The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - March 8, 1999 - 3B
Play ball! Blue opens season in California
Sprng Traiazbzg - why thAis
'tzrne of year is' the greatest
By Stephen A. Rom
Daily Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES - When ESPN
anchor - and University alum - Rich
Eisen recently said that "pitchers and
catchers report" were the four sweetest
words in baseball, he was on to some-
thing. But there is one key phrase he may
have omitted in making that claim.
"Let's play ball!"
That is exactly what the Michigan
baseball team heard eight times during
the last 10 days. And after spending most
of their winter only imagining real com-
petition, the Wolverines were more than
happy to oblige - especially consider-
ingwhere they were headed.
For the first time in the school's histo-
ry, the Wolverines kicked off a season
with a west-coast swing. The trip had
them first playing three games at UC
San Diego, one each at UCLA and
Southern Cal, then finally three against
Perhaps saving their toughest oppo-
nent for last, Michigan faced a
Pepperdine club that had lost only one
out of the 15 games they had played this
The Waves would serve to be a credi-
ble opponent for Michigan to test the
waters of this young 1999 season.
"We're trying to fit our rosters and see
about our pitching staff," Michigan
coach Geoff Zahn said. "We'll take it
one game at a time to feel them out."
By the time they arrived at
Pepperdine, the Wolverines had a few
games under their belt, sporting a 3-2
record. And a weekend series with the
No. 9 team in the nation is all that stood
between Michigan and a winning road-
In what began as a beautiful after-
noon, a methodical and disciplined
Pepperdine ball club kindly welcomed
Michigan to Eddy D. Field Stadium and
greeted them with all the skills that have
earned them their near-perfect record.
The Waves took advantage of leadoff
walks in the third, fourth, and fifth
innings to go ahead 3-0. This would be
all they needed, as Pepperdine went on to
win by a final score of 3-2.
There was a bright spot for the
Wolverines though, as junior left fielder,
Rob Bobeda displayed some clutch hit-
ting in the seventh inning. Bobeda
smacked a two-out, two-run single up
the middle to make the contest interest-
In game two of the series, the biggest
blow came in Pepperdine's half of the
fourth inning when center-fielder, and
Wave leadoff hitter, Danny Garcia hit a
3-run homer to complete a five-run,
five-hit inning. This brought the score to
6-0 and it also brought to rest any hopes
the Wolverines had that day. Michigan
went on to lose the contest by a score of
Because of weather conditions, the
Wolverines routinely start their season
with this type of disadvantage. But their
success in resent years - highlighted
with a Big Ten championship in 1997 -
shows exactly why they have the respect
of their peers.
In keeping true to form, the
Wolverines trotted right into Jackie
Robinson Memorial Stadium and roaied
past the Bruins, beating them 4-3 in 16
After losing nine of their first 15
games, a suddenly awakened UCLA
team had won five of their previous
seven. The Wolverines utilized key hits
in the 6th inning to take control of the
game. Those hits were capped by a two-
run homer from senior Jason Alcaraz.
The blast was also his 200th career hit as
Michigan carried its momentum over
to the other side of the ball as the
Wolverines turned five double plays in
the game. The most timely one occurred
in the bottom of the ninth, only moments
after the winning run crossed the plate
from third base, nullifying it.
See PLAY BALL, Page 6B
MPE, Ariz. - I've always said
this is the best time of the year,
withMarch Madness filling the
final real days of winter and baseball's
spring training a happy reminder that
warmer days are (probably) just around
Football season is fun on a week-to-
Rek basis, and the bliss of a lazy sum-
mer can be hard to beat, but to me, the
transition from winter to spring is that
rare fresh time, to be appreciated each
and every year, when the world comes
literally to life.
Exactly one year ago, I was covering
the Michigan men's basketball team,
preparing for what looked to be a
promising NCAA Tournament but in
turned out to be a brief, season-
ding trip to Atlanta (and that was for
the, team - I watched it on TV). I
wrote at one point that the start of the
men's NCAA basketball Tournament
was the greatest event in sports, and
that it was, in my opinion, part of the
reason that this time of year - right
now - is as good as it gets.
This year, I was fortunate enough to
get a chance to see the other great
sporting event of the not-quite-spring-
*getting-past-winter stage in the sea-
sons. Spring training.
Part of the setup's charm here is that
Arizona State and the University of
Arizona - two of college baseball's
finest programs, year in and year out -
are both within a relatively short drive
of most of the training sites.
The Anaheim Angels, who base their
spring workouts in Tempe's Diablo
dium, played host this past week to
na State's team. The result was a
charity game that gave some college
kids a chance to play against some
legitimate pros and some lucky baseball
fans the chance to see all of the above
for afew bucks a head. I was one of
those lucky fans.
I wandered into the smallish stadium
with two of my housemates, and we sat
down somewhere behind home plate,
just in front of the guy giving away free
*heim Angels T-shirts to anyone
willing to fill out a credit card appliea-
Yes, I now have an Anaheim Angels
T-shirt (though I expect a rejection let-
ter from MasterCard within days).
Almost by instinct, I wandered back
toward the stadium's main information
office, and asked for a copy of the
"If there was a game program,you
ild have it," the man posted at the
door said sheepishly. "We weren't able
to get one ready in time for tonight's
Eventually, I came to the media
offices. Again, no program, but I did
get a couple of rosters and a half-heart-
ed invitation to the press box.
I turned it down.
If there's one thing I've decided, after
almost four years of pretending to be a
sports writer (a couple months of which
were spent on Michigan's baseball
team), it's that in most cases, the games
are just as easily watched from the
The food isn't as free in the stands,
and the stat books certainly are harder
to come by, but as far as just plain
watching a game and taking in the
atmosphere, the sterile press box just
isn't for me. If you're just going to take
in a ballgame, the place to be is in the
And so that's where we were. We
watched the Angels play their non-ros-
ter invitees after the first inning and
watched the Sun Devils put up an
impressive nine runs. So what if they
gave up 16? For the guys playing, it had
to be pretty cool to play a couple
innings against Mo Vaughn and Jim
It was interesting to watch the
dynamics of the crowd, something that
can be tough to do when you're busy
checking the media guide for fielding
percentages and the like.
Many of the 1,945 fans in Diablo
Stadium were there to get an up-close
look at the pros; just as many were
there to see their sons and friends and
classmates match up against the big
boys. You could just imagine the stories
that would circulate in lecture the next
Andrew Beinbrink, Arizona State's
third baseman, jerked a home run over
the left field wall to give the Sun Devils
a brief 8-7 lead.
Yes, Anaheim came back to win, but
my housemates and I were long gone
by that time. We had already seen what
we'd come to see - spring training, in
Arizona, in March, in shorts and T-
shirts. Is that bad journalism? Leaving
before the game was over? Maybe.
But actually, it wasn't journalism at
all. We were just catching a ballgame.
- Jim Rose can be reached via e-mail
Game, set, career
Michigan tennis coach
By Raphael Goodstein
Daily Sports Writer
Through the years the University
of Michigan has had great coaches
come and go - from Bo
Schembachler to Cliff Keen to
Fielding Yost. At the end of this ten-
nis season, Michigan will lose anoth-
er legendary coach.
Michigan men's tennis coach
Brian Eisner announced his inten-
tions to retire at the end of this year.
Eisner has been coaching tennis for
36 years, 30 at Michigan.
Eisner has compiled a 438-198
record at Michigan, and a 514-228-1
career record. Eisner collected his
500th career victory last year against
Boise State at the Boise State
"I have thoroughly enjoyed my 30
years of coaching here at the
University of Michigan," Eisner said,
in a released statement.
"I feel this is the optimum time for
me to retire for several reasons.
First, I have many interests that I
have never had the chance to pursue.
Secondly, the program is in great
shape with the new tennis facility,
most of the players return and I think
there is every reason to believe that
the great success of Michigan Tennis
will continue into the next century."
Eisner has been the principle rea-
son that Michigan's tennis program
is in "great shape," Eisner said.
Eisner was the key person in the
development of a new tennis arena
- the Varsity Tennis Center, as well
to retire after season
as laying the foundation for a tradi-
tion of excellence. In fact, there is
sentiment to re-name the Varsity
Tennis Center in honor of Eisner.
Eisner has won 19 Big Ten titles in
his 30 years at Michigan and has a
254-62 record in Big Ten competi-
tion. Eisner led the Wolverines to 17
NCAA Team Championships.
He has also seen 27 All-America
citations handed out to his players,
and in 1982 he coached unseeded
Michael Leach to the NCAA Singles
See EISNER, Page 6B
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