Top 10 things observed and learned while hanging out in baseball press boxes the last couple of weeks:
10. Most high school players have their own ”plate music“ that they want piped throughout the ballpark as they come to bat. When they don't get it, they react as if their text-messaging plan has been canceled.
9. The paucity of home runs and bulging biceps tells me that steroids aren't a problem in high school baseball.
8. Hold your hunger. Concession prices are slashed in the late innings. A $1.25 cheeseburger tastes better than one that costs $2.50.
7. Watching pitchers noticeably tire once they reach the 100-pitch mark, I think the rules limiting how many innings they can throw are a good thing.
6. A dozen baseballs cost about $48, and a seven-game regional tournament might go through 10 dozen. No wonder somebody chases those foul balls.
5. Don't believe Bill Meck. Doppler radar is not infallible. Those rapidly advancing green and yellow splotches don't always mean doomsday on the diamond.
4. A junkballer whose fastball tops out at 70 mph often gives good hitters more problems than a guy who brings serious heat.
3. Doesn't anybody know how to bunt anymore?
2. Basketball and football coaches wish they could get away with jawing at referees the way baseball coaches are allowed to argue with umpires. There are exceptions, but most high school umps have slow fuses and accept coaches' complaints as part of the game, even part of the entertainment.
1. An American postcard: bright lights illuminating the night, fans hanging over fences, players smeared with eye-black, their uniforms caked in dirt, the smoky smell of burgers cooking on the grill, the palpable tension of an extra-inning playoff game, high-fives among the winners, and tears among the losers.
■ Baseball America has four Kentucky high school players in its top 100 previewing the June 5 draft. Here's how it sizes up the prospects:
No. 43 Robbie Ross, Lexington Christian Academy pitcher: ”Ross is a lefty with pitches and polish. The only knock on Ross is that he's just 6 feet tall, but he generates his quality stuff via athleticism and arm speed, rather than effort. A Kentucky recruit, Ross should be signable in the first two rounds.“
No. 48 Daniel Webb, Heath pitcher: ”Webb has the most arm strength among all the talented pitchers in Kentucky ... but he's not nearly as refined as (Ross and Maronde). A strong 6-foot-3 205-pounder, Webb has a delivery that's more powerful than smooth. He has committed to Kentucky but is considered signable.“
No. 70 Nick Maronde, Lexington Catholic pitcher: ”Maronde's changeup is advanced for his experience level, and he pounds the bottom of the strike zone with little difficulty. Teams would be very interested in Maronde if they thought he'd sign for second- or third-round money, but that appears unlikely. He's advised by the Scott Boras Corporation and has a scholarship to play at Florida.“
No. 72 Zack Cox, Pleasure Ridge Park pitcher/infielder: ”Cox's arm fits in with the rest of the pitching prospects in Kentucky ... but his future is with a bat in his hands as he's one of the most talented high school hitters in the draft. Cox has the strong frame (6-foot, 205 pounds) and the swing to produce for both average and power. The biggest questions are his future position and signability. He would be draft-eligible as a sophomore in 2010, which could make it more tempting to follow through on his commitment to Arkansas.“
■ LCA's Robbie Ross was named Kentucky's Gatorade Player of the Year, not only for his baseball accomplishments, but also his work in the classroom and community service. ”Robbie is a passionate competitor,“ Coach Keith Galloway said. ”He loves the game and loves his teammates. On top of that, he's a legitimate five-tool player.“ Ross is the third Lexington player in four years to earn the award. Ben Revere of Lexington Catholic won it last year, and Chaz Roe of Lafayette was honored in 2005.
■ Elizabethtown senior pitcher Sean Bouthilette threw a one-hitter and struck out eight in the 5th Region finals against Central Hardin, but 13th-ranked E-town lost 1-0. Central Hardin's Joe Nash tossed a four-hit shutout, and his teammates scored the only run on a bases-loaded walk. This is the Bruins' first region title.
■ Hazard had a stirring comeback in the first round of the 14th Region baseball tournament. The Bulldogs trailed Breathitt County 6-1 going into the bottom of the seventh but rallied for six runs on six hits, including a walk-off three-run homer by freshman Cory Slone. ”It was unbelievable,“ Coach John Meehan said. Slone also had a solo homer in the first.
■ Louisville Christian rallied from deficits of 4-0 and 7-3 to knock off No. 7 Trinity 8-7 to reach the 7th Region title game for the first time.
■ Montgomery County alumna Mary Ratliff is the starting right fielder for Florida's fast-pitch softball team that is the No. 1 seed in the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla., this week. Ratliff is hitting .305 with 45 RBI and 40 runs for the Gators, who tied the NCAA record with 67 wins this season. As a junior Ratliff had a .294 average and made no errors.
■ Ohio County football coach Dan Crume, who led the Eagles to the playoffs five out of six years, resigned. He had an overall record of 31-34. He told the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer that he wanted to spend more time with his family.
■ Mark McCloskey is Lexington Catholic's new volleyball coach. He has been a college assistant at Wyoming, Northern Colorado and Embry Riddle, and he also coached at the Kentucky-Indiana Volleyball Academy.
■ Dunbar grad A.J. Ellis had a bust-out game for the Las Vegas 51s, the Los Angeles Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate. Ellis hit a grand slam — his first homer in Triple-A — and had a career-high eight RBI in a 23-2 win over the Tucson Sidewinders on Tuesday. Ellis, 27, plays catcher and is hitting .316 in 22 games.
■ Sayre has new boys' and girls' soccer coaches. Joe Porter will lead the boys' program. He played soccer and basketball at Sayre, and soccer at DePauw University. He's been an assistant at Boyle County for two years. Porter's assistant will be Ansu Sirleaf, an All-America player at Lindsey Wilson. Majid Rezaee will be Sayre's girls' coach. He played soccer at UK and professionally. He coached the U.S. women's 20-and-under team in international competition.
■ Lexington Catholic's boys' basketball team will play in the King of the Bluegrass the week before Christmas. Madisonville, led by UK-bound Jon Hood, is also in the field, along with host Fairdale, Anderson County, Bardstown, Bullitt East, Jeffersontown, Male, Manual, Pleasure Ridge Park and Taylor County. Out-of-state invitees are Canton (Ga.) Cherokee, Franklin (Tenn.) Centennial, Los Angeles Dorsey, Miami Coral Reef and Seattle (Wash.) Franklin. The tournament is Dec. 18-23.
■ Somerset boys' basketball coach Shawn Thacker is leaving the Briar Jumpers to become coach at Rowan County, according to the Commonwealth Journal. Thacker's teams won 160 games in nine years at Somerset. The Jumpers were three-time runners-up in the Touchstone Energy All ”A“ Classic.
■ Harrison County's Brett Franklin (16 ppg) signed to play college hoops at Lindsey Wilson.
■ Lexington Catholic's Lauren Conrad will play college basketball at Lindsey Wilson.
■ West Jessamine point guard Michael Lee (10 ppg, 7 apg) signed with Milligan College in Tennessee.
■ Assumption's new girls' basketball coach is Ron Ferch, who was an assistant at Sacred Heart when it won three consecutive state titles. His daughter Connie played on those championship teams.
■ Lafayette all-city volleyball players Alyca Morrison and Rachael Anderson signed with Lindsey Wilson.
■ Holmes girls' basketball coach Celeste Hill Brockett has resigned to become an assistant at Old Dominion, where she was a standout college player in the early 1990s. Celeste Hill was a star player at Holmes.
■ Larry Just is the new girls' coach at Oldham County. He was at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee last year. Larry's brother Charlie coaches at Spalding University in Louisville.
■ Dunbar again has won the annual Fayette Cup, emblematic of the most successful all-around sports program among Lexington's public high schools. Dunbar has won the award every year since it was started in 2002. The Bulldogs were tops in boys' golf, cross country, soccer, wrestling and baseball, and in girls' soccer, swimming, basketball, tennis and track. Dunbar totaled 82 points, followed by Henry Clay (72), Tates Creek (58.5), Lafayette (44.5) and Bryan Station (28).