For the second straight year, we are very lucky to feature the hero of the 2003 ALCS, Aaron Boone, on Frogs O'War. Boone, like his brother, Bret, attended Southern Cal. And like their father before them, and his father before him, played in the Major Leagues. While Boone spends the majority of his broadcasting expertise in the Major League ranks, we know that this wonderful college baseball, that in many ways, has it's own identity, has a special place in his heart.
When I was looking on Instagram and Twitter on Friday and gazed upon the wonderful spectacles of the College World Series; the fireworks, the teams each in their own section, guided, and cheered on by their fans sitting behind them, like a intense session at Medieval Times, I was reminded that the College World Series is truly unlike anything else in sports. And this year's deep talent pool makes it all the more fun.
So in honor of this, let's welcome back Aaron Boone to Frogs O'War:
Aaron, thanks for doing this again.
Last year we talked about how the new park in Omaha has sort of been unfavorable because, of its size and its direction in relationship to the wind, tends to limit offense. To accelerate this, the BBCOR bats, which were implemented in 2011 didn’t seem to help…How much do you think the new baseballs have helped?
I think it’s absolutely impacted and made a difference and I think the NCAA really got it right with this. It can still be a pitching dominant game at times, because the bats are dead--but the ball has absolutely made things much more fair and much more reasonable for offenses. Especially good offenses--you make a mistake to them, they can hit the ball out of the ballpark now on a regular basis.
So does this thing sort of do a reset and does a team like TCU hold an advantage with such a strong mound presence and playing in a pitcher friendly ballpark where the wind blows in? Or does it still fall to a team like Florida or LSU (and Miami); the teams in the tournament who hit really well?
No, I think it’s a nice happy medium. If you pitch well, you’re still gonna have success. But now, if you make a mistake, teams can do damage against you and I think that’s the way it should be. It’s not going back to the old days where the bats were, you know, in the mid to late-90s, were ridiculous and you’re playing in Rosenblatt where it’s smaller and the wind’s blowing out. This is [TD Ameritrade] is a big ball park here, and as you said, the wind blows in. So I think it’s a nice balance now where offense has a chance to damage when pitchers make a mistake.
Last year’s College World Series was great, but I think this year’s got a deeper talent pool, and there’s just better teams. Who are some players you’re excited to see play?
I think it’s deep field, I think this is the best field we’ve had in years. And I think the ball has a lot to do with that. You’re less inclined to have fluke teams because the offense was so depressed the past few years. So I think you’re looking at some powerhouse teams and some powerhouse players. Obviously, Dansby Swanson, [the Number 1 pick] returning from last year, and Alex Bregman, the Number 2 pick, from LSU, both shortstops...looking forward to seeing those guys again.
I think in all, we have 7 or 8 first rounders this year, but then dozens, literally dozens of Top 10 round picks--so you’re talking about across the board, the talent pool being really impresive.
You went to USC, and I had the pleasure of finally seeing the gorgeous park. With you being in television, and the way we watch tv changing--whether it’s streaming or whathaveyou--do you think college baseball will benefit, and possibly expand its footprint, with things like the SEC Network in play?
Yeah, absolutely. We’ve seen the SEC Network, the Longhorn Network, the Pac 12 has their own network. So yeah, there’s so much exposure now. And then you’re talking about ESPN broadcasting the Regionals, the Super Regionals. So for someone like me, who covers Major League Baseball all the time, it’s so nice to be able to watch most, if not all of the Regionals and Super Regionals because it’s so accessible, and that forces it to grow. And now you have this great venue in Omaha; great town, great restaurants, and to see all of these great fanbases converge, this becomes almost like a festival with great baseball sprinkled in.
You hit the last homerun in River Place Stadium . And your performance in the 2003 ALCS pretty much guarantees you a free meal when you’re in New York, and conversely, in addition to giving you a new middle name, makes it dangerous for you to walk around Boston at night time. The latter obviously had a little more stake, but did anything in college compare to either of those moments?
I don’t know, when you put in that context, I don’t think anything can compare. But, my sophomore and junior year in college, we came a game away from Omaha and getting to the College World Series. Especially my junior year, we had a lot of good players on the teams, a lot of big league players; and we lost my sophomore year at Texas, and then at LSU my junior year. And to play in those atmospheres, especially LSU my junior year, two heavyweights in match, the intensity of the game, the intesnity of the crowd and those enrviroments, as big as those games were, those were, at the time, very special.
This just came into my head. But you’re talking about playing LSU and Texas, and you start to think about names like Cliff Gustafson back in the day at Texas, Augie Garrido now, Skip Bertman, Rod Dedeaux; and then through the rumor mill, and this probably not going to happen, especially in regards to going to Clemson, but what do you think an advantage of Jim Schlossnagle staying in Fort Worth is as opposed to someday going to Texas, or maybe somewhere else that’s perceived as a bigger job?
Well, he’s built a powerhouse program. And we’re seeing in 2015, we’re seeing TCU from a University, and a sports program, start to turn into one of those powerhouses. We’re seeing them emerge in football, and in baseball. So it’s concveiable, three, four, five, ten years from now, we’re talking about TCU as one of those elite college sports programs, and Jim Schlossnagle is a big part of that.
Who’s your favorite to win this year?
There are about five teams in this tournament, TCU being one of them, that wouldn’t surprise me if they won. LSU is a team I look it and is just so well rounded from a offensive, pitching, defensive, and a speed element standpoint. And a team that’s coming in hot, winning, I think, 30 of their last 35 games. That’s a team that stands out.
But, there are 5 powerhouse teams who I could easily see going on a run here [in Omaha].
Well I definitely agree that it’s a deeper, more exciting pool than last year. Real quick, do you wanna say something about the All-State "Good Hands in the Stands"?
For the second year in a row, I’m proud to team up with All-State for that "Good Hands in the Stands", and essentially every fan that gets a foul ball this week will get a trophy from All State. And going along with that, All State will donate $500 for every foul ball up to $25,000 to the Boy’s Town charity here in Omaha, in Nebraska, benefiting youth sports. If you’re down at the game, you can just tweet out, or hashtag #GoodHands.