Formerly on Varsity Blue: Opening Day 2009

Guaranteed to go better than football! –FA

Tribute to the Season, Images from Blue Cats and Red Sox's flickr
Tribute to the 2009 Season,
(most)Images from Blue Cats and Red Sox’s flickr

Spring is in the air. The sun is shining, snow is melting, birds are chirping, and the ping of aluminum bats can be heard in the air. It’s baseball season.

Today marks Opening Day 2009 for your Michigan Wolverines.  These guys have been toiling in Oosterbaan, challenging the cold at Ray Fisher Stadium, and studying like crazy, preparing themselves for the next 94 days.  In 94 days, we will have a Big10 champion crowned, and maybe, for the fourth year in a row, that champion will be Michigan.

The Wolverines lost a lot this off season.  They lost their do-it-all star, Zack Putnam.  They lost the biggest bat they’ve had in years, first basemen Nate Recknagel.  They lose their captain, short stop Jason Christian.  They lose Leif Mahler at second.

But they return the top pitcher north of the Mason-Dixon line, Chris Fetter.  They return one of the top senior second basemen in the region, Kevin Cislo.  The leadership is there.

They return the entire outfield with Ryan Lamarre, Kenny Fellows, and Alan Oaks.  They have the familiar face of Mike Dufek retaining his place at first base.  They welcome back the once injured Anthony Toth at shortstop.  The defense is solid and the offense loaded.

The expectations are high this year.  Some would say too highBaseball America ($) goes so far to pick Indiana.  To quote Alan Oaks,

“Guys see that and are really kinda pissed off about it, actually,” …

“It’s definitely a slap in the face,” fifth year senior tri-captain Tim Kalczynski said … “Especially after we’ve proven ourselves for the past three years. There’s definitely going to be fire in our bellies when we’re playing … It’s going to be good motivation for us.”

Now that’s what you want to hear.

The Challenge

Image from

The team starts today at 1pm in Clearwater, Florida witha  clash of conferences.  The Big10 faces off with the other big time mid major of the north, the BigEast, or at least most of that conference.  While the Big10 is sending all 10* of its teams, the BigEast is sending only 8 of 12.  #16 Louisville** is the one program missing that I really wish would have made it in the bracket.  While it hurts to be missing such a good team in the Challenge, the competition is still much better than the last few opening weeks Michigan has had recently (Villanova, Bethune Cookman,  and Troy/South Alabama/Alabama-Birmingham).

The Challenge is in its first year and it will be interesting to see how long it lasts.  The timing of the event should work in its favor as it occurs the weekend before the MLB teams start their scrimmages.  Those who show up for pitchers and catchers reporting will have a chance to make it out.  Some of the alumni invited to Grape Fruit League camps can stop into Tampa pretty easily too.  Ticket prices are pretty good too.  $10 gets you a full pass to every game.  $5 will get you a full day pass.  Not bad at all.

Unlike the ACC/Big10 challenge in basketball, the BigEast/Big10 Challenge has teams facing multiple opponents.  Each team will face three opponents from the opposing conference.  The Big10 teams have also added a game against conference opponents as well just to help the teams get in extra games while helping schools reduce the cost of traveling.

Big10 teams facing each other are picked based on the unbalanced conference season schedule.  Each Big10 team misses one conference opponent each year.  The opponent rotates every two years, much like the football schedule, but with only one team instead of two.  This year, like last, we drew Purdue.

Michigan has drawn South Florida, Cincinnati, and St. John’s on the Challenge schedule.  We were lucky to draw such quality competition.  The three teams are all expected to finish in the top 5 places in their conference (along with Louisville and Notre Dame).  Michigan has a good chance at defeating all three opponents, but you never know in college baseball, especially this early in the year.


Jim Abbott,
Image from

If you’d like to download the Michigan Baseball Schedule for Outlook, Google Calendar, or any other calendar program, go here, copy this file into a Notepad/.txt file.  You can import it into your calendar program and every day Michigan plays, you’ll have it on your calendar.  For other D1 teams, here’s the full list.

Team captains Chris Fetter, Tim Kalczynski, and Kevin Cislo are blogging throughout the season.  Week One and Week Two were everyday, but it’s slowing to every other week for the rest of the season.  Kalczynski is hilarious, Fetter is appreciative of his coaches, and Cislo bounces back and forth.  Their latest post describes Coach FungoMan, the ground ball hitting machine.

Jim Abbott is having his #31 jersey retired this season (hence Kenny Fellows changing #13).  Jim Abbott is the greatest one handed pitcher ever to win the World Series.  As a matter of fact, he’s the only one handed pitcher to play in the World Series.  The guy was a Wolverine great, and if you ever get to see his biography, you should.  The story about him facing the Cuban national team was inspiring.

The preseason weekly release is out (pdf).  Interesting note that Alan Oaks does not appear to have earned the starting slot in right field.  It lists Nick Urban (former backup second baseman) as the probable starter.  Earlier this week I had guessed Oaks in right and Urban at DH.  It looks like redshirt freshman catcher Jake McClouth will have a shot at DH’ing to start the year.

Mgoblue’s Baseball RSS feed.  You know you want it.

Alumnus Bobby Korecky (2002) was claimed by the Diamondbacks from the Twins.  MGoBlue keeps up with the baseball alumni here.

*Wisconsin hasn’t fielded a team since the early 90s
**rankings from USA Today Coaches Poll


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