John Clay: 21-inning game brings throwback coverage

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJune 2, 2012 

NCAA Kentucky Kent St Baseball

Kentucky's Austin Cousino reacts following their 21st inning loss to Kent State in an NCAA college baseball tournament regional game in Gary, Ind., Friday, June 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

JOE RAYMOND — ASSOCIATED PRESS

So you thought Friday night's 21-inning first-round NCAA Baseball Tournament marathon was highly unusual.

You thought Friday night's first-round NCAA Baseball Tournament game in Gary, Ind., was beyond crazy.

There was something even stranger about that epic Kentucky-Kent State marathon.

It wasn't televised.

It wasn't on ESPN. Or ESPNU. Or ESPN3. Or ESPN458 (if there is one). Or Fox Sports South. Or Fox Sports Indiana. Or the Big Ten Network. Or Comcast. Or cn|2. Or even the local Gary, Ind., public access channel.

As historic as Kent State's win over UK turned out to be — the second-longest game in NCAA Baseball Tournament history — it was that rare athletic contest that was not televised anywhere.

These days, that just doesn't happen. Somehow, Friday for the first game of the Gary Regional at the U.S. Steel Yard, it did happen.

This lack of televised picture or computer live stream left those of us back in the Bluegrass scrambling for ways to follow along as the game progressed out by out, inning by inning by inning.

Those within reach of a radio dial called up WLAP and the dulcet tones of Neil Price, who is really quite good, by the way.

Those stuck in radio nowhere, however, followed along via the online social networking service known as Twitter.

Mark Maloney of the Herald-Leader, Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal, Matt May and James Pennington of the Cats Pause and Dick Gabriel of Big Blue Insider were among those in the press box at U.S. Steel Yard tweeting out updates and descriptions for those following on their phones, mobile devices or computers.

On the one hand, it was reminiscent of the pre-television days when telegraph relayed information to a radio broadcaster who would recreate the action for the listeners.

On the other hand, it was a thoroughly modern way of receiving near real-time descriptions of what was happening 290 miles away.

Or as Tucker put it Saturday (via Twitter), "Oddly enough, it felt like we were in the olden days, dispatching the news to people via telegraph — only a super-fast digital one.

"It's like we had gone back in time — and taken Twitter with us."

Plenty on Twitter were thankful they did.

"I didn't think much of it at first," said May on Saturday, via (of course) Twitter, "but by the eighth inning or so I was very aware because followers kept thanking me."

When the game began, some of those tweeting used the hashtag #survivegary as a play off the city's designation as the nation's murder capital.

As the game continued and continued, however, the hashtag took on a different meaning.

"Began as a reference to the bleak, murderous nature of Gary," said Tucker. "Took on a whole other meaning somewhere around the 15th inning."

Of course, Twitter is an interactive application. Followers can interact with those tweeting the news. That happened Friday.

"Most interaction we have all had on Twitter for a game of any sport," said May. "Strange but kind of awesome, too. Fans were great during it."

"When it got crazy," said Tucker, "it felt like a bunch more people rushed to their computers and jumped into the conversation."

Maloney, relatively new to Twitter, saw his followers double from the time the game began at 4 p.m. to when it finally ended six hours and 37 minutes later.

"I've had to use two pages in my score book for a single game before," he said Saturday. "I'm pretty sure this was the longest, though."

Said Pennington, "It was both frustrating and hilarious when Twitter kicked me off in the 18th for 'exceeding daily tweet limit.'"

Price said that as the game went on he was receiving tweets and getting texts from fellow broadcasters wanting to know what was happening.

"My guess is," he said, "I may finish my career and never do another game like it again."

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com

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