Oregon State's success on a national level in college baseball over the past two seasons has been eye-opening. Shocking, really. Getting to the College World Series was one thing, being one of the final four teams is another. And it prompts a few questions.
Question No. 1 - What were Oregon and Portland State thinking when they dropped baseball?
My goodness, high school baseball in this state is healthy, well-coached and populated by a surprising number of talented players, considering the rain clouds we live under.
Some pro scouts are even coming to realize that the upside of baseball players drafted out of the Pacific Northwest is higher than players from other areas of the country because the weather hasn't given many of our kids the full opportunity to mature at the sport.
Even though a local college team, to be a Division I power, probably has to recruit from the Sunbelt once in a while, so what? I would guess a higher percentage of local kids would be talented enough to play baseball for those schools than are playing on their basketball and football teams.
And that ought to count for something - even in the financial morass that is big-time college sports.
Question No. 2 - Are there really that many kids in Oregon capable of playing? I'm not sure. I'm not sure too many other people know, either, because this area is so poorly scouted by the colleges. Even the Beavers, who get the cream of the crop in the state, don't see everyone. I feel for PIL kids, for example. If they don't have a Joey Mahalic on their team, do the college coaches know they're out there?
Sometimes they do, if the kid happened to hear about one of those prospect camps. Or if he has enough dough to play on a traveling team in the summer.
Otherwise, I believe some good ones just never get a shot. And when I look at a baseball roster from the University of Portland and find just a few Oregon kids on it, I cringe. Sure, it takes good grades to get into UP - but there are smart kids playing ball in this state. And if you're going to finish last in your conference, you might as well do it with local kids.
Question No. 3 - How would the Beavers do if PSU and Oregon had baseball?
Probably not as well as they're doing.
OSU coach Pat Casey does a terrific job. He is one of the best in the country. But if he had to go head-to-head with the Ducks for local players every year, I would guess he'd lose some of them. And don't forget, PSU had four players - Eric Gunderson, Joe Kraemer, Jeff Lahti and Steve Olin - in the big leagues in the 1980s. The Vikings would get some good ones, too.
And that would significantly impact the Beavers' chances of playing for national championships.