Growing up around Omaha, I have always had an irrational love towards College Baseball. The ping of the aluminum bats, the really bad pitching, the really good pitching, seven inning mercy rules, teams going on 20 run tears, dramatic misses in the infield, web gems that make you gasp for air, and a dogpile on the mound after winning the College World Series. Being able to witness them in what was more or less my hometown's backyard ingrained this perfect idea of what the sport could be.
As such, as a Nebraska fan, it was a little weird taking some history with the sport to a conference that seemed to believe it was nothing more than a diversion - something to do when the snow melted. Sure, there were a few appearances by B1G teams over the years, but this was a coastal and southern sport. So much so that Delany and company even admitted that it might be good to have a Northern season away from the greater sport so they could compete. Needless to say, I - along with my Big Red friends - thought that was crazy. That was then. Now seems to be a far cry from those days.
In the time that Nebraska has played in the B1G, I've seen stadiums and facilities go up that are rivaling their southern neighbors. I've seen Indiana make the CWS, and I've seen their star get drafted in the Top 5. I've watched the conference tournament packed to the brim, and I've watched teams get picked in the Top 15 to start the year. The discussions have slowly moved from, "Well, your RPI really sucks because you're in the Big Ten" to "You know, each weekend is going to be a fight and you better be ready." I've seen Top 40 recruiting classes come to places like Iowa, and I've been impressed by the level of play between teams like Indiana, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Ohio State. Baseball may never be the star, but over the past four years, you'd be surprised how far the conference has come in such a short amount of time.
All that said, we've added another good baseball school in Maryland, and Rutgers has potential to play with anyone. If there was ever a year where you think to yourself, "Huh, I should take the family to the ballpark for a cheap few hours of entertainment," this is the year. The important publications in College Baseball are all talking about this renaissance and are predicting as many as four teams going to the regionals, with the potential of two or three teams even hosting. Four years ago, we would have been happy with two teams making it, and that's arguably only if the champion got beat in a fluke. This is real progress, and is part of a growing trend among college sports. Baseball is here, and the Big Ten is finally flexing its financial muscle to put itself on the map.
So, my charge to you this year is to stick with the sport. I know that SBN sites are doing a bang-up job of at least getting info out there on baseball, and if you need other places to go, go ahead and bookmark D1 Baseball and Baseball America. I'm going to try and do my best to do a roundup throughout the season to give you all an update on where things stand for the conference, and if anyone is really interested in writing about baseball from a B1G perspective, shoot me an email (info in my profile). I truly believe this year can be special for B1G Baseball, and even if it doesn't live up to our expectations, there are way worse ways you can spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon than your local ballpark.
Big Ten Baseball starts today, and I hope you all enjoy the season. We'll be trying hard to get updates. I know that all 13 teams are in action today through Sunday in tournaments and series from coast to coast. If you know something interesting about your team, drop it in the comments. Baseball may be lower in the pecking order of the major sports, but it should be a fun year. So why not stay here and talk about it?