As Sam Sees It

The baseball season is upon us and there was a special treat in store for me earlier this week. The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies are winding up a three game series today.

Cory Sullivan is a rookie outfielder with the Rockies. He is the son of Winslow High School graduate Sean Sullivan, one of my favorite students from my days as a teacher. He is also the grandson of Helen Sullivan Campbell, a much respected and beloved kindergarten teacher for many years in the Winslow school system. Cory’s uncle Mike Sullivan was a multi-sport athlete at Winslow High as was his father.

Sullivan had a tremendous spring training season with the Rockies and probably will see considerable playing time. He missed last season due to a serious injury, but has apparently recovered fully.

He has hit at or near .300 every year in the minor leagues and was regarded as one of Colorado’s most promising young outfielders before his injury. He can play all of the outfield positions, but has mostly been a center fielder. The left-handed contact hitter has excellent speed as he was among his team’s leading base stealers at every stop in his career.

This will be my first chance to meet Cory and to see him play. He has been the subject of this column a number of times during his high school (in Pennsylvania), Little League and college careers.

In college, Sullivan played at Wake Forest University and led the Demon Deacons into the NCAA Championship Tournament. He was a candidate for the Dick Houser Award given to the most outstanding college senior player in the country during his last season. He played center field for the Demon Deacons and also saw action on the mound when the team needed him most.

Sullivan began his major league career with an RBI double in Colorado’s four run, game-winning rally in their season opener.

Hardcourt

The NCAA Basketball Tournament was hard to beat for excitement this year. There seemed more upsets than usual, but the top two teams going in did wind up playing for the championship. There were more overtime games than one had any right to expect.

The most exciting game of the tournament was West Virginia’s double overtime win over Wake Forest. That was my choice, though Illinois’s comeback win in overtime over the University of Arizona, Michigan State’s overtime win over Kentucky or Louisville’s comeback win over West Virginia were all worthy of being called the best. For that matter, Vermont’s upset of Syracuse would rate consideration as well.

Many Arizona Wildcat fans are still bewildered over their team’s loss to Illinois after leading by 15 with four minutes remaining. Several things happened that could explain that result. One is that the Wildcats played to run the clock rather than score in those closing minutes. Another is that they failed to run a play at the end of the game that would have given them a good chance to win.

Both of those things ring true to me. So does the deduction that the Wildcats would have won had the game been played almost anywhere but in Chicago. There were some pretty obvious, one might say “intentional,” fouls committed by Illinois, which were not called and wound up in turnovers.

Bad calls are part of the game and Arizona could have and probably should have won despite them. However, there were more fouls of that nature ignored than you will see in many games at this level.

Did the crowd affect the results of the game? Did they effect the officiating? The questions have been raised, but the answers are not likely to ever be known for sure. The last few minutes of that game were the only blemish on an otherwise spectacularly good tournament.

Congratulations to North Carolina on their NCAA Championship and to the Fighting Illini for their brilliant season. The NCAA and the teams that gave us a thrilling and memorable tournament also deserve our congratulations.

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