The OHSAA tournament season is over now, with new champions (and some old ones), and the same old questions regarding whether some teams (some schools) simply play by a different set of rules.
I begin this final post relative to the 2015-16 high school sports season by congratulating those four teams that I personally witnessed win baseball titles over the weekend…Defiance (Div. II), Pickerington North (Div. I), Berlin Hiland (Div. III), and Newark Catholic (Div. IV).
I was there. I saw. I reflected. And I saw nothing about this year’s tournament different from that of previous years…except for the fact of teams conspicuous by their absence.
For instance, I personally think it’s a better tournament when teams like Moeller and Elder are there, because they represent the fact of a “dynasty” standard in sports, and I think dynasties are good. It’s more meaningful when you beat the best on your way to a title.
I think the tournament was actually down this year for the fact that a Wheelersburg was not there; or a Lakota, Bloom Carroll, or Canton Central Catholic. Teams that have set the bar high, and higher, bowed this year to some new and unfamiliar faces seeking their own winning identity…Waynedale and Solon, Versailles and Clear Fork High School.
But there was also a remnant of the old dissent still heard, the age-old gripe of “publics” having to compete against the “privates”. The irrefutable fact that Newark Catholic has established that if you want to win a title in Division IV you have to go through them. They didn’t walk away with it, however; they narrowly beat a determined Triad team, 5-4, to become one of two tourney teams this year to win in repeat fashion (second title in a row), joining Defiance.
And they were the only “private” to win a baseball title this year. Defiance, Pickerington, and Hiland High School are all “publics”, meaning that someplace along the line Canton Central Catholic, Walsh Jesuit, Cathedral Latin – Notre Dame, Moeller and St. Ignacius were knocked out by someone, bunking the argument that “private” school standards always give them a leg up on the “publics” when a title is on the line.
But if you read the interview published earlier in the week with Newark Catholic coach John Cannizzaro, who in 21 seasons has simply put the state tournament on his schedule as a matter of course, there’s no such talk about any advantage…except for the virtue and value of hard work.
Read his comments about community, fund-raising, expectation of kids, and entitlement. There’s simply nothing there to lead anyone to believe otherwise, coming from a man who got his start as a humble coach in Little League. And his latest title came in the manner of so many others. Newark put the ball in play and forced the opponent to make plays. Ft. Recovery did not play sound baseball in their semi-final loss. And after jumping out to an early lead against Triad in the Division IV final, Newark actually held on to win.
I’ve had people at Walsh Jesuit, Newark, and Moeller tell me over the years that for the sake of kids somehow finding their way to the greener pastures of success…indeed, if you build it they will come. It’s only human, and a matter of perspective, I guess. I heard the same thing about Troy Christian during the Eagles’ peak years, but for the sake of building something they don’t even have a football locker room. They dress in a garage.
Likewise, perspective was in play in the aftermath of Ohio State’s thumping Saturday at the hands of Louisville in the NCAA regional. Louisville is STACKED, as written by Press Pros columnist Chris Webb, there covering the tournament. In part, according to some, because the ACC sets no limit on “oversigning” of recruits, which is nothing more than promising an opportunity to more kids than there are scholarships to cover. They come anyway, and if they work their way to the top of the talent pool they’re eventually taken care of.
The Big Ten has a different rule. Rules in the Big Ten limit the over-extending of athletic aid to two scholarships, and players on scholarship cannot be cut, or have their scholarship non-renewed for athletic reasons. Perspective.
People in the ACC say it amounts to nothing more than inviting a talented walk-on to come to an attractive program and take his chances on success. They’ve built it at Louisville, and now they’re reaping the benefits of kids willing to come and hopefully be part of a winning tradition, with or without the guarantee of a scholarship.
I can only imagine the outcry if this were high school…the “haves” (Louisville, in this case), against the “have nots”, schools mandated to play by a different set of rules.
But credit Ohio State coach Greg Beals who invokes the ultimate perspective relative to baseball success…of executing and simply playing better baseball. The Buckeyes didn’t pitch well in Saturday’s 15-3 loss. Nor did they hit much against the Cardinal pitchers.
“I don’t know enough about their recruiting and what they have available,” Beals said on facing a lineup deeper than a typical Big Ten outfit. “I don’t want to take anything away from Louisville and their staff and what the program has done. You can’t.”
Whoa! And where does that come from?
Well, it comes from first-hand experience, of course. Ohio State has already been on the winning side of it with recent wins over ranked and favored teams at the end of their season, Minnesota and Michigan, by playing better baseball. They did it by throwing better strikes and having better at bats against talent that’ll be drafted in the early rounds of next week’s MLB draft.
What Beals and John Cannizzarro always say, is…there’s nothing really unfair about baseball, competition, and life if you don’t work as hard as someone else or execute your own advantage. It’s how the “publics” won three of the four state titles in this year’s OHSAA tournament. And for that matter, I particularly like the photo above showing the broad view of opposing perspectives. Joy on one side; dejection on the other, without respect for mandated competitive balance.
I was there. I saw it. And I’ve lived it. As a matter of perspective, rarely can you expect anything different in sports…and life!