Revelette Column: Lexington is a baseball town

Jan. 13, 2010

The "ping" of the bat means something different to me now.

After four years in the minor leagues, I'd gotten used to the "crack" of wood bats. As a pitcher, the crunch of a splintered Louisville Slugger on a great inside pitch was particularly satisfying. But, upon my return to Lexington for each of my offseasons, I never felt I was far away from the "ping."

Lexington, contrary to popular belief, is a baseball town. While the Commonwealth teems with (well-deserved) excitement over its basketball and football programs, the the Kentucky baseball team has been steadily building one of the nation's most respectable college baseball programs. Two consecutive top-five recruiting classes. Four years in a row finishing in the top 35 in attendance. A boatload of players moving on to professional baseball. An SEC championship in 2006. The list goes on and on. And so does Kentucky baseball.

Names like Blanton and Downs paved the road for Shelby, Strieby, and Bertram. Webb and Green lit the path for Carroll and Cowgill. Coaches Madison, Cohen and now Henderson have helped build the program, and, while they may not be as popular as Rupp, Smith, and Calipari, you could make the argument they've done just as much in (and on) their respective fields.

Fans in the Commonwealth regularly speak of UK's rich basketball tradition. They gloat about four consecutive bowl appearances on the gridiron. In time, perhaps very little time, they'll know about Kentucky baseball. And so will you.

My years at UK were fun, fleeting and fulfilling. Just getting to wear "Kentucky" across my chest was good enough. Winning an SEC championship, hosting a regional, earning a degree and getting a chance to play professional baseball was icing on the cake.

It's not my job to raise awareness about the baseball program at UK. I won't need to convince you to get out and see the Cats this spring. It's something you will do on your own. Yes, just like James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams, "People will come. People will most definitely come."

In the following weeks leading up to the season, I'll provide you with a little perspective into what it really means to be a Wildcat on the diamond. Accompanied with contributions from Kentucky players, coaches and staff, my goal will be to provide you, the fan, with a unique, entertaining and enjoyable point of view on college baseball in the nation's most powerful conference.

See you at the park.