Wednesday, February 22, 2017

James Farrar: An inspiration for his fellow coaches

      (Note: Second part of three pieces written 4 1/2 years ago -- and updated a bit to reflect changes since then. James Farrar died a few months after these first appeared.)
    The men who coached with or against James C. Farrar have fond memories of him. And the fondest memories are that of fun.
     Jerry Burton became a legend at Northwood High School, the longtime head football coach and athletic director. But in his first stint there, he was an assistant on Farrar's staff when the school opened in the fall of 1967.
     "Best time of my life," Burton said in 2012 (he died in June 2014). "We enjoyed each other. There was no bickering. We'd gather at Coach's house after games with him and Miss Kate as hosts. We were a close staff ... and we were pretty good."
     It was Burton who helped pave the way for Coach Farrar's induction into the Northwood Hall of Fame and for the naming of the school's baseball field for him.
     "I worked under several head coaches," said Burton, "and he was the very best for discipline and organization.
      "We were prepared for anything that [opponents] could do against us. ... He was thorough in everything he did. If the kids saw defenses they hadn't seen before, we had a call, 'Ungodly.' It was a defensive set we were supposed to get in. He had a defense ready for everything."

     But it was more than the X's and O's.
     "Don't get me wrong, he knew football," Burton said. "But it was his organization and his discipline that I remember most. He had that military background, so he had these rules, and the kids had to follow them. He was hard on the kids, but they loved him. ... And he was such a unique person; he had a story for everything."
      In fact, the stories might get repetitive.
      "Grover (Colvin) started this code for the stories," Burton recalled. "Coach would start a story and Grover would call out a number [to signify which story it would be). Oh, that gave Coach Farrar the red ass."
      "I figured, we might as well number them," said Colvin, a longtime coach in Shreveport-Bossier and in 2012 a financial consultant in Fort Worth who lived in nearby Godley, Texas. "Is this story No. 8 or No. 15? We'd heard all the stories, so to save time, if we just said a number, we wouldn't have to hear them again.
      "He could tell those stories, though. You felt like you were right there with him."
      And there was one day, on a weekend, when the Northwood staff was spending extra hours doing laundry and working on tasks around the dressing room.
      "Philip Johnson was griping about having to wash the uniforms, and he kept on about it," Burton remembered. "Coach Farrar is listening and he's patting his billfold. You can see him getting irritated. And then he says, 'I'll tell you one G.D. thing. When I was at Sibley, I had to do it all -- the laundry, the equipment, line the field.' And then Philip says, 'Well, if I had to coach at Sibley, I wouldn't coach at all.' "
     Not exactly the correct reply.
     "We all just starting ducking under desks," Burton said.
     Burton also recalled a night when Northwood was playing against Bethune at State Fair Stadium. We kept running the wham play [from a Power-I formation, the fullback and wingback lead on an off-tackle run by the tailback]," he said. "We are hurting them with it, and they had a linebacker who kept moving closer and closer to the line of scrimmage, sticking it in there and he's stuffing the runs. I'm in the press box calling plays and I get Coach Farrar on the phone and say, "Let's run the wham pass,' figuring we can throw down the middle to the tight end, and the linebacker isn't going to cover him.
     "We fake the run, throw the pass, and the linebacker steps in and intercepts the ball, runs it back for a touchdown.
      "Coach Farrar gets me on the phone and says, 'Got any more ideas, Burton?'
       "And I said, 'No, sir, not tonight.' "
        At a time when game-night attire for coaches always had been coat-and-tie, Burton remembered that Farrar was the first in the area to have his staff wear coaching shirts and khaki pants.
       "He always had the kids prepared, the coaches prepared," Burton said. "I adopted a lot of what he did with my teams. Any success I had, he had a lot to do with it."
     Lynn Mitchell was also on that Northwood staff, and his recollection was that Farrar "was a special guy to be around coaching. He let you coach; he didn't look over your shoulder. You knew who the (head) coach was, but he let you coach. He expected you to do your job and coach kids the best you could."
     Mitchell remembered a game, against Leesville perhaps, when he was in charge of defense and Farrar "says to me, 'Coach, let's go man to man and send everybody we've got [after the quarterback].' So I called that defense. Well, we didn't cover a man coming out of the backfield and he runs up the middle of the field and scores an easy touchdown.
      "Coach Farrar comes up behind me and leans over my neck and says, 'Coach, I'll never say anything to you again.' "
      Mitchell said the coaching staff often had to wait a long time near the practice field while Farrar talked to the team in a meeting room. "When he got into those motivational talks, it could take a while," he said. "We would just be sitting around on the practice dummies waiting. Finally, he would bring the kids out.
     "He was some kind of fun. But discipline, he was made for that. He had signs around the dressing room, 'Discipline, hard work and sacrifice,' and he held the kids to that. ... He was well-respected by the kids. They were in awe of him, but they were not afraid. When he said something, they knew they needed to do it."
    Jimmy Orton is one of the best all-around athletes in Fair Park history -- a shortstop and leader of the 1957 state championship team coached by Milford Andrews, the first basketball player to have his jersey (No. 10) retired at Fair Park, and a standout quarterback who went on to play at Louisiana Tech before signing to play pro ball in the New York Yankees' organization. He came back to coach at Fair Park in 1964, eventually was the head football coach and just missed winning a state title in 1974.
     Orton's first association with Farrar came when the coach was player-manager of the Minden Redbirds in the Big Eight (semipro baseball) League, and Orton -- after his junior year in high school -- was the league's youngest player. He had to receive permission from the Louisiana High School Athletic Association -- and commissioner T.H. "Muddy" Waters -- to play and remain eligible for his senior year at Fair Park.
    "Coach Farrar took me under his wing," he said, "because I was so young. Most of the guys in that league were older; some had played pro ball, some were in college. It was a fast league. I learned more that year about life and baseball than I ever did."
     Orton was an assistant coach on Farrar's 1965 state championship baseball team.
     "He knows so many people, and he can tell stories on them, and they tell stories on him," Orton said in 2012. "It was great to be around him. He was so unique, and he is so unique."
     Orton said one of the secrets to Fair Park's baseball success was that Farrar "had it set up where he got his kids at 12:30 p.m. (with study hall for a fifth period and P.E. counting for sixth period), and they'd start practice soon after that, and practice until dark. He really worked them."
    He said Farrar was "especially good with catchers and pitchers. Give him any time with a catcher and if the kid had any potential, after Farrar worked with him, he was going to be a player. 
    "He had a knack for talking to the kids in a way they understood, the way he taught them. He would get on them -- if I talked to them that way, it wouldn't work -- but they loved him, loved being around him."
    Charlie Wilkinson -- "Sam" to most everyone -- was one of Coach Farrar's close friends for many years. An All-State first baseman for Fair Park before Coach came there, he got to know him in the mid-1950s when Orton played in the Big Eight league.
    Sam was a trainer/equipment manager in the Houston Astros' organization for many years, so he had an Astros tie with Coach Farrar. The friendship grew through the years and Sam helped at Northwood as a volunteer trainer.
    "He was so detailed, took care of all the details, even to the way his players wore their uniforms," Sam said in the last year of Farrar's life. "... He kept his players in line, kept them doing the right things. It was his personality. He could grind on them, but they loved him. His was always constructive criticism, trying to make his players better."   
     What he liked especially about the Northwood days was "that the whole school rallied around him, and he rallied the school. His players behaved and he supported all the programs. He had everyone involved."
    Sam says Farrar "loved watching the history channels, the shows on the military" and he loved duck hunting, and of course, telling stories. "And he had all the one-liners.
    "He's just an old warrior,' he said in 2012. "He calls me 'Big C,' and not long ago when I saw him, he said, 'Big C, I might have health problems, but they can't take away the good memories.' Great attitude, but it hurts me to see him going through this."
    Doug Robinson, the LSUS athletic director in 2012, was the head football coach and an assistant at several Shreveport public schools. In his first year as a head baseball coach, his 1970 Fair Park team surprisingly won the state championship -- continuing the tradition Farrar directed just a few years earlier. A few years later, Robinson was on Farrar's staff at Southfield.
    "He's the finest guy that ever lived," Robinson says. "... He's awesome, awesome to work for. He's fun. Those were priceless years -- four great years at Southfield. I got my ass chewed a few times by the very best.
     "He got more out of kids than anyone I know."
    There were a few times when the coaching staff clashed, and Robinson said he was the cause at least once. He was in charge of calling defenses.
    Robinson: "We were playing someone -- St. Mary's maybe -- and looking at the films, Coach Farrar said there were situations that we could drop our defensive ends off, and I said, 'That's stupid.' He came across that room and his nose is about an inch from mine and he says, "Stupid? Are you calling me stupid?' "
      Robinson said he quickly answered, "No, sir" and he then offered an explanation. But Coach Farrar wasn't buying it. "You are calling me stupid," he repeated. End of meeting for that day.
     The game was played, and Southfield won it. But afterward, Farrar said to Robinson, "You never did drop off those defensive ends, did you?" 
     "No, sir, I didn't," Robinson answered. "Never saw a situation where it would've worked."
     Postscript: "Good thing we won the game."
     But in another situation, Robinson was in the press box at Cotton Valley being harassed by a couple of men who were hanging out up there. "I thought I was going to have to start swinging," said Robinson, "and Coach Farrar sent a couple of guys up there to help out. I'm glad he did."
    Robinson says Farrar "inspired me in coaching. ... He's a wonderful man, he was a wonderful coach. Loved his kids. He wasn't going to let them get away with anything, but they all just loved him. And he was such a special man when it comes to baseball."
     Leonard Ponder went from a P.E. teacher at Oak Terrace Junior High -- I was in the first class he ever taught, at age 21 right out of Northwestern State -- to the head of the Health and P.E. department at Texas A&M, where he wound up a distinguished career in education.
    One summer in the early 1960s, he taught drivers' education, and his teaching partner was James C. Farrar. Sometimes at the end of the teaching period, they would ride together to turn in a car at the Caddo Parish School Board offices.
    "I'd be driving, and he'd be sitting in the passenger seat," Dr. Ponder remembered, "and he'd say, 'I'm gonna get home and walk through the door, and Miss Kate is going to go to the refrigerator and pull a nice, cold glass out of the freezer, and then hand me a cold beer.' Then he would describe in great detail how he would pour the cold beer into the frozen glass, and how he would drink that beer ... 'very slowly.'
    "Not only did it cool me off just listening to him, but it almost tempted me (a teetotaler) to want a beer."
     Billy Don Maples, who coached Airline's baseball teams in the 1970s: "He was a versatile coach. Not only an outstanding baseball coach, obviously, but also a very good football coach. He leaves a legacy, not only with the guys he coached, but with the teams he coached. He never put a team on the field that wasn't competitive, from Sibley on."
     Tommy Henry -- T.K. Henry -- wound up his career as the longtime commissioner of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association. He began his coaching career at Bossier High School, where he built a baseball program in the late 1960s and especially the early 1970s that rivaled Fair Park as a dynasty. The biggest difference: Two Bossier teams lost only once ... in the state championship game (1972 and '73).
     Henry will tell you that James Farrar "was kind of my idol" as a coach. "I really looked up to him."
    It was Mel Didier -- who like Farrar went from coaching in Louisiana to make an impact in the scouting/development area of pro baseball -- "who showed me what you could do coaching baseball in high school," said Henry, but it was Farrar who had a more direct influence.
    "He was so special; he had a great program, great teams," said Henry. "What he did with his pitchers ... they only pitched, didn't play a position in the field, where most teams if they weren't pitching, they were in the lineup somewhere else. He ran his teams like a pro baseball club."
    As the Bossier coach, Henry's team faced Farrar and Fair Park twice, and he admits "I was really intimidated by him." 
    In their teams' first meeting at Bossier's Walbrook Park, he remembers going over to talk to Farrar during batting practice, and "he asked me if I was pitching a right-hander or left-hander. Told him it was a right-hander (Earl Cornette)." As they were talking, an errant throw hit Farrar in the head. Down he went.
    "There was my idol lying at my feet," Henry said. "I thought, 'Well, he's not so tough after all.' "
    Bossier won that game -- Henry says it was 5-2 -- and Fair Park won the second meeting, 6-3, at Fair Park.
    "I remember he taught some baseball classes one year," said Henry, "and I made sure to go to all of them. ... He showed all of us how good baseball could be up there. It was a time when baseball wasn't as popular as it would become -- a lot of football coaches considered it a nuisance, really -- but James Farrar helped make high school baseball special and grow into what it would become.
     "He pushed baseball, made it popular, made it attractive, and he was dedicated to his sport. He was an outstanding football coach, too; he could coach anything because he was a great teacher, period."
      (Next: His players remember)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Coach Farrar: A great friend to so many

      (It was almost five years ago when I wrote three pieces on Coach James C. Farrar, or Dr. Farrar if you want the formal title. I sent them by e-mail; it was before my Facebook days and I never posted them on my blog. So I am republishing them, although much has changed since they first appeared. I did make a few adjustments to reflect the changes.
      Coach Farrar died on Oct. 30, 2012. I miss talking with him -- he was always full of wisdom, and he always made me laugh -- and think of him especially as the baseball season begins.)
      In an era of coaching giants in Shreveport-Bossier and throughout Louisiana, James C. Farrar stood out. Playing for him, coaching with him, or against him, covering his teams from a sportswriter's viewpoint, it was a special treat.  
      Knowing him as a man was even better.
      He was tough. He had high expectations for his team and his fellow coaches; he worked his players hard; he was a thorough, details-oriented guy.
     Yeah, he was old school -- "yes sir" and "no sir" answers, no excuses, be on time, make the grades, mind the teachers, short hair and sideburns. Facial hair? Out of the question. Wear your uniform exactly this way.
      He was all about discipline. He had an Army background, and his coaching philosophy reflected that. You did it by his rules. If you didn't, there were consequences. Let's say that some of his methods wouldn't be acceptable today.
     Tough, and tough to beat. A consistent winner in football, as an assistant coach at Fair Park High School in Shreveport and then as the first head coach at Northwood, and later at Natchitoches Academy and Southfield. Never had a losing baseball team, even through the end of his coaching days at Centenary College.
      And sometimes, a big winner -- the state championship teams at Fair Park in 1963 (44-4-1 record) and 1965 (33-3) were among the deepest, most talented baseball teams ever in North Louisiana. Few programs have been as good as the Indians were under Coach Farrar from 1962 to '67.
     They reflected the man himself. They looked sharp, they were confident, they were prepared, they were intimidating -- and they were winners.
     It was perhaps the most fun James Farrar ever had in coaching.
     But he had many enjoyable career stops, winding up with  three decades as a talent scout for the Houston Astros. Thirty years apart, he was among the first pro scouts to find James Rodney Richard (from Vienna, La.) and Roy Oswalt (from Wier, Miss.). He encouraged the Astros to draft them and sign them, watched them become major-league stars.
      He was partial to those small-town guys. James C. grew up in Lillie, La., a place so tiny it made nearby Bernice look like a big city.
      "Ol' Lillie," he used to call himself sometimes, and some of the down-home, country philosophy and his many one-liners and expressions date to there. As he would say, when something astounded him, "Alligator, what a tail you got."
      Those of us who know Coach Farrar know how much fun he was, and was to the end. Underneath that tough exterior was one neat guy. A college professor and coach, Dr. Farrar was a doctor of life lessons.
       He was one of the great story tellers.
       He could walk into a room and, without being pushy or intrusive, he'd soon take it over with a story or remembrance. And his memory was sharp always.
      You had to pay attention, though. His speech pattern was one of twists and turns, sentence fragments. I used to kid him and say that he would use 100 words when 10 would do, and that I'd like to see an English teacher diagram his stories. But no matter how many times you might've heard a story, the end result left you laughing.
     My favorite line concerned his pro baseball career (six games in the Detroit organization in 1955). "It's a good thing the Tigers cut me," he said, "because I'd still be a 55-year-old catcher in Class D ball."
     Perhaps it was fitting that Coach Farrar's career ended with his scouting days. Much as he liked playing and coaching football, baseball was his sporting love.
     "Loved scouting," he said late in life. "The Astros were very good to me all those years. I'd still be scouting, but with my health, I couldn't handle the traveling any more."
     James C. was 80 [when this originally was written] and he'd tell you that, "I'm hanging in there." But life threw him a lot of fastballs and curveballs the final decade.
     Colon cancer. Brain tumor (benign). Irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation, requiring a pacemaker). Recurring leukemia. More shots and more medicine and more chemo.
      It was the leukemia he couldn't conquer at the end.
Coach and Miss Kate with granddaughter MJ Trahan
 Burns, who was then working for the Houston Astros.

      Nothing, though, compared with one awful day in May, 2008 -- the day his family lost Miss Kate.
      They were high school sweethearts dating to Bernice, married 55 years, with the three kids and now all the grandkids. On a vacation trip to see Tammy and her family in Augusta, Ga., Miss Kate had a massive heart attack. She didn't make it out of emergency surgery.
     When the doctor gave the family the news, the always loquacious Coach Farrar said, "I couldn't talk. I couldn't find a word to say."
      Looking at the beautiful family portrait that hung  prominently in the "empty-nest" apartment he and Miss Kate shared in Shreveport, he would say wistfully, "That was her pride and joy -- all those kids."

       He would tell you that Miss Kate, who would just shake her head at his many stories, was the supportive rock of the family. He always joked that when they would have a disagreement, "I would be up all night worrying about it. She would go to sleep, and sleep very soundly."
      Which also brings to mind a line he used often.
      "Any man who says he runs his household," he would say, "you better watch him because he will also lie about other things."
       In his final couple of years, Coach Farrar moved from the apartment to an assisted living facility, and before the move, he said, "It's tough. There are a lot of great memories here."
      But moving around, negotiating stairs, had become iffy, and "the kids leaned on me. They will feel better," he said then, if he made the move. "And I want things to be good for them."

Throwing out the first pitch (twice); Coach Farrar
delivers to his prize signee, Roy Oswalt (44)
      Roy Oswalt became a Houston Astros pitching star in 2001. Of the thousands of kids Coach Farrar coached or scouted or sent into the pros, Oswalt was the gem. He was a big reason Coach was selected as Astros' Scout of the Year in 2002.
      At the end of his scouting career, in 2007, the Astros brought Coach to Houston to honor him one weekend. Tim Purpura, then the team's general manager, asked him to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Sunday game. One problem: "Me and Miss Kate were supposed to fly home Sunday morning." But Purpura quickly told him, "We will change the flight."
    And they did. So then ... "I threw out the opening pitch twice," Coach Farrar recalled. 
    The explanation: "I didn't want to tell Tim that neuropathy [numbness in the hands and feet, a side effect of chemo] was bothering me," he said. "I couldn't even feel the ball in my hand. So I go up on the mound and Roy is my catcher. I'm worried I'm gonna bounce the ball up there and it's going to jump and hit Roy in the face and hurt him. So I throw the pitch and it's like a slider, low and outside, and, yeah, it bounced. But Roy made a good play on it and he's laughing as comes toward the mound to meet me. And I tell him, 'Give me that damn ball, Roy. I'm gonna do this again."
      The second pitch was a strike, or close to it. It was a matter of pride."
      No one who knew Coach Farrar will be surprised at that.
      Near the end of almost every conversation we had in the last few years of his life -- and that was quite a few conversations, always entertaining, always with some laughs and some special moments -- he would say this:
       "Hey, ol' buddy, I want you to know something. I really value your friendship over all these years. My daddy used to say, 'In your life, you will have a lot of acquaintances, but you will have very few great friends.' You have been a great friend."
       James Carroll Farrar was a great friend to many of us. The privilege, I assure you, was ours.
      (Next: Fellow coaches talk about Coach Farrar)  




Thursday, February 16, 2017

College baseball is fine ... but it's not the real thing

      Ping! It is time for college baseball, and that is an unreal sound to me.
       Sorry if this offends the true college baseball fans, but give me professional baseball -- played with wooden bats -- anytime.
       Love baseball, have since I was 9, so that's 60 years. Love it more than any other sport -- yes, even more than soccer (unless the Dutch national team is playing well).
       Love one baseball team in particular, have since I was 9. If you know much about me, you know what team that is (hint: 40 American League pennants, 27 World Series titles). And ... none since 2009.) 
       Loved keeping a scorebook, keeping stats, watching a thousand-plus games, and baseball always was my favorite sportswriting subject.
       But my love affair with college ball -- and high school and kids' ball, and softball -- ended when the use of metal bats began.
       That's not the only reason (if you care to read on, I will give you other reasons below). But the sound of the ball coming off those aluminum bats -- Ping! -- makes me shudder. It's not the real thing.
       Give me the crack of the (wood) bat. That's real. One of the most majestic moments in sports is the ball flying off that bat and going, going, going ... out of sight. Especially nice if it's hit by the home team at Yankee Stadium.
        But, but, but ...
        I have waited a little too far into this to say this: College baseball still beats a heckuva lot of other sports. Because it's still baseball.
       And don't get the wrong idea that I don't want anything to do with it. I will follow LSU and Louisiana Tech baseball because those are the schools I care about.
       LSU because it has had one of the best programs in the country for 30-plus years now, six times the best. And because the (old and new) Alex Box Stadium experience might be the best in the country.
        (LSU has the best fans in the country and one of them is the "K Lady." This is a personal note; she is extended family. And her husband once was a catcher for Fair Park -- Shreveport -- High School and in American League baseball for Royal Crown Cola, and I wrote about  some of those games.)
         Strange as it might seem to some, I have never seen an LSU baseball game at Alex Box. Really should try it some time, right?
         Louisiana Tech because a darned long time ago I kept score and stats there and because last season it came out of the college baseball wilderness to reach postseason play for the first time in 30 years.
Kramer Robertson (photo from
         There are, as many know, Louisiana Tech family tie-ins to LSU baseball this season.  
         The Tigers' senior shortstop, one of their best players, is Kramer Robertson -- whose mother (Kim Mulkey) and father (Randy Robertson) a long time ago were Louisiana Tech athletes a young sportswriter mentioned a time or two. 
         You might know that Kim has had a fairly good women's basketball coaching career.
          It was a personal treat to cover a football playoff game in which Kramer -- a tough little athlete with a big right arm -- was the quarterback for Midway High School outside of Waco, Texas.
          The Tigers' freshman first baseman, a promising prospect, is Jake Slaughter -- star high school athlete at Ouachita Christian (Monroe).
          His father, Michael, played football at Louisiana Tech; so did his uncle, Bobby, one of the many standout receivers in Tech history; and so -- most notably -- did his grandfather. Mickey Slaughter played quarterback at Tech (1959-62), then in the pros, and then was one of the best-known and most popular assistant football coaches in Tech history.
           So, yes, we will be rooting hard for Kramer and Jake, and the rest of the Tigers.
           But because I am now a jaded old sports fan with a diminishing attention span for games, I will read about the teams and the players, and I will limit my TV game-watching time. (That's true even for Major League Baseball.)
           And, since you asked (?), here are some of my issues with baseball in general, and college baseball in particular. I know I am terribly old-school about this, about how the game should be played ...
           -- The games are too damn long (oops, sorry, bad-language word). Can't do 3- or 4-hour games. Yes, that certainly means Yankees-Red Sox.
           -- Especially true in college baseball: too many player-coach conferences; too many meetings on the mound (and the infielders all have to join in).
           -- My sportswriting cohort, Orville K. "Buddy" Davis of Ruston, La., pointed this out in a Facebook post Wednesday: Too many players stepping out of the batter's box between every pitch to adjust their (bad language) wristbands/batting gloves. Yes, even the now-retired Derek Jeter did that. So did Mr. A-Rod. And so does one of the (few) Red Sox players I really like: Dustin Pedroia.
           As Buddy said, and several people agreed: Change the rules, make the batter stay in the box, unless there is a dire emergency. And stop the pitchers from taking their sweet time between every pitch. Don't you love pitchers who are ready for the next pitch as soon as they get the ball back?
         -- Buddy also pointed out: too many pitching changes. Too busy, makes me dizzy. True in college and pro ball. (I have not forgiven LSU coach Paul Mainieri and pitching coach Alan Dunn for the eight-pitcher fiasco vs. TCU in the College World Series opener two years ago. A j-o-k-e.)
         -- Cold weather: Don't like it for baseball. I'm a fair-weather fan. Unfortunately, the first month and a half of the college season, it's often too cold for the games in these parts. Certainly too cold for major-league games in many cities. Same is true for MLB's postseason.  
         -- Players' comportment: This goes across the spectrum of sports today -- but the gesturing, the celebrating, the trash-talking, the chest-bumping ... it is all too much. College baseball teams, it seems, are always jumping around and on the top step of the dugout or hanging over the railing.  Enthusiasm is great, I suppose, but so is a bit of humility.
          In college baseball, for instance, why after a home run, does the whole team have to run up to home plate to greet the home-run hitter? (I'm sounding old here.)
          -- Here is my experience the last few times I attended a college baseball game, or covered one for a newspaper: The coaches' "gamesmanship" or what I call one-upness -- conferring, lobbying, cajoling, arguing with umpires about so many nuisances, rules, calls  -- took up so much time it was aggravating. 
           They were so busy trying to get that little edge for their teams. One coach would come out on the field to make a point; then the other coach would follow. I am not making this up.
         -- Bench jockeying: It used to be a huge part of the game; the jawing from the dugout toward the other dugout or the players on the field. A long time ago, I saw a powerful University of Texas team that might have been No. 1 in the college baseball rankings, but definitely was No. 1 in bench jockeying. I thought it was unbecoming of a big-time program. I think the NCAA put in rules to stop a lot of that crap.
         -- Rally caps. It is so amateurish, so kid-like, so -- dare I say it? -- juvenile. I know: They are kids.
         (It is almost like they were working in a newspaper sports department and, between editing stories or whatever, playing with wiffle-ball bat and a "ball" made up of wadded paper wrapped in tape and someone hit one that knocked a clock off the wall, and shattered the clock. That couldn't
happen, could it?)
         I could think of other things, but this is getting too long. Did I mention the ping of metal bats?
         If I wanted to watch college baseball, I could so right here in Fort Worth about a mile from our apartment. TCU has one of the nation's best programs; four College World Series appearances in the last seven years, including the last three consecutively. 
          One of my TCU friends offers ticket to games at Lupton Stadium. I pass. Not my team.
          However, TCU -- never before a serious college baseball contender -- is an example of what's great about the sport. Given the right coach and recruiter, a national-contending program can be built.
          And, as a friend pointed out, college baseball provides more parity than college football or men's basketball. The three seasons prior to this one have proven that.
          When you consider that Vanderbilt and Virginia -- known a lot more for academics than athletics -- reached the College World Series championship round two years in a row, and that last year Coastal Carolina -- who? -- was the "Cinderella" national champion, and eliminated LSU and then TCU on the way, you have parity.
          Coastal Carolina was known more for its team nickname -- Chanticleers (?) -- than anything else. But what a team it had in 2016.   
           Here is another piece of parity: LSU will play many of the state schools this season, and every season, and even play them on the road, instead of at Alex Box Stadium. That would never happen in football, rarely in men's basketball.      
           Back to the previous point: A friend said, "There is no way Louisiana Tech could ever win the national championship in football or (men's) basketball. But Coastal Carolina shows that in baseball, it could happen for a school like Louisiana Tech."
           It could happen, even with metal bats. One more time: Ping! Enjoy the college baseball season, and the pros' spring training. For me, the real season begins April 2.