Wednesday, April 4, 2007

'67 Red Sox at Home Opener Celebrate 40th Anniversary of the Impossible Dream

It sounds like Opening Day in Boston will start a little better than the opener in Kansas City ended yesterday. The Red Sox announced today that the '67 "Impossible Dream" team and Harry Connick Jr. will kick off the Fenway festivities next Tuesday.

The "Impossible Dream" team, a group of players that captured a generation and defied all expectations by winning the AL pennant 40 years ago, will be honored prior to the home opener, when the Red Sox host the Seattle Mariners in a 2:05 p.m. start.

According to a team press release, more than 20 members of the '67 club that rose from ninth place the season prior to Boston’s first pennant in 21 years will be introduced on the field and participate in the first-pitch ceremony at Fenway Park.

Among those scheduled to return from the '67 squad are Dick Williams, the AL manager of the year in his first season at the helm, and left fielder Carl Yastrzemski, who produced baseball’s last triple-crown performance en route to becoming the AL’s MVP.

Singer Harry Connick Jr. will highlight the Opening Day festivities by performing "America the Beautiful."

Opening Day at Fenway will also feature a flyover presented by The Green Mountain Boys of the 158th Fighter Wing from the Vermont Air National Guard.

Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky, who is celebrating his 55th year with the club, will conclude the opening ceremonies by declaring it's time to "play ball!" Pesky will have to leave the Red Sox dugout during games this season because of a major league rule that limits the number of coaches allowed in uniform.

Members of the 1967 Red Sox scheduled to participate in Opening Day ceremonies (as of April 3 -- list is subject to change):

-- Manager Dick Williams
-- Catcher Jerry Moses
-- Infielder Mike Andrews
-- Pitcher Dan Osinski
-- Pitcher Gary Bell
-- Infielder Rico Petrocelli
-- Pitcher Dennis Bennett
-- Pitcher Billy Rohr
-- Pitcher Darrell Brandon
-- Catcher Mike Ryan
-- Pitcher Galen Cisco
-- Pitcher Jose Santiago
-- Catcher Russ Gibson
-- Outfielder Reggie Smith
-- Outfielder Ken Harrelson
-- Pitcher Lee Stange
-- Infielder Dalton Jones
-- Outfielder George Thomas
-- Pitcher Bill Landis
-- Pitcher Gary Waslewski
-- Pitcher Jim Lonborg*
-- Outfielder Carl Yastrzemski
-- Pitcher Dave Morehead

According to the Red Sox, many members of the 1967 team are also expected to attend the 2007 Red Sox welcome home dinner at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on Tuesday night after the home opener. The dinner, which benefits the Red Sox Foundation, will also include appearances by players, coaches, and management of the 2007 Red Sox and will be highlighted with a performance by the country western band Lonestar.

Tulane Wins Shootout at Zephyr Field 16-9

METAIRIE, La. -- No. 21 Tulane jumped out to an early 10-0 lead and pounded out 22 hits against seven LSU pitchers on Tuesday night en route to dealing the Tigers a 16-9 loss before 9,318 fans at Zephyr Field.

LSU (17-13-1) dropped its third straight game to its in-state rival and fell to 3-9 all-time against Tulane at Zephyr Field. Seven Tiger pitchers combined to allow a season-high 16 runs on 22 hits.

The Green Wave (23-8) scored in every inning but two, and every batter in the order recorded multiple hits. Tulane put the leadoff hitter on in seven of its eight at-bats.

LSU opens a seven-game homestand with a three-game Southeastern Conference series against Auburn this weekend in Alex Box Stadium. Game times are 7 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

Live audio and streaming video are available to members of the Geaux Zone on

Junior left-hander Kyle Beerbohm (0-1) was roughed up for four runs on five hits in 1.2 innings of work. Beerbohm, who was making just his second start of the season, issued two walks and struck out none.

"I knew it was going to be tough tonight," said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. "I was really hoping that Kyle Beerbohm could go out there and fool them a lot with some off-speed pitches. They did a couple of things against him early. We just couldn’t get leadoff hitters out."

Tulane senior right-hander Matt Goebel (5-1) scattered nine hits and six runs -- five earned -- in 6.1 innings to register his fifth win of the season. Goebel walked three and struck out three.

Tulane second baseman Brad Emaus went 2-for-3 with four RBI, and left fielder Anthony Scelfo added two hits and drove in four. Right fielder Warren McFadden tallied four hits.

LSU was led offensively by freshman left fielder Ryan Schimpf, who went 2-for-5 and belted a three-run homer. Designated hitter Blake Dean extended his hitting streak to 11 games with three hits. The streak is the longest by a Tiger since Matt Liuzza maintained an 11-game stretch last season.

"Today, we saw Ryan Schimpf come into his own," said Mainieri. "He had some good at-bats and hit a big three-run homer. There were two guys on base, and he was battling and then he hits one out. That is something we can take from this game."

The Wave took an early 1-0 lead in the first on an RBI sacrifice fly by third baseman Tim Guidry. Beerbohm allowed an RBI double to designated hitter Aja Barto in the second inning and two consecutive walks proved to be costly.

Two batters later, left fielder Scelfo knocked Beerbohm out of the game with a towering two-run homer over the right field wall.

Tulane added another charge an inning later with a six-run onslaught against reliever Chris Sorce. Eleven batters came to the plate, and five Green Wave hitters accounted for RBI. Emaus delivered the big blow with a two-run single off of freshman Matt Jackson.

Trailing 10-0 entering the top of the fourth, the Tigers would not go without a fight. LSU got on the board and cut the deficit to 10-3 by taking advantage of two Goebel walks.

Catcher Sean Ochinko and right fielder Steven Waguespack earned the free passes. Third baseman J.T. Wise followed with an RBI double to centerfield. First baseman Buzzy Haydel drove in another run on a groundout.

However, Tulane quickly made it a 10-run advantage again with a run in the fifth and two runs in the sixth. McFadden provided an RBI single. Scelfo added an RBI groundout, and Emaus drove in his third run on a sacrifice fly.

With the contest clearly in favor of the Green Wave, LSU mounted another rally as the Tigers scored six in the seventh and batted around.

Goebel was chased after allowing three straight hits to begin the inning. Pinch hitter Nick Pontiff and centerfielder Steven Broschofsky drilled back-to-back singles, and Dean ended Goebel's night with an RBI double off of the right field wall.

Reliever Drew Zinzinia was then touched for three runs in 0.1 innings. Catcher Robert Lara greeted the righty with an RBI single, while Waguespack narrowed the gap with a sacrifice fly.

Two batters later with two on, Schimpf blasted a three-run homer into the right field swimming pool to close the deficit to 13-9. Schimpf's fourth homer of the year forced Tulane head coach Rick Jones to go to one of his top relievers in right-hander Preston Claiborne.

Claiborne pitched around a Haydel double to retire the side, and he silenced an LSU threat in the eighth. The Tigers put the first two runners on, but Claiborne got Dean to fly out on a 1-0 count. Lara then grounded into his second double play of the game to end the inning and leave the tying run on deck.

The Green Wave tacked on three insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth against Paul Bertuccini, LSU's seventh pitcher of the evening. Tulane ace closer Daniel Latham worked a perfect ninth to end a game that lasted 3:40.

Tulane 16, LSU 9 (Apr 03, 2007 at Metairie, La.)
LSU................. 000 300 600 - 9 12 0 (17-13-1)
Tulane.............. 136 012 03X - 16 22 1 (23-8)
Pitchers: LSU - Kyle Beerbohm; Chris Sorce(2); Matt Jackson(3); Shane Ardoin(4); Clay Dirks(5); Louis Coleman(6); Paul Bertuccini(7).
Tulane - Matt Goebel; Drew Zizinia(7); Preston Claiborne(7); Daniel Latham(9).
Win-Matt Goebel(5-1) Loss-Kyle Beerbohm(0-1) T-3:40 A-9318
HR LSU - Ryan Schimpf (4).
HR TLN - Anthony Scelfo (3).

Ole Miss baseball fans have had the pleasure of enjoying a one-of-a-kind experience when entering Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field, but that atmosphere is about to take a dramatic step forward.

Following the current campaign, renovation of the stadium will get underway in a $10 to $12 million expansion that is set to be completed in time for the 2008 season.

“It will be an enormous project with various additions, which will greatly enhance the gameday experience at Ole Miss,” said Athletics Director Pete Boone.

Some of the amenities that will be added include 880 club seats between first and third base, as well as an increase in box seats from 400 to approximately 1,700. The overall number of chairback seats will rise from 2,951 to over 6,000, and all current chairbacks will be replaced. Fans will also be able to enjoy concession areas in the stands and additional restroom areas with handicap accessibility.

Average attendance last season was 4,850 with over 10,000 fans filling the park during regional competition, but Boone said these numbers should soar once fans are able to enter the new facility.

“Last year, when you actually count tickets, we had over 9,000 people in the park during the regional games,” he said. “With this increase, I think we will be able to get at least 10,000 and possibly 11,000 people comfortably in the stands during a game.”

The outside of the park will be of red brick with a new roof that will be similar to other buildings on campus. The facade will be of a traditional style that Boone said will coincide with the architectural style of Ole Miss.

“In keeping with the look of campus with the red brick, red roof and capstone, Chancellor (Robert) Khayat and I believe that the stadium will be very attractive,” said Boone. “Once you enter campus, you will be able to see a beautiful structure welcoming you to the university.”

The expansion will certainly have its advantages in terms of game environment, but it will also play a major role in future success for the baseball program. The facility will open the door for recruiting, as well as an enhanced gameday atmosphere for players.

“When everybody sees the rendering and what’s going to happen, they will see that the stadium is going to be very impressive,” said Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco. “It’s going to be the nicest stadium in the country, help in recruiting and have that wow effect.”

These upcoming changes to Oxford-University Stadium are on the heels of several other recent additions and renovations to the facility. Beginning with the 2006 season, the park received a new scoreboard which contains a large video board capable of showing highlights and replays throughout the course of the game.

Before this season, the outfield area underwent some alterations as Oakes Pavilion in left field was improved and extended through left-center field to allow fans to enjoy the grills and more natural seating of the park. The right field seating was also extended and more picnic areas were built to benefit Ole Miss students.

In addition, a new office suite in front of the stadium was completed prior to this season that houses the Rebel coaches and support staff.

Bianco said the numerous facility upgrades are further adding to the growing success of the baseball program, which is currently ranked top-10 in the nation.

“We’ve sold out the seats two years in a row and now will be able to sell more tickets and put more people in the stands,” he said. “The atmosphere will continue to grow, and become more electric. It is going to be exciting, watching the program continue to build.”

With the addition to the stadium, baseball games at Ole Miss will be enhanced for players and fans alike, as they will be able to experience college baseball like none other in the country. With current and future success for the baseball team evident and construction set to take place, going to the ballpark will take on a whole new meaning in Oxford.

“I don’t think there will be a better looking or functioning facility in the nation,” said Boone. “With the quality and feel of this expansion, you won’t be able to get any better. This will be an absolutely gorgeous facility that will make baseball at Ole Miss a truly remarkable event.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Pedroia Hits Ground Running

It's not as if it was his major league debut. Dustin Pedroia played 31 games at the end of last season when the Red Sox were going down in flames. He batted .191 and hit his first two big league homers in those hideous days of September when the Sox were playing it out like so many Bruins and Celtics.

Yesterday was different. It was Pedroia's first start that mattered. Still a rookie, he was the Opening Day starting second baseman of the Boston Red Sox -- the only unproven starter in a lineup of millionaires and cover boys.

And on a day when just about nothing went right for the Sox, Pedroia managed a couple of hits in three at-bats against Gil Meche, who confounded the rest of the Boston batters for 7 1/3 innings.

"The good news was that he was swinging the bat real well," noted manager Terry Francona.

Not that it was perfect. Pedroia hit a hard shot down the left-field line with two out and nobody aboard in the second and was gunned down by about 15 feet when he attempted to stretch the hit into a double.

"A little aggressive, but his timing was OK," said Francona. "We like his aggressiveness, and that was a situation where you take that chance."

"I was thinking second base all the way," said the 23-year-old Pedroia. "The grass is real thick. But I stumbled a little bit over first base and all my momentum went that way. He made a good throw. I've still got to be aggressive, though."

In the fifth, Pedroia made a nice pivot and throw on a double play grounder to short by Royals first baseman Ryan Shealy.

"Julio [Lugo] made a nice feed," said Pedroia. "I've been working hard on those things and I know it's going to turn around."

But his bat got most of the attention. Pedroia is only 5 feet 9 inches. Your average sportswriter can eat candy off his head. He is a poster boy for Theo Epstein and his crew of baseball stat men, and there is organizational split on Pedroia's ability to make an impact. That's why a 2-for-3 start at the plate on Opening Day means something. Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis were the only two Sox players with more than one hit.

"It felt good," Pedroia said. "I've been feeling good at the plate the last couple of weeks. I'll be fine. Just hit the ball hard. That's the main thing.

"Right now I'm just looking forward to Wednesday. I'm not a player who thinks about numbers. I just want us to win."

Good cliché-speak. On a day when he broke out with a couple of hits, the kid was already talking like a big leaguer.

Hall of Famere Van Chancellor Rumored to take over Women's Basketball at LSU

LSU's women can't take another step in the NCAA Tournament until they take the final step of this season, the most important one of the season, the one in which a new coach will be hired to lead the program to the one game previous coaches haven't been able to lead it to.

The hot rumor is that Van Chancellor, the former coach of the four-time WNBA champion Houston Comets, wants the job, and all things considered, the folksy, Baptist preacher sound-alike probably is about as good a choice as any. All other geniuses have jobs, likely are being compensated as well or better as LSU plans to pay and have as good a chance or better of advancing to the Final Four from where they are as they would have in Baton Rouge.

And Chancellor is a proven winner.

Fortunately for him, or whoever gets the job, proven winners will be part of the inheritance at LSU. The Lady Tigers have been to four consecutive Final Fours, and while the result of each appearance has been nothing to remember -- the four national semifinal losses have become increasingly more lopsided -- next season might present LSU with its best chance to win it all.

There isn't a senior on the roster, and most players have been to multiple Final Fours. LSU will return the best center, and arguably the best player, in the nation in Sylvia Fowles.

And there's the hurt factor.

"It was a very emotional locker room," acting head coach Bob Starkey said Sunday night after LSU's 59-35 loss to Rutgers. "Every kid was crying, and this is the fourth Final Four we have been to.

"We have lost three previous Final Fours, and I had never seen a tear in there. I think they were not just crying for themselves, but crying for each other. And I think it will be a great motivational factor for them. I think you'll see that they will have a great offseason. They're going to work hard. I think that obviously this team's best days are ahead of it.

"I think it hurt, and I think that's a good hurt. I'm glad they hurt. I think that's important in terms of them being competitive and being able to take that next step. I think this team is more prepared to take the next step than any team that we have had prior."

But, obviously, the right coach has to be directing the steps, one that is smart enough to tinker without damaging a successful formula.

Starkey isn't interested in expanding his role as acting head coach, and since that's his choice, it's the best one. Maybe, a new coach will consider his presence a threat -- Starkey obviously will have a better, more personal relationship with the players than a new university employee, who might prefer an assistant who wields less locker room influence and is less of a father figure to players.

But Starkey has proven how much of an asset he can be. The new coach will want his or her own staff, of course, but there always should be room for an egoless soldier who is more interested in breaking down video, preparing game plans and tutoring players in practice than he is in making speeches and chasing headlines.

"I did tell them that if I never coached again that I was thrilled that this was the last team that I coached," he said. "And if I coached for 20 more years, I would never forget what they had accomplished."

Indeed, it was a memorable ride, save the crash landing. But there isn't much time to savor the former or lament the latter.

There's another step -- a really big one -- that remains to be taken with regard to the NCAA Tournament. But making that move next season, or in some season after that, can't and won't be taken until LSU's athletic administration takes the final step of this season and hires a coach.

The right person is crucial, and Chancellor probably is as good as any candidate on the market. And he, or someone else, will be fortunate to inherit a roster of players capable of making them look even better than they already are.

Opening Day Disaster for Sox

Worse than Ellen DeGeneres's first night hosting the Oscars. Worse than Arsenio Hall's first shot at late-night television. Worse than Patriots coach Clive Rush's first press conference, when he was nearly electrocuted.

The much-anticipated Red Sox baseball season of 2007 kicked off yesterday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium, and Curt Schilling and the Boston Nine were thrashed, 7-1, by the Kansas City Royals.

Perhaps anticipating the beating he and his teammates will take today on the Hub airwaves and in print, Kevin Youkilis said, "If you're going to get upset at losing one game, it's going to be a long year. If a team loses only 60 games in a season, that's a great year.

"People are going to get all worried. We want to win them all, but I don't think anybody ever went 162-0."

Where to start? Blogmaster Schilling threw like a man suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, yielding five runs on eight hits and two walks in just four innings. 38pitches? That's almost how many Schill needed to get out of the first inning, when he threw 33 and walked home a run. It was the earliest he was knocked out of a regular-season game in 10 years and hardly a good start to his 2007 campaign for a new contract.

Meanwhile, Bill James-mandated shortstop Julio Lugo started his Red Sox reign in Renteria-esque fashion, fanning in his first three at-bats, Japanese lefty Hideki Okajima yielded a home run on his first big league pitch, two Sox runners were cut down at second base, and spring strugglers Jason Varitek and Coco Crisp had hitless starts. Sox pitchers yielded 12 hits and two walks in eight innings.

Facing the widely mocked Gil Meche ($55 million over five years?), the Red Sox lineup was hardly the relentless run-producing machine that Theo and the Minions envisioned when they hovered over their computers during the wild-spending winter. The Red Sox struck out 10 times, and six of their eight hits were singles.

We all laughed when the Royals gave Meche the money, and he's been the baseline for Big Curt's request for an extension. After all, if Meche is worth $11 million per year, how much is Schill worth? That's the logic. Well, on this day, Meche was a far better pitcher than his counterpart (no blog updates from Schill during the game, darn it). He enjoyed the best Opening Day by a Royal starter since Bret Saberhagen in 1988.

Schilling made no excuses. Never does.

"No fastball command," he started. "I did not adjust. I can't remember that ever being the case. It's very disappointing. As a starting pitcher, you can make your team look a lot worse than it is some days."

This was one of those days.

A few years ago, our print brethren over at Herald Square bannered a "Wait 'Til Next Year" headline after an opener like this. Funny, but untrue, of course. We all know that baseball is a marathon, not a sprint -- remember? They play 162 of these things, and one game in April means nothing in the scheme of a season. This is not football, where everyone has to stick their head in an oven after a single game is lost. The 2004 Red Sox lost their opener to the lowly Orioles and that season worked out pretty well.

Still, after all the hype and hysteria that accompanied the start of this season, it was somewhat shocking to see the team with the $58 million payroll -- a team that lost 100 games in four of the last five seasons -- croaking the team with the $145.7 million payroll.

We'd do well to remember that the Sox were swept by the "lowly" Royals in this ballpark in early August 2006. That series proved to be a harbinger. It was a sign of things to come when the Yankees came to down and imploded the Boston season.

The Red Sox don't play today, which is a bad thing. It makes for another 24 hours of nonstop pummeling from Nation members on the edge. It's a good time for the Boston ballplayers to be on the road, where the hardest decision is whether to go to Gates or Bryant's for ribs.

Josh Beckett can make it all go away tomorrow. And then there's some rookie with a hard-to-spell name pitching for the Red Sox Thursday. Wonder if anybody will even bother to cover that one.

For their amusement the night before they opened the 107th season of Red Sox baseball, a group of players went to see the testosterone-driven hit movie "300," in which a small band of hopelessly outnumbered Spartans holds off wave after wave of attacking Persian forces.

Sign up for: Globe Headlines e-mail | Breaking News Alerts It's doubtful whether any of them anticipated any parallels between the film and the 7-1 defeat they absorbed yesterday at the hands of the Kansas City Royals, a team that regularly has been crushed by baseball's big-market bullies but yesterday proved more than the equal of a team with vastly superior resources.

The Royals, seizing the opening left them by an out-of-sorts Curt Schilling and cashing in on their own widely lampooned investment in pitcher Gil Meche, knocked Schilling out of the game after four innings and coasted to their most one-sided Opening Day win since 1979. The Sox now have lost six of their last seven openers, their only win coming in Texas last year.

"Very disappointing," said Schilling, who gave up eight hits, walked in a run with the bases loaded, and hadn't been knocked out of a regular-season game this early in 10 years.

"As a starting pitcher, you can make your team look a lot worse than it is some days. Today, absolutely, was one of those days."

Opening Day photos Box score

While the Sox managed just six hits against Meche, David Ortiz's first-inning RBI double accounting for their only run, the Royals had a dozen hits, including two triples by a kid who used to run around Fenway Park while his dad played baseball for the Sox.

Shortstop Tony Pena Jr., so new to the Royals that he still didn't have a name plate over his locker ("It was delivered to the park and signed for," said a Royals official, "but no one knows where it is"), tripled and scored the go-ahead run in the second, then tripled home the Royals' final run in the eighth.

"I remember playing with a taped ball with Frank Viola's son in a hallway outside the Fenway family room," said Pena, whose father, of course, is the former Sox catcher and Royals manager who departed Kansas City under strained circumstances, which is about the only way a manager leaves a franchise that has lost 100 games or more in four of the last five seasons. "John Flaherty used to get down with my father and play with me, too."

Pena, who was out of options with Atlanta, was acquired just over a week ago by new general manager Dayton Moore, who was interviewed for the Sox job by Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner during that faux window in 2005 when Theo Epstein vacated his office, then risked apparent career suicide by making his first act as Royals GM the signing of Meche

All winter, Meche was maligned as the poster boy for a free agent market run amok. The Royals paid him $1 million for each of the 55 career wins he'd recorded for the Mariners. This was the same franchise that in the past had refused to spend an extra nickel to keep Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, and Jermaine Dye, among others. Now it was spending millions on Meche?

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Sign up for: Globe Headlines e-mail | Breaking News Alerts Schilling said he never added his voice to the chorus of Meche mashers.

"He's got great stuff," said Schilling, who by his own admission never had command of his fastball yesterday. "Physically, he's worth every penny of that contract. Gil Meche, when he turns the corner mentally, if he ever wants to get to the next level and be great, the stuff is there.

"He'll be worth every penny of that contract and more if he wants to be one of the best guys in the game."

Ortiz has been a Meche tormentor over the years, hitting four home runs in just 15 at-bats, but yesterday offered nothing but praise.

Diamond Rebels break into top 10

A day after returning home from the Plains of Auburn with a series win over the Tigers, the Ole Miss Rebels broke into the top 10 in the national rankings with the latest edition of Collegiate Baseball’s poll on Monday. The Rebels are ranked No. 10 in the latest edition of the rankings.

Ole Miss (21-9) is off to its best start since the 2005 season saw the Rebels post an identical record through the first 30 games of the season. The year, Ole Miss also opened Southeastern Conference play winning two of its first three series with the only series loss coming on the road against Vanderbilt.

The Rebels play four games at home this week beginning with a non-conference showdown with Arkansas State on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Ole Miss defeated the Indians on the road earlier this season by a score of 14-1 in a game that saw the Rebels pound out 21 hits, including an inside-the-park home run from freshman outfielder Jordan Henry.

Arkansas State enters the mid-week match-up coming off a series loss on the road at Florida Atlantic. The Indians are 11-18 on the year and have posted a 4-8 conference record competing in the Sun Belt.

Ole Miss will continue to play at home this weekend when the Rebels welcome the Georgia Bulldogs to town for a three-game series. Ole Miss and Georgia will start at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field. Georgia will play a two-game set with Clemson before heading to Oxford.