By Luke Martin| Ball State Sports Link
Follow @LukeMartinBSU | @bsusportslink
How can you get any better than Florida in February? Am I right?
How could I get away from the frozen tundra of Muncie, Indiana?
When I was given the opportunity from Ball State Athletics to call Ball State Baseball games over the weekend, I was excited to get back to a sport I was used to covering on a regular basis in high school, but have been separated for quite some time.
Ball State senior Sean Godfrey is a main reason why Cardinal fans are excited about what the 2014 Ball State Cardinals can accomplish.
I was eager to get back to covering baseball, but more so to call my first baseball games on the radio. Columbus East provided many great opportunities for me while I was a student there, which to this day I am forever grateful for because I wouldn’t be where I am at without my high school experience, but Columbus East never had a student radio station.
It is really hard to earn a play-by-play position at Ball State because of the talent at this school and where the talent comes from. I knew I was behind in the count (nice baseball reference to use) coming into Ball State because I had zero play-by-play experience before college.
The reason I mention not having prior experience is to show, or I hope to show, you don’t have to come from a big broadcasting high school to be successful in the big leagues at Ball State.
In preparing for the weekend, most of my focus was making sure I didn’t screw up my first weekend calling games, but also the first baseball game I have covered since high school.
Before this past weekend, I had talked with Coach Rich Maloney only a handful of times. I met him when he was reintroduced at Ball State a year ago, but it wasn’t much of a conversation for us to warrant a relationship in days to follow.
I was reintroduced to him before our trip to Florida and when he saw me you’d think we talked every day for the past 15 years. Shows you what kind of guy Ball State has running their baseball program.
Though, It wasn’t just Coach Maloney who was more than complimentary. The whole coaching staff and team as well were great to be around in Florida. What I enjoyed most was really seeing all of the great stories develop just this past weekend.
Ball State head coach Rich Maloney is one of the best coaches to work with.
Take Jake Brewer, for example, missing all of last season and going through Tommy John surgery. I am looking forward to telling his story through the Sports Link camera lenses soon, but you would have never guessed he was winless in his career by spending time around him.
Brewer has a great presence around the program, or I like to use the term “swagger” (which Zach Hughes mocks me for using so much). He is one of the most approachable guys you could meet too, which surprised me due to all the hardships he has been through over the years.
Brewer set a great example over the weekend that anyone can learn from. Remember how I mentioned earlier how I wasn’t going to let my lack of experience in high school from play-by-play hold me back? Brewer didn’t let his past experiences prevent him from having a dominant performance Friday night or many more dominate performances to come.
It is still early in the season for Jake, and we will wait and see how the season progresses for him, but seeing him dominate Mississippi Valley State was special. After all the difficult rehabs and therapy he needed to get through to be back to this point and seeing what kind of young man he is should make his parents John and Susan proud.
Brewer wasn’t the only Cardinal who made a statement over the weekend.
Brandon Estep saw a decrease in his playing time when Maloney arrived in 2013, which I am sure wasn’t received well by Estep.
Estep saw much more action in 2012 than in 2013 – and it didn’t have anything to do with personal health. It had everything to do with how he handles his day-to-day business and doing the little things right off the baseball diamond.
Maloney also told me it was competition on the team that pushed Estep to his limits. Maloney doesn’t care what age you are, he is going to put the best nine guys on the lineup card.
It was so easy for Estep, just like it was for Brewer, to throw in the towel and give up. What does Estep do instead? Batting .433 with 13 hits and 3 home runs. He had six hits all of last season and only one homerun in his career prior to 2014. Those are two key juniors making positive influences for the Cardinals and it seems to be trickling down all the way to the freshman class.
Alex Maloney has pressure on him unlike any other player, mostly due to reasons he can’t control. Alex’s dad is his head coach. I can’t imagine the pressure and burden he has to carry. It isn’t easy for a player to play for his dad, especially at such a high level, but Alex showed his mental toughness over the weekend, especially in the finale against Northwestern.
Maloney moved to third base from shortstop in the Northwestern game, but it was at the plate where he went through some challenges. Maloney’s batting average dropped below .200 and seemed like he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.
I am sure everyone by now knows what Alex did in the Northwestern game, but I will finish the story anyways.
Alex came back Sunday with a huge sacrifice fly, drew a walk which he ultimately scored on and had the walk-off single to pick up the all-important third win on the weekend. His dad mentions all the time about needing players with strong mental toughness. His son has it and more.
Alex wasn’t the lone freshman who made echoes through the crisp, warm Florida air, as Caleb Stayton produced a weekend of baseball he will remember for quite sometime. Stayton was batting below .100 after the first weekend at .083 but his batting average rose immensely over the weekend.
His homerun Friday against Wisconsin Milwaukee and bloop single Sunday against Northwestern were the main highlights from what was a bounce back weekend for him. He is only a freshman, but more importantly a digital sports production major…. just saying.
Remember how Jake Brewer picked up his first career win Friday night? Well, reigning MAC pitcher of the week Zach Plesac has three wins and a save this season already — as a freshman. The past sentence isn’t written in anyway to portray a bad image of Brewer. It is written to show how impressive Zach Plesac has been in his short time in Muncie.
Wow…How about these Cardinals, huh? No quit in this team after getting the doors blown off by a solid Iowa team Friday, 16-6. Is Iowa really 10 runs better than Ball State? They were Friday but can’t let one bad game turn into two.
The game of baseball is great for many reasons, but being able to have a quick turnaround to get the bad memory of a bad night washed out is one of the main ones. It isn’t like football or basketball where you may have to wait up to a week to redeem yourself.
This past weekend is why I love what I do. The best thing about covering sports and being a broadcaster at Ball State is being able to travel with the teams and build those relationships you will cherish and have for the rest of your life.
I get an up close, behind-the-scenes view that no one else gets the pleasure of viewing. If you are looking for a school to come to in order to be a sports broadcaster, look no further than Ball State.
Good news for me is this is only weekend number one. I’m looking forward to round two with the team next weekend in Lynchburg, Va. The weather won’t be as nice as Florida, but the company is what matters.
My love and passion for the game of baseball resurfaced this past weekend and I am excited to see where it goes next. Can’t thank the Ball State baseball team enough for the hospitality!
How about we win four more next weekend, boys?
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In 2013-14, Ball State University is the first school in the nation to offer a degree in Digital Sports Production through the Department of Telecommunications. Digital Sports Production is an interactive learning experience combined with an immersive learning project, Ball State Sports Link.
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