has to be competitive. Also of note, the Denver Nuggets, the 8th place team in the West, were only seven games back of the L.A. Lakers, the first place team in the West, compared to the 29 games back that the Atlanta Hawks, the 8th team in the East, were behind the first place Boston Celtics.

Round one match-ups:

1) L.A. Lakers vs. 8) Denver Nuggets
First game: Sunday 2 p.m. CT (ABC)

While the Lakers have been on fire of late thanks to the acquisition of Pau Gasol from the Grizz for almost nothing (you're welcome Laker fans. In case you are wondering I am not bitter or anything...), this series will shape up to be a good one. Kobe, who should win his first MVP ever this year, Lamar Odom, and Pau will go up against the big three of the Nuggets: Marcus Camby, Allen Iverson, and Carmelo Anthony, who will hopefully be sober since this past Monday he was arrested on a DUI charge. This series could be the most exciting because of the star power both teams have. Melo vs. Kobe will be solid if Melo decides to play some defense. Pau vs. Camby could present problems for the Lakers, and A.I. should run around whoever is guarding him and put up huge numbers. However, I don't see a repeat of last year when the eighth seeded Warriors beat the one seed Mavericks. My prediction is that the Lakers win in seven.

2) New Orleans Hornets vs. 7) Dallas Mavericks
First game: Saturday 6 p.m. CT (ESPN)

These two teams played just last night in Dallas with the Dallas Mavericks winning 111-98, and Jason Kidd recording his 100th triple double with 27 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds. However, the New Oreleans Hornets have been the surprise of the league this season with MVP candidate Chris Paul leading the way. Paul averaged 21 points per game, almost 12 assists per game, four rebounds, and almost three steals on 49% shooting from the field and 37% from three this season. Those are unbelievable numbers from a third year player. The Hornets also have sharp shooter Peja Stojakovic, David West, who may be the best player in the league that you haven't heard of, and Tyson Chandler. The Mavericks have a lot more depth and experience with Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, Josh Howard, Dirk, Kidd, and Eddie Jones. Kidd and Terry vs. Paul will be an intriguing match-up although I am not sure I wouldn't put Josh Howard on Paul and let the former Demon Deacons go after it. In the end, this series will come down to game seven, and the Hornets will win because of the home crowd and Chris Paul, one of the top five players in the league in my opinion.

3) San Antonio Spurs vs. 6) Phoenix Suns
First game: Saturday 2 p.m. CT (ABC)

This is a re-match of last year's second round meeting between these two teams. The main reason everyone should want to watch this series is the fact that the Suns traded away a younger, better overall talent in Shawn Marion to get Shaq for the very purpose of beating these Spurs. The strategy seemed to work on April ninth as the Suns demolished the Spurs 96-79 in San Antonio although the game was close going into the fourth quarter. Duncan vs. Shaq will be a good match-up, but Amare Stoudemire will prove to be the difference as the Spurs won't be able to guard both he and Shaq. Maybe if Eva Longoria, Tony Parker's wife and star of Desperate Housewives, can distract the Suns by sitting next to their bench naked at all the games, the Spurs could win the series, but Eva is too classy for that. The Suns will win in six games as the defending champs are bounced from the playoffs in the first round.

4) Utah Jazz vs. 5) Houston Rockets
First game: Saturday 8:30 p.m. CT (ESPN)

For me this is the most boring series in the West, and it is the 4-5 game which should be the most competitive in theory. The Jazz are good, but don't have the big stars like the other teams in the West. Boozer and Deron Williams are great players. They just don't have the awe of the Kobe's, Lebron's, KG's, etc. The Rockets will be playing without Yao, who is out for the season, yet that didn't stop the Rockets from going on a 22 game winning streak. Luis Scola has really stepped up, and Shane Battier is a lock-down defender on the perimeter, but when Bobby Jackson is starting for you at shooting guard and Mutombo is starting at center, I don't like that team's chances against a formidable foe. Tracy McGrady has still not won a playoff series, and unfortunately, i don't see his team beating the Jazz. Perhaps, the Rockets will pull out some of that winning streak magic and beat the Jazz, but I see the Jazz as having an easy time of it and winning the series in five games.

(Photo courtesy of GettyImages and

Macias does it all for Vandy

If you had to pick a Most Valuable Player for the Vanderbilt baseball team, winners of seven straight, it wouldn't be All-Americans Pedro Alvarez or Dominic de la Osa, or even Ryan Flaherty, who's having another remarkable season.

It'd be outfielder David Macias, otherwise known as Mr. Everything, without question.

Things have certainly slowed down for the senior. He's hitting a team-high.394 with seven doubles, one triple, a career-high six homers and 19 RBI. Even more impressive is Macias' OPS (on-base + slugging percentage), which is a ridiculous 1.032. Anything above .900 is considered excellent.

The SEC Hitter of the Week has a .464 on-base percentage and .568 slugging percentage, while being hit by 10 pitches.

"As the leadoff hitter, I'm just going up there and trying to get on base," said the ever-modest Macias. "My swing has developed a little bit and I'm just getting good pitches to hit, and fortunately they're going out."

Macias' performance hasn't gone unnoticed by his coach, Tim Corbin.

"I think Macias is the reason why kids come back and play their senior year of college baseball.," he said. "They start to figure things out and they start to understand it, and that's exactly what he's doing.

"Macias and (Alex) Feinberg, two seniors, are having great years. It just shows that when kids play four years, how much they pick up and how they start to learn the game, and they get comfortable playing after. I think those guys are going to end up playing more baseball. They both have risen in their stock in terms of what other people professionally think about them."

While Macias' offensive numbers speak for themselves, he's also pretty good defensively. The center fielder has five assists and a handful of highlight-reel grabs, including two last weekend at Mississippi State. Not bad for a high-school infielder.

"He's kind of a poor man's Ryan Freel," Corbin said. "He can (play) any position on the field and excel at it...He plays center field as well as anyone in this conference, bar none, and it's not the fact that he's just a flier out there. It's because he has good instincts, gets good reads on the ball, he's alert and he can throw runners out."

But, perhaps most importantly, he has an unhealthy obsession for the game.

"He's the energizer bunny," Corbin said. "He's been the same for four years. You know how some kids come into your program and they want to work really hard and show you that (they're committed)? Well, he's never stopped from day one. He's a very unusual kid in terms of his work ethic and his ability to stay at a high level all the time."

That's why Corbin said it is not uncommon to catch Macias diving for one fly ball after another -- in batting practice.

"(Derek Johnson) and I were remarking yesterday during BP how he was leaving his feet for every ball hit in BP and making diving catches," Corbin said, "and I'm thinking to myself, 'Here's a guy who's been in this league for four years and he's never slowed down one step whatsoever.'

"He's still laying out during batting practice when no one's in the stands. It's just what he's used to doing, and he carries the same mentality to the game. He's hitting home runs, he's stealing bases, he's driving in important runs, he's making great catches...He's doing everything."

Sounds like an MVP to me.

Video of the Day: Excessive Celebration

Down goes Delaney! Down goes Delaney! Watch as an Arena League Football referee gets drilled right in the uhh...wind area? Mid-section? You have to see this one for yourself.

I love how the player comes over to see if Delaney is OK and how Delaney has to take a deep breath before making the call. Good times.

Commodore Banter (4/17)

A bunch of great links to pass along this morning...

The Vanderbilt men's basketball will play a home-and-home with Illinois beginning next season, reports Maurice Patton.

The Commodores will play the Big-10 opponent in the fall and travel to Champaign the following year. I think this is a great opportunity, as does coach Kevin Stallings.

"(Illinois coach) Bruce (Weber) called and said they needed to start a series on the road and asked if we could play," Stallings said. "We need to play good teams and Bruce obviously has a good team and a good program. Obviously he's one of the best coaches in the country."

Within his notebook, Brett Hait mentions that two Vanderbilt recruits -- Jeff Taylor and Brad Tinsley -- have yet to make a decision. Taylor is choosing between Vandy and Texas, while Tinsley is still visiting other schools.

A certain draft expert thinks Earl Bennett is underrated. He's preaching to the choir here. You've got to love the comments about No. 10:
"Bennett is fearless going across the middle and while he may not have sprinters speed, he has football speed. On tape, Bennett took a lot of poorly thrown passes over the middle and turned them into big gains. And that wasn’t against inferior opponents it was against SEC defenses. Bennett is arguably the best route runner in this draft and he possesses excellent hands. People say he’s not much of a big play threat but I would disagree. I would say he isn’t a “deep threat” but Bennett does have the ability to make big plays because he’s a good open field runner. Bennett can also return kicks and would be a steal if he were on the board in Round 3 or 4."
Well said, although I wouldn' t be surprised to see Bennett drafted in the second round.

The amazing story of Vanderbilt wide receiver George Smith has been well-documented here in Nashville. But, after Chris Low's article on, the Commodore captain will be known across the nation.

After his emotional finish at the Masters, Vanderbilt grad Brandt Snedeker has gotten lots of love from his fans.

“It’s been pretty phenomenal to see the number of people who have come out to put their arm around me and say: ‘It’s O.K. It’s going to be fine,’ ” Snedeker said. “I cannot thank them enough, because it really makes me feel great about what I did there and kind of helps me heal."

They say baseball is America's pastime, but for today's inner-city youth, it's more like an afterthought. Read my article to learn about how coach Tim Corbin, star pitcher David Price and the rest of the Vanderbilt baseball program plan to change that.

Strength and conditioning director John Sisk has made a profound impact on the Vanderbilt football program, writes Chris Low. Within that piece, there are a lot of interesting tidbits about the Southeastern Conference.

Congrats to senior tennis player Ryan Preston, who became just the fourth player in school history to become a three-time All-SEC selection.

Have a great day, everyone.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Get ready for Thursday-night tailgating

Vanderbilt will kick off its 2008 season in unique fashion, playing at Miami (OH) on Thursday, August 28 at 6:30 p.m. CT. The game will be aired on ESPNU, which is the Commodores' first time on the network since beating Wake Forest 24-20 in 2005.

"I'm very happy to hear that ESPNU will showcase our game against Miami (Ohio) to open their college football coverage for the upcoming season," said coach Bobby Johnson. "It should be a very exciting game for their audience. I know it will be a big challenge for our team, just like last year's game against Miami."

The second game of the season will come at home against South Carolina on Thursday, Sept. 4, marking the first time in school history that the Commodores will begin with two Thursday night games.

I'm not sure if this schedule works for or against Vanderbilt. I think that playing the home opener, which is also the SEC opener, on a Thursday night could be electric. It will be interesting to see if a) the freshmen still run on the field with the chancellor before the game and b) fans, particularly students, treat it like a Saturday and tailgate all day. I'm going to say yes on the latter.

Here's a look at the full 2008 Schedule:

8/28 @ Miami (OH)
9/4 South Carolina
9/13 Rice
9/20 @ Ole Miss
10/4 Auburn
10/11 @ Mississippi State
10/18 @ Georgia
10/25 Duke
11/8 Florida
11/15 @ Kentucky
11/22 Tennessee
11/29 @ Wake Forest

Quick observations:
  • Three cupcakes (hopefully) in Miami (OH), Rice and Duke.
  • Bye weeks between games 4 and 5 (Ole Miss and Auburn) and games 8 and 9 (Duke and Florida).
  • With the exception of Georgia, all of the road games are manageable.
  • The road trips for my senior year will be somewhat disappointing: The Grove is amazing and fall break in Athens will be a blast, but I'm not sure if I can get myself to make the trip to Starkville. Lexington would be fun if it were basketball, and Wake Forest is nothing special.
  • We've got a great slate of home games: South Carolina, Auburn, Florida and Tennessee. You can't beat that.

Video of the Day: Switch-Pitcher

This is something you have to see to believe. Creighton's Pat Venditte is the only documented "switch-pitcher" in college baseball today. Born right-handed, Venditte showed proficiency with both arms at age 3, which prompted his father to help develop them both. Today, Venditte is a starter and reliever for Creighton, a manager's dream because he matches up against either left- or right-handed batters.

Venditte's deliveries are not mirrors of each other. His right-handed delivery is more over the top, with a 91-mph fastball and a slow curveball, while his left hand comes in sidearm with a sharp, biting slider. He uses a custom-made glove with four finger holes and two thumb holes so that he can switch hands seamlessly.

Venditte was drafted by the Yankees in the 45th round last year but chose to return to Creighton for his senior season. Scouts have fallen in love with this guy; after all, the manager wouldn't have to go into the pen for a lefty, he would just have to ask his pitcher to switch hands!

What happens when he faces a switch-hitter, you ask? An old rule dictates that the pitcher must declare which hand he will use before the at-bat.

Here's an interesting NY Times feature about Venditte from last year. Let's hope Vandy doesn't have to face this guy at all during the NCAA tournament this year.

Vandy takes lead in restoring national pastime

They say baseball is America's pastime, but for today's inner-city youth, it's more like an afterthought.

With the help of his former star pitcher, David Price, Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin hopes to change that one child at a time. The two have teamed up to allow Nashville RBI to bring up to 100 kids to all five Sunday games at Hawkins Field this season.

You can read the rest of my feature from here (it also got picked up by, but it's the same story so no need to read it twice).

A few other thoughts that didn't fit in the story:

-Whittemore agreed that MLB can improve its marketing in inner-cities by providing more opportunities and role models.

"I think baseball needs to do a better job of marketing the sport and if they can do that," Whittemore said, "it will keep more kids involved in baseball."

-David Price couldn't be more excited the opportunity to be part of this program.

"He's all about something like this," Corbin said. "He's all about little kids. After all, he still is (one), and I hope stays that way too. I told him that that's his biggest positive, that he treats things as if he's still playing a kids' game, and I hope he never loses that focus. They've got the right kid involved in a situation like this."

-The kids take away a great deal from Commodore baseball games.

"They get to watch real good baseball and they can take it back when they're playing their games," Whittemore said. "They've learned how to play defense, how to hit and how to react. They watch Vanderbilt's habits and routines and pick up all that stuff. They're learning."

Corbin, Olney speak at luncheon

Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin and ESPN's Buster Olney, a Vanderbilt grad and former Nashville Banner baseball beat writer, spoke yesterday at the Comcast Spotlight First Pitch Luncheon as part of the Nashville Sports Council 's Comcast Spotlight Sports Speaker Series.

While admission to the luncheon, held at the Wildhorse Saloon in downtown Nashville, wasn't cheap ($25) for non-members like myself, it was well worth it. I had the chance to meet Buster, and I learned that he did not end up graduating from Vanderbilt until he was 24 since he had difficulties paying his way through school. What kept him going? Writing, of course.

And that's the biggest piece of advice he had for aspiring journalists: just write as much as you can.

Corbin and Olney spoke about the state of baseball and then answered questions from audience members. Here are a few of the highlights:

Olney shared a priceless story from his Nashville Banner days. The Columbus Clippers (then the Yankees' AAA-affiliate) and their high-profile outfielder Deion Sanders were in town. Sanders was not well-liked by his teammates, particulatly because of the special perks the Yankees gave him (such as letting his girlfriend travel with the team) to persuade him to switch over from football.

Anyways, Olney tried unsuccessfully to interview Sanders, who looked right through him and refused to answer any questions. And so Olney wrote a column, one that he says now was probably a bit too harsh.

At batting practice before the next game, a clubhouse kid approached Olney and said that "Prime Time" wanted to talk to him in the clubhouse. Olney, who was 5'8'', 150-pounds at the time, wisely advised the kid to tell Deion to come out to the field to ensure that a fight couldn't break out.

Nothing happened until the fourth inning, when the clubhouse kid handed Olney a baseball from Sanders with the following message: "Write like that your whole life and you'll always be a loser."
Olney, who has never asked for autographs from players, said that it's the only ball in his collection. "My only regret is that he didn't sign it," he said.

Just classic.

At the end of spring training, Olney said that he always asks players what they saw that jumped at them. This year, guys like Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada said, "David Price." The one inning he pitched against the Yankees in which he struck out the side and hit 99-mph on the radar gun clearly had them impressed. Olney also mentioned that players wrapped up their interviews to watch Price pitch. That's quite the praise for the former Commodore.

As a beat writer for the Nashville Sounds (Nashville Banner), San Diego Padres (San Diego Times-Union), Baltimore Orioles (Baltimore Sun) New York Yankees (New York Times), Olney said gained an appreciation for just how resilient players have to be to make it to the big leagues. "You understand how hard it is and how much resiliency it takes," he said. "You have to have that hope every day."

Corbin came to Vanderbilt after serving as an assistant coach at Clemson. "I didn't know I was going to become a head coach to be honest with you," he said.

On his team's success over the past couple of seasons, Corbin said modestly, "Good players make coaches look good."

On the difference between Vanderbilt and other schools, Corbin pointed to Dominic de la Osa, who turned down a contract from the Detroit Tigers to return for his senior season. "If that's a Clemson kid, he goes out," Corbin said. "At Vanderbilt, they like money, but not that much. Degrees mean a lot to these kids."

Olney commented on how today's players communicate with one another differently. For example, as soon as Clay Bucholtz pitched a no-hitter last season, Yankees rookie Joba Chamberlain sent him a text message saying, "Glad you got that out of your system."

Olney said that once Major League Baseball felt comfortable with its Tampa Bay and Florida franchises, it would look to expand in cities such as Las Vegas, and possibly even Nashville.

As a Hall of Fame voter, Olney said he would put Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in without question. "Unless you separate who did it what, you can't single out players," he said. "The only difference between McGwire and others is that they haven't been named by Jose Canseco...I have a hard time demonizing a handful of guys for an industry-wide problem."

Olney added that Commissioner Bud Selig deserved a measure of the blame, and expressed his frustration with the Mitchell Report. He said that while it gives 80 names, the report was not within context, and failed to mention what was being said about steroids in the higher-level meetings, among owners and the Players Association, for example.

Olney said it would be a long time before Pete Rose gets in the Hall of Fame.

Corbin said that he doesn't see a decrease in baseball's popularity, citing the large number of showcases and prevalence of hitting coaches as example. "Parents are also more involved," he said, "which is not the best thing in the world."

However, Corbin added that baseball needs to do a better job getting minorities involved in the game at a grassroots level. "It's becoming a sport where you need money to play and that's not right," he said.

Olney said that four season tickets behind home plate at New Yankee Stadium will cost $810,000 annually, which is $25,000 per seat per game. How's that for a bargain?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

For MLB, problem lies in marketing, not diversity

In a recent post, Aram states that Major League Baseball should not be concerned by the fact that 8.2 percent of its players are black, the lowest total in more than two decades. Why? Because baseball is still unquestionably the most diverse sport. Furthermore, he asserts that:
As long as equal opportunities are being granted then there is nothing for MLB to do. They cannot force African-American kids to play their sport when basketball is more accessible and football more glamorous.
That's where I'm going to have to respectfully disagree. There is no question that basketball is more accessible and football is more glamorous. For underprivileged kids, it's a lot easier to buy a basketball and go down to the park and play with their friends than it is to buy a glove, bat, cleats and baseballs and organize a game of nine-on-nine. And, in an me-first society where crazy dunks and touchdown dances dominate ESPN, it's easy to see why kids would find America's pastime to be boring.

With that said, MLB shouldn't have to accept this. It shouldn't just allow an entire race to effectively lose interest in its game simply because it is already "diverse."

MLB would be wise to market its game in all areas, whether it be in Nebraska, Japan or New York City. Give inner-city kids a reason to turn in the Jordans for a pair of spikes. Show them that baseball can be cool, that it can be an option for them.

It's OK if kids try baseball and realize they're not passionate about it. But, right now, too many kids, often minorities from the inner-city, never even give baseball a chance. Again, why should MLB be content with this? In the end, it is the one that will suffer the most.

It's also important to note that the recent statistics aren't a reflection on our country or our society, but rather on Major League Baseball, and Major League Baseball alone.

MLB diversity problem? Definitely not

Today is Jackie Robinson Day throughout Major League Baseball, signifying the 61st anniversary of what m
ay be the most important event in professional sports history. The anniversary comes just a day after MLB released a report saying a record-low 8.2 percent of major leaguers are black.

Robinson’s widow, Rachel, is concerned, and states her disappointment in a recent article, while Richard Lapchick is perhaps even more outraged. On the other hand, Baseball Prospectus’ Joe Sheehan could care less (subscribers only). Although I won’t rant the way he does, I do agree with Sheehan. This is simply not a pressing issue. As he points out calling out for baseball to concentrate on this issue is essentially asking for them to look for an answer to a non-existent problem.

Diversity is not an issue throughout the game; it is undoubtedly the most diverse American sport. Baseball’s diversity is rooted in many races as opposed to the mostly biracial sports of basketball and football. As long as equal opportunities are being granted then there is nothing for MLB to do. They cannot force African-American kids to play their sport when basketball is more accessible and football more glamorous.

Numbers like this low percentage are posted so that people can become more aware of what some are trying to portray as a pressing issue. In reality it is just another example of people pointing to race in a situation where it is basically meaningless. Why does the MLB need to reach out more? A quick look around at any roster will show just how diverse the game is.

As I watch the Yankees play the Rays on gamecast I notice the New York starting lineup has two mixed race players at the top (Damon, Jeter) followed by a Venezuelan (Abreu) an American Latino (A-Rod) and an outfielder from Japan (Matsui), I don’t know about Jeter, but it’s possible that none of them would check the African-American box. Diversity is clearly not lacking.

While it is great that Curtis Granderson spends much of his spare time working with inner-city kids in programs such as RBI, is it really any different or better than Johan Santana’s great work in his hometown in Venezuela? Of course not. People need to stop doctoring these numbers in efforts to seek out a problem that isn’t there. On a day like today when one of the most important minorities of the 20th century is set to be honored, it’s a shame some attention is being taken away by some stupid percentage that has no meaning.

Video of the Day: Jackie Robinson Tribute

Players across Major League Baseball celebrated the 61st anniversary of Jackie Robinson's barrier-breaking debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers today.

"To me, he means everything," said Cleveland Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia. "I wouldn't get a chance to play this game if it wasn't for him. He means so much to so many people, but he means everything to me."

This video is a nice tribute to one of the sport's strongest and most influential figures. While Robinson may no longer be with us, he remains an inspiration to us all.

Baseball Notebook

The Commodores (24-10, 8-6 Southeastern Conference) went 5-0 last week, swept an SEC opponent on the road for the first time since 1993 and are No. 17 in Baseball America's top 25.

If you haven't already, check out our interviews with coach Tim Corbin and outfielder David Macias.

Vanderbilt plays two midweek games -- at Lipscomb tonight and at Western Kentucky tomorrow -- before coming home for a three-game series this weekend against Auburn.

While Mississippi State may be down this year, winning all three games in Starkville was no easy chore. It was Vandy's first sweep there since 1914 and first series victory there since 1986. The Commodores scored 35 runs against the Bulldogs, the most ever for a three-game SEC road series in school history.

The Commodores excelled in all phases. The offense came to life, hitting .340 with six homers, three triples, 11 doubles and 48 runs scored in five games. The pitching staff sported a 2.60 ERA with 55 strikeouts and 22 walks in 45 innings, while the defense only made three errors in 185 chances.

Macias continues to rake, hitting .565 (13-for-23) with a double, triple, homer and four RBI with nine runs scored from the leadoff spot. The senior leads the team in hitting (.386) and has already set a career high with six homers.

Pedro Alvarez appears to be getting his timing down after missing 23 games with a broken hand. The junior is hitting .462 in six SEC games with three homers, two doubles and 11 runs scored, and is slugging .885.

Junior shortstop Ryan Flaherty remains consistent, hitting .391 (9-for-23) with three homers, nine RBI and seven runs scored. He leads the team with eight homers and 35 RBI.

On the mound, redshirt freshman Caleb Cotham turned in a solid performance Saturday, throwing seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts and four walks. He now leads the team with a 5-2 record and 3.22 ERA with 50 strikeouts and 18 walks in 44.2 innings.

Pitching coach Derek Johnson said the Dores needed Nick Christiani to pitch for them to have success, and the junior responded with two strong outings last week. He went 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA, and is now 4-1 with a 3.57 ERA on the season.


As with basketball, the SEC East dominates the SEC West. Take a look at the current standings:

SEC East
Georgia 12-3
Florida 9-6
South Carolina 9-6
Tennessee 9-6
Vanderbilt 8-6
Kentucky 7-8

SEC West
Ole Miss 9-6
Alabama 6-9
Auburn 6-9
LSU 6-9
Arkansas 5-9
Miss. State 3-12

Five of six SEC East teams are above .500, while five of six SEC West teams are below .500. Vanderbilt still has series with Georgia, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee in the second half.

Commodore Banter (4/15)

Tim Corbin and David Price have teamed up to bring baseball to inner-city Nashville kids.

There's word over at that Jeff Taylor has narrowed his list down to two, which includes Vanderbilt and Texas.

A Tampa Rays blog goes through the candidates for the No. 1 pick in this year's June draft, and they begin with Pedro Alvarez.

Jesse Johnson talks about the linebacker position for the the Dores and how there are a couple guys to keep an eye on.

Recruit Lance Goulbourne will be playing in an All-Star game this weekend.

Harrold Huggins previews postseason play for the men's and women's tennis teams.

Q & A with Tim Corbin

After guiding his team to a 5-0 week, including a road sweep of Mississippi State, Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin chatted with The Sports VU and other local media outlets about a wide range of topics, including the toughness of second baseman Alex Feinberg, the stellar play of outfielder David Macias and the team's partnership with Nashville RBI.

Sports VU: Talk about Feinberg and how he's dealing with everything.
Tim Corbin: He deals with it as if nothing's wrong with him actually. He came to me the other day and said that he could play and once he got the doctor's OK to play, I said to him, "Well, I've got to make a decision on hitting you or hitting someone else," and he goes, "Well, you need to hit me." He makes it pretty apparent to me that he can play, and it doesn't seem like he's even thinking about that he's hurt.

SV: With his mouth shut, does it affect the team's communication at all?
TC: No, it's kind of welcoming to the ears that he's not talking anymore. I just like see his physical abilities and I'd rather not listen to him (Laughter).

SV: Satisfied with how the week went?
TC: Yeah, I'd have to say so. We went 5-0, we won two midweek games and I thought that was the start. I thought the pivotal part to the weekend was the fourth inning of Friday night's game. Down 7-3 and we come back and put it to them and keep on scoring. I didn't detect any alarm in the dugout at that time, and then Mikie (Minor) came out and in the fifth, sixth and seventh, put holes on the other team.

SV: Good to see the team win in three different fashions -- the comeback, the blowout and the nail-biter?
TC: That's a good point. It's tough enough winning a series on the road, let alone sweeping, I don't care who the opponent is. I told the team after the game yesterday, "If you sweep a series, you're doing things well," and I thought we had a pretty positive approach the entire week.

SV: Talk about your involvement with the RBI Program?
TC: I've known Reggie Whitemore for quite some time, but it was an opportunity opened from our marketing people more than anything else. It made me aware of it, and they asked me what I thought of it and if I'd be interested in making David (Price) aware of it and helping out, and it didn't really take too much thinking to get involved in something like that because it's for the city, it's for kids, and to get them involved in baseball and to get them over here. In this program now, where we've got some role models like a David Price or a Pedro Alavarez or a Alex Feinberg or Ryan Flaherty, they've got personalities that the kids can attach themselves to, and they're good players, so I thought this was as good a time as any.

SV: Talk about the importance of a program like this and the impact on the community.
TC: These are young people who are developing ideas and who have curiosity and interests. I don't know if baseball a lot times is one of those interests of a 12, 13-year-old intercity kid or anyone. When you open up an avenue where they can see it and experience and then think, "Boy, I can do what that kid is doing," and "I could put on a uniform," I might try to do everything I possibly can to do that. You've got Reggie, who's a former Minor Leaguer, Red Sox player, who spearheads this opportunity for the kids and you combine that with a school like Vanderbilt who happens to be playing well and has some good personalities, I think that's eye-opening for a young person.

SV: With players like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant being so popular among today's youth, how important do you think it is to make baseball seem "cool" again?
TC: You know, when I was at the Winter Meetings (in Nashville), that was the biggest concern -- the fact that minorities in baseball is becoming a minority. There's not as many kids coming out and that was the chief concern, and it starts at the grassroots level. It starts at the younger level where kids have an interest in wanting to play, and when you look at Lebron James and the guys they see on TV all the time, that's a basketball thing and obviously there's more interest to want to play that game.
What you have to do is develop leaders and impact people in a community like Nashville that have an influence on other kids. David Price is that guy. David Price has the ability to touch kids both from a physical ability and one-on-one, where he can spend time with kids and have an immediate presence. He's an energy-giver and he's a drawing card.
I think we have a couple of those kids on our team like that right now. Price needs to be involved because he came from a situation like that, albeit it was Murfreesboro, but still he was giving the opportunity to play and look what he's done with it. I think there's a lot of David Prices out there, or could be.

SV: How excited is David to have the opportunity to impact kids that were just like him growing up?
TC: He's all about something like this. He's all about little kids. After all, he still is, and I hope he always stays that way too. I told him that that's his biggest positive, that he treats things as if he's still playing a kids' game, and I hope he never loses that focus. They've got the right kid involved in a situation like this.

SV: Did you sense that for the first time all year, everything sort of came together?
TC: I think midweek, giving up two runs and not making an error in 18 innings, and this weekend, making two errors in 27 innings, and then putting some runs up, I thought that was important. I think there was a time where every facet of the game, we weren't very consistent, and I think this was as close to consistency as there has been on this season up until this point.
Getting back Pedro is a big key, getting Feinberg back on the field is a big key and I think the more we play together and the more we have a full unit out there, I think we're going to be come a better team; I really do. I think our best baseball is ahead of us.

SV: Talk a little about David Macias.
TC: I think Macias is the reason why kids come back and player their senior year of college baseball. They start to figure things out and they start to understand it, and that's exactly what he's doing. Macias and Feinberg, two seniors, are having great years. It just shows that when kids play four years, how much they pick up and how they start to learn the game, and they get comfortable playing after. I think those guys are going to end up playing more baseball. They both have risen in their stock in terms of what other people professionally think about them.

SV: Has Macias, a high school infielder, exceeded your expectations defensively?
TC: No, I wouldn't say that because he's a good athlete. A lot of people think that if Flaherty went down he could step in and be our shortstop. He's kind of a poor man's Ryan Freel. He can (play) any position on the field and excel at it. In center field, he's kind of a gymnast. He gets good step, he's good a very alert arm and can throw accurately. He plays center field as well as any one in this conference, bar none, and it's not the fact that he's just a flier out there. It's just because he's got good instincts, he gets good reads on the ball, he's alert and he can throw runners out.

SV: How good was his weekend, offensively, defensively, the whole package?
TC: Unbelievable. DJ (Derek Johnson) and I were remarking yesterday during BP how he was leaving his feet for every ball hit in BP and making diving catches, and I'm thinking to myself, "Here's a guy who's been in this league for four years and he's never slowed down one step whatsoever." He's still laying out during batting practice when no one's in the stands. It's just what he's used to doing, and he carries the same mentality to the game. He's hitting home runs, he's stealing bases, he's driving in important runs, he's making great catches. He made about five catches during the weekend that were going towards the fence. He made a catch that wasn't a catch and he sold it so it was a catch. He's doing everything.

SV: Among the candidates for Team MVP?
TC: Oh yeah. He's the energizer bunny. He's the same mood every day, same energy level every day. He's been the same for four years. You know how some kids come into your program and they want to work really hard and show you that (they're committed)? Well, he's never stopped from one. He's a very unusual kid in terms of his work ethic and his ability to stay at a high level all the time.

SV: Was this just a case of "what a difference a week makes"?
TC: Alabama and Ole Miss both turned their seasons around on us because both weren't going well until they played us, and I told the team on Thursday, "You know what the problem is. I think that other teams think more of us than we think of ourselves." We're playing like a pretender instead of a contender and we've got to get to the point where you feel like you're the contender and playing like the team you're capable of playing and I think we started to do that this weekend.

Q & A with David Macias

After being named Southeastern Conference Hitter of the Week Monday, Vanderbilt center fielder David Macias sat down with The Sports VU to talk about a number of topics, including the Commodores' first SEC road sweep since 1993 and the reason behind his career-high six homers.

The senior is enjoying the best season of his career. He went 13-for-23 (.565) with a double, triple and homer and four RBI with nine runs scored last week, and currently sports a team-best .386 average, good for third in the SEC.

Sports VU: Going back to last Sunday, after you guys had been swept by Ole Miss, what was said then to help you guys regroup and propel you to such a great week?
David Macias: After that Sunday loss, we just tried to get back to Nashville and get things situated and go back to the basics, just practicing hard and practicing like we play, and ultimately it carries over.

SV: It would have been easier for you guys to panic, but I imagine you all realized that it's more important to peak in the second half of the season.
DM: Absolutely. We all know it's a long season and there's going to be some bumps in the road, and it's just a reflection on the coaches, just to keep us positive and know that good things are going to happen.

SV: For you personally, on the steroids lately? With six home runs already, talk about how well you're seeing the ball and your approach at the plate.
DM: As the leadoff hitter, I'm just going up there and trying to get on base. Fortunately, I'm getting good pitches to hit and a couple of home runs here and there...I've been working on my swing a lot. I think it's changed a little bit since last year, but those home runs at Alabama, the wind was blowing up pretty good. My swing has developed a little bit and I'm just getting good pitches to hit, and fortunately they're going out.

SV: Talk about what it means to this team for you to set the tempo early.
DM: No matter who's leading off the inning, it's just huge to get that leadoff guy on, especially with guys in our lineup like Pedey (Pedro Alvarez), Flash (Ryan Flaherty), Dom (Dominic de la Osa) and Feinberg.

SV: Do you think you get the credit you deserve out there in center field?
DM: I don't know about the credit, but as long as we win, that's all that matters. I just go out there in the outfield and play as hard as I can in practice so that way it carries over to the field, and I can help our pitchers out.

SV: Do teammates joke around with you about your newfound power?
DM: Yeah, they're always joking around with me about it, guys like Dom and Flash, but I'm sure they're happy for me.

SV: What's the mindset of the team heading into the second half of the SEC season?
DM: The mindset is to just go out and practice like you play, just take it one day at a time, so tomorrow's focus is a Lipscomb team.

SV: Guys say you're the funniest player on the team. What are some of the things you do to keep everybody loose?
DM: It's just the way I am. I just go in the dugout or in the locker room and try to be myself and I guess they think that's funny.

SV: Talk about the toughness of Alex Feinberg, who returned to the lineup just a week after taking a 92-mph fastball to the jaw.
DM: I couldn't believe it, but then again I'm not surprised. He's the toughest kid on the team. He can't even open his mouth and he's out there facing these guys at 90-mph and getting the job done.

SV: Talk about the atmosphere at Mississippi State.
DM: It's a big stadium, tough ball club, those people in the outfield are pretty bad...Friday was pretty bad, Saturday wasn't as bad, and then Sunday I guess they started to get along with Dom (right fielder) a little bit. They gave him some food after the game. They were nice fans.

SV: How impressed were you with the pitching staff this weekend? Talk about what's it been like to see these young guys grow up this season.
DM: They're doing great. Caleb Cotham came up in a big spot, and those freshman are doing great. It gives the defense a lot of confidence when you've got pitchers like that on the mound.

SV: How important is it for them to stay ahead and throw strikes, and keep the defense in the game?
DM: It's huge, and that's a reflection on DJ (pitching coach Derek Johnson). That's one of his big aspects, just keep the tempo going and keep the defense on their toes.

SV: It seemed like this past week everything kind of came together and you were firing on all cylinders.
DM: Just like Corbins always said, it's all eventually going to happen and everyone is going to get in sync, hitting the ball, pitching and playing defense.

SV: You have a real knack for getting hit by pitches; is that something you work on?
DM: To tell you the truth, when I work with (Eric) Bakich, I tell him to hit me sometimes so I don't get out of the way when it comes to game time. I'm a leadoff hitter so I do whatever it takes to get on base and let those guys drive me in.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Who ya with? Reshard Langford and Taka Bertrand

The Sports VU presents "Who ya with?", where we ask Commodore athletes questions to get a sense for what they're like off the field. This week, we spoke with football team captain and starting safety Reshard Langford and tennis star Taka Bertrand.

Reshard Langford, Football, Junior

Favorite TV Show: Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Ideal Breakfast: Oatmeal, Eggs and Sausage

Summer plans: Train all summer for the 2008 football season

What's on your iPod: Don't have an iPod, all my music is on my phone. I have the new Rocko and Rick Ross albums on it.

Person you can't live without: There's more than one person I can't live without.

Nickname: "Skudd"

Best fast food restaurant: I think Wendy's

Tarakaa Bertrand, Tennis, Senior

Favorite TV Show: Grey's Anatomy

Ideal Breakfast: Blueberry pancakes and coffee

Summer plans: Playing tennis

What's on your iPod: Josh Kelley, Avril Lavigne, Baby Bash, Norah Jones

Person you can't live without: My sister

Nickname: Taka

Best fast food restaurant: Arby's

Paying SEC football coaches

Last week, we ranked the 12 Southeastern Conference football coaches. Now, we'll take a look at how they are compensated, with their national rank in parentheses (thanks to Coaches Hot Seat for the numbers).

1. Les Miles, LSU: $3,751,000 (3)
2. Nick Saban, Alabama: 3,750,000 (4)
3. Urban Meyer, Florida: $3,384,000 (6)
4. Bobby Petrino, Arkansas: $2,850,000 (9)
5. Tommy Tuberville, Auburn: 2,825,000 (10)
6. Mark Richt, Georgia: $2,800,000 (11)
7. Philip Fulmer, Tennessee: $2,200,000 (16)
8. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: $1,773,000 (25)
9. Houston Nutt, Arkansas: $1,700,000 (29)
10. Rich Brooks, Kentucky: $1,056,000 (56)
11. Slyvester Croom, Mississippi State: $975,000 (65)
12. Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt: $950,000 (66)

A few thoughts:
  • I found it funny that Les Miles' new contract pays $1,000 more per year than former LSU coach Nick Saban, making him the highest-compensated coach in the SEC.
  • The fact six of the 11 highest-paid coaches in the nation hail from the SEC shows just how important football is in the South. Winning is everything, which is why programs will do whatever it takes to ensure that they have a high-caliber coach.
  • Underpaid: Steve Spurrier
  • Overpaid: Bobby Petrino
What do you guys think? What surprised you the most? Who is the best bargain (if you can call $2,000,000 a bargain)? Who has the most to prove? Leave your comments below.

Commodore Banter (4/14)

Brandt Snedeker may have lost his smile ever so briefly after finishing third in his first Masters as a professional, but he still has a great career ahead of him, writes Joe Biddle.

Snedeker left it all on the course, as he says in his Masters diary:

All in all, it was a great week. I am disappointed in the way I played the last round, but it's a learning experience. I know I'm not Tiger Woods. I'm not going to win the Masters my first time. But there is nothing I would change. I wouldn't change one shot, wouldn't change one putt. I think I left everything out on the golf course.

I was so impressed with the crowds. They were fantastic. They really were behind me when things were going bad out there, and it meant a lot to me. They were great. After I got back with my family, we all had a big hug. It was important that they told me they loved me, and that means a lot to me.

I am going to Hilton Head (S.C.) tomorrow and play in the Heritage. Maybe I can find out over there what went wrong Sunday.

Snedeker drew praise from all audiences, including the Vanderbilt Sportsline blog.

The baseball team swept the Bulldogs; Pedro Alvarez went deep. They don't get any tougher than Alex Feinberg.

Nick Cromydas was the man for the men's tennis team, again.

There's word within this notebook that Shan Foster earned team MVP honors while Festus Ezeli won "most improved."

Tom Hicks writes a nice piece on former Dores first baseman Cesar Nicholas.

One Aussie blog speculates that A.J. Ogilvy is a lock for the first round.

In case you missed our...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Vandy baseball sweeps Bulldogs

Earlier last week, pitching coach Derek Johnson sounded optimistic about the Commodores' chances, even after being swept by Ole Miss and falling to last place in the SEC East.

"The first half sometimes is inconsistent," he said. "It’s not what you want it to be, but if you have a good plan, which they do, and you work at it, which they do, then consistency can come. In the second half, that’s what we’re looking for."

Vanderbilt certainly got it this weekend, sweeping all three games at Mississippi State for the first time since 1914. It was also the Commodores' first Southeastern Conference road sweep since 1993. They are now 24-10 overall, 8-6 SEC, and hitting their stride at the perfect time.

Vanderbilt outscored the Bulldogs 31-8 in the first two games of the series before holding on for a 4-3 victory Sunday afternoon.

Starter Nick Christiani pitched seven strong innings, giving up two runs on three hits while striking out 10, and the Commodores held a 4-2 leading heading into the ninth.

Mississippi State cut the lead to 4-3 and loaded the bases with one out when redshirt freshman Richie Goodenow came on to strike out Ryan Collins, who had homered earlier. The Commodores then turned to Russell Brewer, who calmly fanned designated hitter Jason Nappi on a 3-2 pitch to end the game and pick up his third save of the season.

"I think it started after Sunday's game," said coach Tim Corbin when asked about the sweep and 5-0 week. "We just plotted out what we needed to do and take it game by game. I think the midweek was the difference because we really played well. When we came back from the 7-3 deficit on Friday night, I thought that was the pivotal point of the weekend."

Click here for more and make sure to check back tomorrow for more coverage.

Snedeker's the man

After leaving it all on the course and coming up just short, Brandt Snedeker was very emotional during his post-round interview. It's refreshing to know that athletes like Snedeker care so much about their craft.

While the 27-year-old Vanderbilt grad may not have taken home the green jacket this weekend, there is not doubt that we will be seeing his name atop the leaderboard at Augusta National for years to come. As Andy North put it, Snedeker "has so much talent and a lot of class."

You made Vanderbilt proud, Brandt.

Masters Live Blog: Round 4

Will Tiger earn his come-from-behind victory in a major? Will Vanderbilt grad Brandt Snedeker win his first green jacket? Will third-round leader Trevor Immelman hang on for the title? We're about to find out. I'll be posting comments throughout the final round of the Masters so don't forget to hit that refresh button and feel free to leave your comments below.

(For a much better live blog than this one, check's golf editor Jason Sobel here).

1:40 p.m.: Not a good start for Immelman or Snedeker as they both bogeyed the first hole. I can only imagine how nervous the two of them must be. Playing in the final pairing at Augusta National in the nation's most prestigious tournament? Just unreal.

1:43 p.m.: Here's a quick look at the leaderboard:

1. Immelman -10
2. Flesch -8
3. Snedeker -8
4. Casey -7
5. Cink -6
6. Woods -5

1:45 p.m.: Tiger can't seem to get the putter rolling and has parred the first two holes. Meanwhile, his unassuming playing partner, Stewart Cink, has recorded back-to-back birdies and is now 6-under.

1:49 p.m.: CBS points out that this is the first time since 2000 the same players were in the final pairing in the third and fourth rounds.

2:01 p.m.: Woods just missed another birdie putt on No. 3 and you can sense his frustration mounting.

2:05 p.m.: Snedeker just eagled the second, drawing a rousing ovation from the crowd. He gave a quick Tigeresque fist pump as the ball dropped into the cup, and is now tied for the lead at 10-under. Man, that was a pretty putt...

2:11 p.m.: Woods' par putt just lipped out and he's 4-under through four holes, six shots behind Immelman and Snedeker. I wonder if the youngsters are keeping track of Tiger, who is danger of taking himself out of contention.

2:14 p.m.: CBS just reported that Snedeker, a Nashville native, has about 90 friends and family in the gallery. I can only imagine the celebration they'd have if he won (and no, I do not believe in the blog jinx).

2:17 p.m.: Baseball update: Vanderbilt 2 Mississippi State 0 after two innings. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez hit a solo shot in the first and centerfielder David Macias had a RBI single in the second.

2:22 pm.: Snedeker's drive on the third landed in the bunker, and he had to settle for a bogey. You've got to love his character, though, as even after his par putt narrowly missed, Snedeker walked off the green with a big grin on his face.

2:26 p.m.: The conditions are brutal, the players are nervous and the scores are down (only four of 45 players are under par today). Here's a look at the leaderboard with the final round results in parentheses.

1. Immelman -10 (+1)
2. Snedeker -9 (E)
3. Flesch -8 (E)
4. Casey -6 (+1)
5. Cink -5 (-1)
6. Harrington -4 (-2)
6. Woods -4 (+1)

2:34 p.m.: Immelman and Snedeker parred the fourth, while Woods birdied the sixth to move within five shots of the lead.

2:44 p.m.: First time I learned that Snedeker and Chicago Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer were good friends growing. Both attended Montgomery Bell Academy, I believe.

2:50 p.m.: Immelman and Snedeker don't like they're going anywhere as they are 11-under and 9-under, respectively. Flesch is third at 8-under, while Woods and Cink are still in the mix at 5-under.

2:59 p.m.: From Sobel's blog over at ESPN:

"I'll throw it out there right now. Any of the top four players -- Immelman, Snedeker, Flesch or Casey -- shoots 68, he'll win a green jacket."

3:01 p.m.: Baseball update: Vandy up 3-2 over Miss. State in the fifth. Nick Christiani has given up just two hits, although one was a homer.

3:02 p.m.: Snedeker had a big par putt here and he pushed it left to fall to 8-under. Yet, he's still got that smile on his face. Flesch, meanwhile, dropped to 7-under, which puts Snedeker all alone in second.

3:11 p.m.: Trevor Immelman continues to play out of his mind, sticking his approach on No. 7 to a few feet, while Snedeker's shot landed in the front bunker. As for Eldrick, he missed another birdie putt on No. 8 and remains six back.

3:18 p.m.: Snedeker bogeyed the seventh, but received a big break as Immelman missed his short birdie putt. The South African still has a commanding 4-shot lead, but five sure would have been nice...Let's see if the former Commodore can keep his composure after back-to-back bogeys.

3:27 p.m.: Tiger shot an even-par 36 on the front nine and remains six back. If he's not going to put pressure on Immelman, I wonder who will. It doesn't look like anyone wants to right now.

3:38 p.m.: Immelman missed his par putt to fall back to 10-under, two ahead of Flesch and three up on Snedeker. He hasn't looked comfortable on the last two holes so it will be interesting to see how he responds.

3:50 p.m.: The number of contenders continues to dwindle as there are just four golfers within six shots of the lead. Snedeker can't make a putt and is now 6-under, four back of Immelman, who just recorded a huge par save on No. 9. Hate to be a downer here, but this has been a pretty boring afternoon...Hopefully the back nine will be better.

4:00 p.m.: No one in the last eight pairings is under par today. Let that sink in.

4:14 p.m.: Is it bad that I want to take a nap right now?

4:16 p.m.: I just woke up the roar on No. 11 after Woods drained a very long putt. There's still time for Tiger, who's five back with seven to play, to make a charge.

4:28 p.m.: Leaderboard Update:

1. Immelman -10
2. Flesch -8
3. Snedeker -6
4. Woods -5
5. 3 Tied at -2

4:37 p.m.: Flesch picked up a double bogey on No. 12 after hitting his tee shot in the water to drop back to 6-under with Snedeker.

4:40 p.m.: Snedeker bogeyed No. 11 to drop to 5-under. To think he was 10-under after the eagle on No. 2. The ex-Dore is +4 on the day and tied with Tiger for third place.

4:45 p.m.: Tiger hit a great shot from the trees and an even better approach, but missed a four-foot birdie putt on No. 13, which would've put him in great position, especially since Immelman's tee shot on No. 12 went far left. Tiger has to make that putt.

4:55 p.m.: Some may say Snedeker, but I'm not buying. He just buried a difficult birdie putt to move to 6-under, just three back of Immelman, who bogeyed the hole.

5:00 p.m.: It might be over for Tiger and he has no one to blame but himself. He just three-putted No. 14 for a bogey and now find himself five back with four to play. It will take nothing short of a miracle to win now.

5:07 p.m.: Snedeker just hit a shot that he'll replay in his mind for a long time. He hit his approach on No. 13 to the right and into the creek like he did yesterday, the one place he was trying to avoid. Immelman just stuck his within a few feet after laying up on his second shot. That could be all she wrote for the former Commodore, who has performed admirably all week.

5:13 p.m.: Snedeker had a chance to save par, but missed right (he thought it would break left) and is now 5-under and five back with five holes to play.

5:18 p.m: Tiger missed another birdie putt on No. 15 to remain six back. You know he's going to beat himself up over this performance, as he should.

5:23 p.m.: Some good news on bad day for fans of Tiger and the Commodores -- the Vandy baseball team completed a three-game sweep of Mississippi State, winning 4-3 behind a solid outing from junior Nick Christiani.

5:26 p.m.: Have to give Immelman a lot of credit for his play throughout the tournament. Here are some numbers (brough to you by Jason Sobel at ESPN):

• Driving distance: 292.7 yards. (Rank: 3)
• Driving accuracy: 86.5 percent. (Rank: 1)
• Greens in regulation: 73.13 percent. (Rank: 1)
• Total putts: 1.55 per hole. (Rank: 4)

5:27 p.m.: Snedeker bogeyed again and he's now at 4-under along with Cink, Flesch and Woods, six behind Immelman. Safe to say they're locked in a battle for second place.

5:52 p.m.: Perhaps I spoke too soon. Immelman's tee shot on No. 16 landed in the water, which means he'll have a difficult two-putt for double bogey. Assuming Snedeker makes par, the South African will have a three-shot lead with two holes to play.

5:55 p.m.: Tiger birdies the 18th, but his expression seemed to say, "too little too late." He shot an even-par 72 today and finished the tournament 5-under. Cink ended up 4-under.

5:57 p.m.: Immelman makes double but Snedeker just missed his par putt and drops to 4-under. It's been a long day for the former Dore, but I have no doubt that he's learned a great deal from this experience. We will see him here again in the future.

6:13 p.m.: Immelman could not be more nervous, but he managed to make par on No. 17 and takes a three-shot lead to No. 18. I've got to take off (I would stick around if it was closer), but I just wanted to say that Snedeker represented Vanderbilt well this week and has a very fine career ahead of himself. Thanks to all of you for reading and enjoy the rest of your Sunday night.