Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

OPINION >> Drafted Hogs should succeed

BY NATE ALLEN
Leader columnist

IN SHORT: Pitcher Daryle Maday and catcher Blake Parker have what it takes to make it as professional players.

FAYETTEVILLE – Don’t be shocked if pitcher Daryl Maday and catcher-third baseman Blake Parker fare well professionally after three years of up-and-down Razorback baseball careers.

The two Razorbacks were drafted as juniors in the recent Major League draft, Parker by the Cubs, and Maday by the Giants, and have already signed to report to rookie league teams.

Neither approached collegiate stardom, though Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn always believed Parker, so strong of arm and versatile that he could catch, play third and the outfield, had superstar potential. Van Horn and pitching coach Dave Jorn always believed Maday had one of the most lively arms of their pitchers on hand.

Maday began showing that lively arm to strong benefit late in the year, ironically not long after a fan at the monthly Swatter’s Club booster luncheon questioned Van Horn for ever pitching him with a game on the line

Fayetteville’s Parker was an enigma. A spring never started without Van Horn predicting greatness, but then Parker’s potential only getting glimpsed in flashes.

Possibly some of Parker’s problems stemmed from never getting to be more than a backup catcher. Catcher is his position of pro potential, but he usually got used elsewhere. Catcher Brady Toops in 2004 and Brian Walker in 2005 and 2006 simply were too good to be dislodged. Walker is a Razorback again for 2007 and not about to be budged from the backstop.

So the change of scenery with a real chance to catch could do wonders for Parker.

Maday and Parker could become just the latest testimony that the best college players don’t necessarily make the best pros but some collegians with modest college stats, do.

It happens in many sports.

Tim Sherrill is a classic example. A lefthanded pitcher from Harrison during the Norm DeBriyn era, Sherrill couldn’t crack the Razorbacks’ Southwest Conference rotation while lettering on great Arkansas teams in 1986 and ’87.

But Sherrill wound up pitching 18 National League games for St. Louis in 1990 and ‘91.

Among those elected to the University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor are many of superb collegiate accomplishment who never got a whiff of the pros.

A MEMORABLE PRINCETON MOMENT

For this writer, the highlight of the NCAA Baseball Regional Arkansas hosted came during a Princeton postgame press conference.

Princeton coach Scott Bradley, whose two starting pitchers in defeat threw better than anyone else in victory, said, “Don’t think for a minute that because we’re Princeton and our kids are expected to go straight to Wall Street, that if they got the opportunity to play professional baseball they wouldn’t put that degree on hold for awhile.”

Ah, authentic Ivy League honesty.

Contrast that to the pseudo-Ivy League pretentious pap perpetrated by the NCAA. You know, those commercials of self-important, alleged student-athletes bragging how deep and complicated they are and that nearly all of them will turn pro in something other than sports.

Yeah, most will be turn pro in something other than sports, and that’s fine. They should.

But there’s that little backhand connotation in the commercial- hinting to cast a condescending air about those who do turn pro in sports. Funny, but those same schools that make up the NCAA sure relish those student-athletes become pro athletes as rich alums the institutions of higher learning beg to “give something back.”

Just another bit of hypocrisy from the organization hypocritically on the warpath against Indian tribal names for team nicknames on one hand, while with the other often legislating to make it more difficult for disadvantaged minorities to qualify.