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April 14, 2005 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-04-14

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0 April 14, 2005
sports. michigandaily.com
sports@michigandaily. com

POheRTSigan ailg


. . . .... .......... . . ..........

new wave
of catchers
By H. Jose Bosch
Daily Sports Writer
The tools of ignorance.
In baseball circles, it is commonly known that "the
tools" refers to the gear that a catcher dons before step-
ping between the lines each and every inning.
It's understandable why many would believe a catch-
er is ignorant. Most rational thinking human beings
would shy away from having anything, let alone a hard
baseball, be hurled at them at upwards of 90 miles
per hour. Add that to being less than a foot away from
someone swinging a bat plus being expected to throw
your body in front of any pitch in the dirt - expos-
ing unprotected arms and thighs - and the image of
a catcher as being a stupid brute becomes clearer. But
senior Jeff Kunkel represents a new age of catchers that
are far from ignorant and brutish.
At one point, they were the slow, awkward kids of
playground pasts who were only a step above the right-
fielder in little league - but only because the catcher
got to wear gear and the ball would actually come to
But today, catchers must be the smartest person on
the field and also one of the quickest in order to be suc-
cessful on the diamond. Quick in mind and body, the
catcher is now the field general.
"A catcher is like a coach on the field - somebody
who can recognize something with a pitcher." Michi-
gan coach Rich Maloney said. "He might have to give
him encouragement or light a fire in him. He is also
somebody who is in touch with the game and has an
understanding of hitters and isn't afraid to be vocal if
need be."
At any given moment, a catcher must know an abun-
dance of numbers - from the pitch counts to the inning
to the score of the game. But he must also remember
the hitter and his tendencies and be able to identify how
his pitcher is throwing, the position of his fielders and
what each of them has to do in every possible situation.
Maybe most importantly, a catcher must be the pitcher's
psychologist and best friend.
"You develop a personal relationship working with
them so much throughout the season," Michigan pitch-
er Jim Brauer said. "The catcher is with you for every
bullpen and every game. They know when you're stuff
is working and when it's not. They know how to fix you
and how to help you out. A lot of times, they come out
to the mound and they try to talk to you and try to settle
you down."
In Kunkel, Michigan has arguably the best catcher
in the Big Ten.
Last season, Kunkel had a .978 fielding percentage,

On his birthday,

Schick says


Michigan senior Jeff Kunkel had a .978 fielding percentage last season. This year it's up to .993.

Schick Happens
Today is my birthday.
I don't mention this so that
people run out and buy me gifts,
but it's funny how things come full
circle. It was 22 years ago today that I
was born at University Hospital.
Seriously. I've been a Wolverine since
the day I was born. I doubt too many
people on campus can make the exact
same claim.
Today is also the culmination of my
career at The Michigan Daily. Just as
my life began today in 1983, a huge part
of it is ending today in 2005.
Naturally, I've been a lifelong fan of
Michigan sports. Going to a sporting
event is one thing, but the experiences
I've had from covering sporting events
over the past four years make those
same sporting events that much more
Hockey is my favorite sport by far,
and the chance to cover the hockey team
was the main reason I joined the Daily.
People gave me crap over the years for
not saying I wanted to cover football,
but it's just not the truth.
I've seen some great games at Yost
Ice Arena over the years, but nothing
compares to the view from the press
box. Seeing legendary coach Red Beren-
son sitting behind the bench is a thrill,
but actually talking to him on daily
basis last season was something I never
thought possible.
Another thing that I never anticipated
was the friends I've made over the past
four years as well. I doubt that sitting
in the press box would be as interest-
ing without your beatmates to discuss
the flow of the game or to argue about
who is a better player. Instead of being
a blast, road trips would be nightmares
without some good company. Even
when not covering an event for the
Daily, road trips with sports staffers are
never dull.
Therefore I decided to put together a
top-10 list of my favorite memories over
the last four years that involve either
road trips with fellow staffers or actual
game coverage. The last time I ranked
something in a column it turned out
pretty well, so I figured it was worth
reviving one last time. So, from the
home office in Colfax, Ind., here are the
Schick Happens top-10 Daily memories:
10. Women's tennis
This was my first beat, and it was a
great place to start. The players were
great to me and were actually glad to
answer my stupid questions about tennis,
since I knew next to nothing. I still go
back every year, and they still say "hi"
to me. You should check out their final
home match of the season this Saturday;
I'll be there.
9. Facing the music
Not necessarily a positive memory,
but something I'd have to do at some
point. I wrote a pretty scathing com-
mentary about former women's bas-
ketball coach Sue Guevara and had to
go down to practice the next day and
confront her. The first thing she said to
me was, "Oh, you're the guy trying to

get me fired!" Ouch.
8. Big Ten champs!
Despite covering hundreds of games,
I only got to write one Big Ten cham-
pionship story in my four years. Field
hockey won the regular season title in
2002 after going 6-0 in league play.
7. The G.R.
As a big fan of the hockey team, I had
to go to Grand Rapids for the NCAA
regional, and, therefore, attend all four
tournaments in my four years. It was
great fun to cheer (I couldn't while
covering the team last season) with the
likes of Bob Hunt, Ellen McGarrity,
Eric Ambinder and Chris Burke. Then,
against her better judgment, Ellen let us
crash at her house.
6. Women's Big Ten Tournament
Four words: "Big Ten, Big Times."
For an explanation, you'll just have to
ask Gennaro Filice, Dan Bremmer or
Josh Holman.
5. My kind of town
Chicago was the site for this year's
Big Ten basketball tournament, and also
where the basketball beat butchered
Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" at a karaoke
bar after Michigan's loss to North-
western. Let's just say it was a trip that
knocked your socks off, among other
4. Hawkeye country
After risking our lives to drive
through a blizzard to Iowa City in Janu-
ary for the Big Ten basketball opener,
we arrived safely - but most of the
Iowa fans didn't. They missed perhaps
the most exciting game of the season,
thanks to Daniel Horton's return from
an injury.
3. Manchester, N.H.
The town itself wasn't anything spe-
cial, but the journey sure was. Driving
across the plains of Ontario and some-
how getting lost around Niagara Falls
while looking for a McDonalds were
just some of the highlights. Michigan
hockey also played an amazing overtime
game against Boston College in the
NCAA regional final.
2. Granddaddy of them all
I think everyone will tell you that the
2005 Rose Bowl was one of the best
games ever played, and the best I saw in
person. But the game was just part of a
great week in Southern California that
contained several surreal experiences,
most notably the bright orange rental car.
1. The Last Frontier
I was lucky enough to convince my
editor to let me fly to Fairbanks, Alaska,
last year for Michigan's hockey series
against Alaska-Fairbanks. It was like vis-
iting a foreign country without needing
a passport - some of the most beautiful
landscapes I've ever seen. I also encoun-
tered dog mushing for the first time and
saw a community that might care more
about its hockey team than Ann Arbor
does. In addition, it brought me closer
to Berenson, as he couldn't stop asking
about my trip once I got back.
If I left off certain people who
accompanied me on these trips, it's
because I chose to highlight the outgo-
ing class of editors, and I apologize for
the omissions. You know that I think the
world of all of you (even if I seemed not
to show it at times), and it's been both a
pleasure and an honor to have worked
with everyone throughout my career at
the Daily.
Brian Schick really didn't think he
would write such a sappy column, but it
couldn't be helped. He can be reached at

caught 18 base runners stealing and led the Big Ten
with seven pickoffs. Currently, he sports a .993 fielding
percentage, and he has thrown out 10 would-be base
stealers. The defensive highlight of his season was the
five runners he caught stealing in the opening Big Ten
series against Minnesota, one of the few bright spots for
the Wolverines that weekend.
"Throwing a guy out at second or picking a guy off
at second when a guy goes to bunt and misses the bunt
to take the momentum away from them," Kunkel said,
"that's important."
Much stronger now than when Maloney first came
to the program in the 2002 season, Kunkel has not only
grown into a major defensive threat for the Wolverines
but has also been a major contributor at the plate.
In a new era of catchers, where a great defensive

catcher cannot get by with just a .220 batting average
anymore, Kunkel is third on the team in hitting with a
.366 average. Considering Michigan is hitting .310 as a
team, Kunkel's numbers are very impressive.
"I think he's the elite catcher in the league, truth-
fully," Maloney said.
As vocal as he is on the field, Kunkel is very soft
spoken off it. He credits a lot of his successes to for-
mer coaches and the starting catcher for the Wolverines
when he was a freshman, Jake Fox - a third-round
Major League draft pick.
"When I first got here, playing behind Jake Fox, I
learned a lot of things from other guys," Kunkel said.
"I've had good coaches that have helped me get better
with certain things like improving my arm strength and
being more relaxed and more confident."
Dye course

By Lindsey Ungar
Daily Sports WriterJ
When the Michigan women's golf teami
stepped onto Purdue's Kampen golf coursei
in West Lafayette this past weekend, they'
were stepping onto a course unlike any
other in the Big Ten. Kampen is different
for one reason - legendary golf architect
Pete Dye.+
"This course is the top-of-the-
line," Birck Boilermaker Golf Com-
plex superintendept Jim Scott said.;
"We take a lot of pride in it because
it bears his name."
One of the few collegiate courses+
designed by Dye, Kampen is a links
course that challenges golfers with
bent grass fairways, bent greens+
and a lot of bluegrass rough.
"There's not a bad hole out there,"
Purdue associate golf coach Greg Rob-
ertson said. "Every hole challenges
you. You've got long holes, short holes
- you're hitting different clubs off the
tee and different shots in the greens.
It's just a great golf course."
The difficulty of the course in
combination with blustery condi-

)lay legendary
tions made the Wolverines finish Like many of his co
last weekend more impressive. The is a result of Dye's c
team rallied from a nine-stroke def- According to his wif
icit, shooting 292 in the last round, Pete's "hands-on" appr
to earn co-champion honors with and construction is wha
Texas Christian at the Lady Boiler- from his contemporari
maker Invitational, has made him successf
"We really played well, particu- "He works very hat
larly towards the end," Michigan holes set up, and he d
coach Kathy Teichert said. "Every- paper," Alice Dye sai
thing came together for us." reason his courses ar
Freshman Isabelle Grendreu shot that he's there. He wen
a career-best, 2-under 70 to lead the at least 60 days. He wa
Wolverines. and he worked. If it di
Kampen has hosted numerous he fixed it right then an
other tournaments, including the Purdue Associate A
women's NCAA Championship, and tor Nancy Cross cre
will be the site for the men's NCAA a vision for molding
Championship in 2008. landscape into a beau
To get his ideas for links courses "He's an incredib
like Kampen, Dye took his inspira- Cross said. "When I
tion from a month-long trip touring with him, we would b
the classic courses of Scotland in the same little bit of
1963. Since then, he has designed would say, 'Now, can:
dozens of courses, including many ine that a golfer wou
PGA tournament sites. Most. recent- and then it's going to
ly, his Whistling Straits course in right...' and of cours
Kohler, Wisc., hosted the 2004 at nothing but dirt an
PGA Championship. of trees over on one s

urses, Kampen
reative genius.
fe, Alice Dye,
roach to design
at sets him apart
es and is what
ul for 40 years.
rd on how the
oesn't do it on
d. "I think the
e so special is
nt to Purdue for
as there on-site,
dn't look right,
d there."
!thletic Direc-
dits Dye with
g the existing
tiful course.
le visionary,"
would go out
be standing on
f land, and he
you just imag-
uld do x, y, z,
dogleg to the
se I'm looking
nd some hump
ide. It was just

amazing to me what he could see in
his own mind."
Dye wasn't the only one working
on the course in the summer of 1997.
About 40 students put in seven-day,
80 to 90-hour work weeks to com-
plete-the course for a spring 1998
"It was a win-win (situation)," Cross
said. "He was energized by the students,
and they were thrilled to try to impress
and learn from Pete Dye."
The course is still a model for
modern, renewable design. Sci-
entists at Purdue continue to use
Kampen, situated next to wetlands,
as a research lab for water filter-
ing. As a result of the system, the
course reuses water in its irrigation
systems while protecting and clean-
ing nearby Celery Bog.
Seven years after Kampen's
opening and while he approach-
ing 80 years old, Dye still checks
in with Scott to see how the course
is holding up and adapting. And the
magnificence of the course is some-
thing both the Wolverines and Boil-
ermakers can agree on.

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