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A Guide to College Baseball for MLB Fans

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Miss baseball? Don’t worry, it never left

In the 2003 film Old School three men find an escape from their depressing and unfulfilling adult lives by starting a fraternity and rekindling the excitement of college. Rob Manfred is miserable adulthood personified. Let’s go back to college, baseball fans.

College baseball is the best version of the sport. It’s full of talented players, passionate fans and some of the wackiest shit you’ve ever seen on a field. Today I’m gonna explain to you how the college baseball season works, some of the wildest things I’ve seen take place and upcoming games you should tune into. Because Rob Manfred has made damn sure there won’t be any other baseball to watch any time soon.

The College Baseball Season

The college baseball regular season began two weeks ago, and has eleven weeks remaining. These first four weeks serve as non-conference play for most leagues, pretty similar to the college football season. Then by mid-March every major conference should have league play underway. The bulk of the regular season is weekend series mostly played on Friday-Saturday-Sunday. Later in the year some will be played Thursday-Friday-Saturday for better TV exposure.

I really like primarily playing three-game series instead of MLB’s usual four because you always come away with a clear series winner rather than a split. It’s also for the best because most college teams only have two quality starting pitchers. If you like home run derbies I highly recommend Sunday games.

Teams will also play midweek games that are usually against schools within busing distance. If you want to make an LSU fan mad, tell him or her that midweek games do or don’t matter. Chances are they feel strongly about it one way or the other!

Around late May conference tournaments will begin. It works the same as the basketball tournaments, where the winners of each of the 31 conference tournaments receive auto-bids to the 64-team field that begins in early June. From there they play 16 four-team Regionals. The winner of each regional advances to Super Regionals, which are a traditional best-of-3 between two teams. The eight then advance to the prestigious College World Series in Omaha.

Are the Games Different From MLB Games?

In terms of rules, not really! It’s still nine innings, with a starting nine, pinch hitters and runners. If you think it wasn’t necessary for me to clarify those facts, you aren’t familiar with college softball.

The only real distinction from MLB rules is teams have the choice between playing a DH or having the pitcher hit. You see a DH 99.9 percent of the time. Every year there are usually one or two guys who excel at both.

The strategy is slightly different from the pros because college games tend to be more on the offensive side. Starting pitchers’ abilities really aren’t as refined as they are in the pros, so you’ll see a lot of higher scores than you’re probably used to, which is exciting for a lot of fans! You also might see plays like this.

When I say high-scoring I mean like 8-5, which isn’t unusual for MLB, but you see it a lot more than 3-2 in college. However there is still.... stuff like this.

This is a postseason game. The losing team here finished in the final four.

Pitchers also generally don’t see their pitch count go super high unless they’re an ace who’s absolutely on fire.

Is College Baseball Any More Exciting Than Ordinary Baseball?

I don’t want to disrespect any diehard MLB fans, but you can’t convince me the MLB season isn’t longer than it needs to be. When you play 162 teams, it’s hard to get up and excited for every single one of them. I think the college baseball season is great because with a ~60 game regular season, you need to make every one of those games count. The regular season goal should be to be one of the top 8 seeds in the postseason field. It’s hard to justify being one of those if you lose more than two weekend series. So there’s serious urgency for every single game! Well except midweek games because those don’t matt- *I am pelted with tomatoes*

College baseball games also tend to have.... weird shit happen.

Full disclosure: a lot of these weird things happened in LSU games because that’s mostly what I watch but I promise there’s weird shit everywhere.

The Rally Possum

In a 2016 game LSU trailed Arkansas 9-1 in the second inning. The Tigers scratched back to make it 9-4 before an iconic moment turned marketing campaign happened. A possum ran on the field!

Immediately after the possum was escorted out the stadium, LSU rallied to win a 10-9 walk-off. I think they might still sell plush possums at The Box.

The Wright State Rally Deer

This is a pretty similar story to the possum, but it’s a little different and maybe darker? The Wright State baseball team was on a bus discussing how to turn their season around when they ran into a deer. How did they respond? By winning their next two weekend series. So naturally the players bought a dear head into the dugout of all of their remaining games.

The Legend of Todd Peterson

The 2018 LSU baseball team was one of the weaker teams in the program’s recent history, but they still had a solid shot at securing a postseason berth if they won a couple SEC Tournament games. After pulling ahead against South Carolina in the 12th inning of an elimination game, they faced a dilemma. They wanted their closer Todd Peterson to get the last three outs, but that was tricky. Remember how I said college teams can have a pitcher hit? Austin Bain excelled at both for the 2018 Tigers. Since LSU wanted to keep his bat in the lineup they moved him to first base, meaning Peterson had to hit to stay on the mound.

LSU already had the lead. Sure, there were runners on base, but a pitcher who isn’t used to hitting could end in disaster. Paul Mainieri told Peterson to just stand here and take the pitches. This happened next.

Peterson remained in the game to get the save and his first win of the season. Then the postgame interviews happened, and it became a thousand times funnier.

Everyone talks about Mainieri’s bewildered reaction, but we don’t talk enough about Todd’s dad NOT GIVING IT AWAY AND COMMITTING TO THE LIE WITH HIS BOY! HANS PETERSON BELONGS IN THE HIGHEST TIER OF SPORTS DAD!

Ole Miss Home Run Beer Showers

Despite being one of LSU’s oldest rivals, Ole Miss students launching their beers drinks into the air for every home run is perhaps the most college thing I’ve seen in any college sport and I have great respect for it.

Mississippi State’s BBQ Smoke

While we’re already appreciating our rivals through gritted teeth, I have to be honest that Dudy Noble Field’s Left Field Lounge sounds like an absolutely incredible time, even if you sometimes can’t see the game through the smoke.

That One Time LSU’s Beau Jordan Gave the Pitcher a Middle Finger While Running to First on a Single

No additional context needed.

Are There Any Interesting College Baseball Games I Can Watch Soon?

Fortunately yes! This weekend is the return of the Shriners Children’s College Classic, a nine game tournament played in the Astros’ Minute Maid Park, featuring six teams including the No. 1, No. 7 and No. 17 teams in the rankings. The games will be shown on MLB Network*, AT&T Sportsnet, the Astros’ website and Twitter account, Facebook, YouTube and the MLB app. Some of these are subject to blackouts because even in a lockout we can’t dodge MLB making it impossible to enjoy baseball, but everyone should be able to catch these games somewhere.

*About the whole MLB Network thing...

So yeah, there’s gonna be 12 consecutive hours of college baseball every day this weekend. Give it a shot! You just might see something you’ve never seen before.