If you’ve read this website for any amount of time, you probably know I’m not a big baseball fan. To me, baseball is the perfect example of a sport that’s fun to watch in person but fails to translate to television. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack and put me in the stands, and I’m happy as a clam (although really, I’d prefer a hot dog and a beer). Throw in some sunshine, a nice breeze, and organ music and there are few things better, really; however, when you’re sitting on your couch watching, it has the same effect on me that non-major golf tournaments do: drowsiness.
Yet, even I am giving baseball another go this week for one big reason: the UK Baseball team is kicking butt. And there’s nothing I love more than UK sports teams kicking butt, especially Louisville’s like they did last night. In Nick Mingione’s first year as head coach, he has the squad ranked in the top 10 in the midst of a crucial stretch of games.
If you’re like me and considering hopping on the Bat Cats’ bandwagon, here are ten reasons why you should:
1. They just beat Louisville
Yes, this is obvious, especially since I just mentioned it, but last night’s win over Louisville was pretty great. Not only is Louisville ranked #2 in the country right now, they beat Kentucky earlier this season, making the win especially sweet. You can read Trey Hunstman’s recap here, but the final score was 11-7, with Kentucky’s 11 runs all coming in the first four innings. Those 11 runs are the most for the Cats against Louisville since scoring 12 in a 12-11 on March 30, 2005, and even though Louisville rallied, Kentucky still held them off.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) April 19, 2017
2. They did something that’s only happened once in MAJOR LEAGUE baseball history
By now, you’ve probably seen the rare 7-2-6 (left fielder, catcher, shortstop) triple play from last night’s game, but it deserves another viewing, particularly with Neil Price’s call:
— KYwildcatsTV (@KYwildcatsTV) April 19, 2017
Another view from WKYT’s Steve Moss:
Here is a better look at last night’s triple play… courtesy your’s truly. UK defeats UofL 11-7 and the play is No. 1 on SportsCenter pic.twitter.com/6ep1cXxrR2
— Steve Moss (@smosswkyt) April 19, 2017
How incredible was that play? Not only was it the first triple play in school history and the #1 play on last night’s “SportsCenter,” there’s only been one 7-2-6 triple play in MAJOR LEAGUE history, and it happened back in 1923 between the Phillies and Pirates. Well done, guys.
3. They did it in front of a record crowd
On a night in which there were rain showers in the area, UK set a new Cliff Hagan Stadium attendance record with 4,018 fans in the stands, passing the 4,009 mark set against Louisville on April 8, 2008. Shoutout to last nine people in the door for helping Mingione make some history.
If you need another reason to come on out to The Cliff, here’s one: they’re 17-2 at home this season. That’s a pretty impressive mark. Kentucky’s only two home losses this season were to Ole Miss and Vandy, two good teams that Kentucky eventually went on to win the series against.
Speaking of The Cliff…
4. The new stadium is coming right along
No offense to Cliff Hagan Stadium, but it was time for an upgrade. If you’ve driven around the south side of campus, you’ve probably noticed the progress on Kentucky’s new baseball stadium, which will be completed in the fall of 2018, just in time for the 2019 season. The price tag is estimated to be around $49 million, which will put Kentucky on par with its peers in the SEC. Here’s the rendering:
There’s even a live cam if you really enjoy watching construction. Notice Commonwealth Stadium in the background:
5. They’re defying expectations
Given last season’s struggles and the fact that this is Nick Mingione’s first year as a head coach, everyone — understandably — had guarded expectations for this season…except the team. After stumbling early against a very good North Carolina team on the road, the Bat Cats are now in the top ten nationally and atop the SEC East standings, which is no small feat. In fact…
6. They actually lead the SEC in a lot of statistical categories
After ranking in the bottom half of the league in almost major statistical category last year, they now rank in the top three in most more than a third of the way through the season:
In a league in which most people consider baseball second to football, that’s a remarkable improvement.
7. It’s impossible not to like Nick Mingione
This is probably the number one reason I’m giving UK Baseball a shot. After listening to him on KSR and in other media appearances, it’s pretty much impossible not to like Mingione. He’s young, passionate, smart, funny, and even a little self-deprecating, all qualities I admire, especially in coaches. Listening to him talk about how Lexington was the only SEC town he would bring his wife to while an assistant at Mississippi State and how he dreamed of one day coaching here would probably sound like pure BS coming from most people, but I genuinely believe it from him. As David Spade said in the 1995 classic “Tommy Boy,” he could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves. It’s no wonder that today, he picked up a big commitment from former Under Armour and Perfect Game All-American Ryan Johnson.
Looking at these photos from @kevinsaal of Mingione addressing his team after the win last night, it almost looks like he’s tearing up:
— Kevin Saal (@kevinsaal) April 19, 2017
Beating Louisville can do that to you, coach. I get it.
8. They’re about to play LSU
The Cats can’t afford to celebrate the Louisville win too much; #8 LSU is on deck for a three-game series, which starts on Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Saturday’s game will also start at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday’s at 1 p.m. Unfortunately, the games won’t be televised (on normal TV), but you can watch on your computer, tablet, or phone on SEC Network+ or listen on the UK Sports Network via UKathletics.com, 630 AM WLAP, or iHeartRadio.
Hopefully LSU doesn’t bring their rally possum:
9. The former coach is part of the KSR Baseball Podcast
You didn’t expect me to get through this list without plugging our own KSR Baseball podcast, did you? Our baseball writer Trey Huntsman is determined to up our baseball coverage — which was needed — and a big part of that is his new podcast, which is cohosted by former UK Baseball coach Keith Madison. Their guests have included current head coach Nick Mingione and former Cat and former MLB outfielder Austin Kearns.
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.
10. What else are you going to do with your time?
If you’re like me, you’re itching to fill the time you used to spend watching UK basketball and football with something else. With the Predators playing well, playoff hockey is doing it for me right now, but other than that, I’ll cheer for John Wall and the other Cats in the NBA playoffs, watch the Derby, and that’s about it.
…Which is why UK Baseball is so perfect. Join me on the bandwagon, won’t you?