Lou Pavlovich, Jr of Collegiate Baseball

During the College World Series I had a chance to sit down and talk with Lou Pavlovich, Jr., the Editor of Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and a man who has been covering college baseball for about 30 years, about college baseball in general.

How and when did Collegiate Baseball Newspaper begin?
"Back in the early 50's there was a real need to have a publication about college and high school baseball around the country. But no publication would touch it. The college coaches approached The Sporting News which was owed at that time by Mr. J.J. Spink. He was a very powerful publisher at that time. They had a representative that approached him about writing about college baseball, but he said no, there was no point in it because no one would read it, nobody cares about it. Then, they approached Abe Chanin, who at that time was the Sports Editor of the Arizona Daily Star, the morning paper in Tucson, Arizona. My dad, Lou Pavlovich, Sr., was the Assistant Sports Editor. Between them, they came out with their first paper in 1957. There were 12 issues that first year. Over the years, it steadily grew.

"(Abe) worked on it until 1970, then my dad purchased it from him in 1971. And we've owned it ever since. The first College World Series I came to was in 1971 when I was 13 years old. I came along to watch and observe. It was fascinating to watch the great players. Back then, that was when USC was in the middle of their dynasty with Rod Deadeaux.

"Over the next seven or eight years I started helping my dad little by little. The first time I took photos of the (College) World Series was in 1977. They didn't really have a photographer. And it was pretty dangerous at that time because I was almost on the on-deck circle. You were about 20 feet from home plate. They had nothing like they have now. There were only a couple of photographers at the time, the photographers from the (Omaha) World-Herald and me. Luckily, they told me what to do and how to position my body so that, if a line drive hit me, it would hit my shoulder.

"Over the years, (the people at the College World Series) have added a photo booth and they have spent a lot of money to redo the stadium. It has been a great evolution.

"Anyway, both my dad and I have worked on the paper since 1971. The past few years he has taken on a less active role because his health hasn't been as good. But I would say from 1971 to 1985 he was working two jobs. He would work as the Assistant Sports Editor at the morning paper, then come home for dinner at 5. He would eat, then he would work with Collegiate Baseball until 10 when he would go to bed.

"As for me, I came out here (to the College World Series) when I was in junior high. Then, I went to high school and went on to the University of Arizona. Now, I, basically, do the newspaper fulltime."

Did your dad and Abe have a passion for college baseball or did they decide to write the newspaper out of the goodness of their heart?
"Initially, it was out of the goodness of their heart. A former baseball coach at the University of Arizona, a guy named Pop McKale, after they had that (unsuccessful) meeting with J.J. Spink of The Sporting News, approached Abe Chanin. Abe (agreed to do the paper and) asked my dad for some help in starting the paper. My dad, who pitched for Arizona State at one time back when their team was a club team and their university was called Tempe Normal, always loved college baseball. So, he decided to help him. As he got more involved with the great coaches that are part of the game, like the Ron Polks of the world, he wanted to be a part of it, so he kept doing it. Finally, when my dad retired in the mid-80's he did it fulltime. I started helping him fulltime when I was through with college."

What are the objectives of Collegiate Baseball Newspaper?
"We try to have news in every issue and try to have a good feature story in every issue. That has always been my passion, the great feature stories that are out there.

"Probably my all-time favorite is about a kid who pitched at a very small town outside of Phoenix called Wickenberg, Arizona. He played high school baseball and he had no legs. He didn't wear any artificial legs. He would walk on his hands. His hands were so tough that they were like boot leather. What they would do is put him in as a pinch-hitter and he was normally walked in four pitches because his strike zone was probably about 4 or 5 inches. He would run to first base after he was walked and they would put in a pinch-runner for him. I also think he won the state championship in wrestling that year."

Your publication also has a lot of articles written by other people, including coaches and other people interested in the game of baseball.
"They know that we try to have cutting edge type things such as instruction for baseball coaches and players. Knowing that, a lot of coaches send us information about things that they come across."

A recent article I read in your paper was about a quarterback wrist band that baseball coaches are starting to use in their sport as far as giving out pitch signals. The coach calls out a number instead of using signals.
"Yeah, a little over a year ago we learned about a junior coach in Idaho who developed the quarterback wrist band for catchers. Essentially, he kept watching football games and wondered why he couldn't intergrate that with baseball. Baseball is getting so complex because of all the different signs that you have to give. Coaches sometime get in the back corner of a dugout trying to hide when they are giving their signals. But with his system, it is very simple. The catcher has the quarterback wrist band on his wrist. It is, basically, a grid where you have numbers across the top and numbers around the bottom. The coach has a master sheet that shows whether it is an inside fastball, curve, slider, changeup or whatever the pitch might be. Then, he has a series of three numbers beneath each type pitch. He will call out three digits which describes each pitch. When he first started doing it, no one thought it could be that simple. Coaches would write down the numbers that were called out because they thought that would allow them to know when that same pitch was thrown again. But what the coach did was mark off each number that was called and use another, new, number. He wouldn't use the same number twice. And he can change the numbers the next game to be another type pitch."

How has Collegiate Baseball Newspaper been accepted by college coaches?
"Really good because everybody knows that we really like the coaches and have a real passion to put out unique stories, whether it is feature stories or something new to the game. The coaches tell us they like to subscribe to find out what is new in the game and what they can do to have a little bit of an edge.

"We did an article this year that was on sensory deprivation. It was something that I normally don't do because it is something that is normally left to interrogators and people who work with terrorists. The thing that intrigued me about it is a couple of coaches I know, Rick Peterson of the Mets, has had great success with pitchers. He trains them in a bullpen setting by having them throw a perfect strike on the outside corner. Then, he would have them close their eyes, taking out their sensory of vision. Then, when they throw the pitch in the bullpen they would feel every muscle and tendon working during the release point. By doing that, he has had great success.

"Another coach, Jerry Weinstein, a former pitching coach at Cal-Poly (San Luis Obispo), who is now with the Colorado Rockies, expanded on it. He felt that when you close your eyes outside it caused an inner ear balance problem. It would also make you want to fall down. So, what he did was have people go into a completely dark room and throw pitches into a net. That allowed them to get the feel of throwing a pitch without having to close their eyes."

You have being watching or covering college baseball for 36 years. How has it changed during those 36 years?
"They have always had very talented athletes, but back in the 60's and 70's there were some programs that had 20 to 25 scholarships. Now, it has been scaled down to 11.7. But back then, programs like Southern California had, basically, the equivalent of two triple A ballclubs due to the amount of talent that they had. They could bring them up slowly and win national championship after national championship. Now, due to the scholarship limitations, it is difficult to do that."

The sport, however, seems to have improved despite the limited number of scholarships. What are some major changes that have caused that improvement?
"The major changes are the new stadiums that have been built or are being built. That is kind of a due to (Mississippi State head baseball coach) Ron Polk. It is amazing what he has done for the game. Everybody started following his lead. Look at the SEC. Just about everybody in the SEC now has a great stadium. LSU became a power. Then, you saw Tennessee and Arkansas do it. Now, what Vanderbilt is doing is amazing. Even Mississippi has come on the last few years and done some remarkable things.

"The pressure to win has also become enormous.

"And television has grown. ESPN has now taken over the entire thing as far as college baseball playoffs.

"And the parity is starting to spread around the entire country. Five of the eight teams in the College World Series didn't even win their conference. That's never happened before in college baseball history. You look at the defending national champions, Oregon State. They lost 7 of 9 starting position players and they lost their top three pitchers. Couple that with the fact that they finished sixth in the Pac-10 and they were the last team to be picked as an at-large team for the tournament. There was no way they should have been back here, but they are. And you look at Louisville, a team that has never won one game in the tournament before. And you have UC-Irvine here. How does that happen? It's due to parity.

"When you factor all that in, the quality of the game has become very exciting."

Have you noticed the talent level in college baseball increasing during the years that you have been covering it?
"It has been pretty consistent. But there is probably more good players because when kids are coming up through youth baseball they are playing on more club teams. There are more kids out there, but the upper echelon players that play college baseball and go on to play in the pros, I don't think there are more of those type players."

What are some things you would like to see happen in college baseball during the next few years?
"They already have regional games of the week. But I would like to see them have a national game of the week. They did that about 20 years ago on ESPN, but they got away from doing those games because they have basketball and all these other things going on. If they could do that, that would be a good thing. And they definitely need more scholarships, they really do. If they add more, that would be a step in the right direction. And I think they are going to do that with (the help of ABCA Executive Director) Dave Keilitz because he is such a mover and shaker and such a fine man who is respected by so many people."

Who are the coaches in college baseball that you feel have had the most influence on the game?
"Ron Polk is number one. I have known him since he went to the University of Arizona as a graduate assistant. He came out with his playbook that has been a bible to so many coaches. It has everything in it that a coach would want to know. I have never seen such an organizational masterpiece as his book.

"And he is such a man of conviction. Other coaches will tell him that he has more guts than any other guy that they know. He will never lay down to anyone when he thinks he is right. He has seen so many problems over the years based on what he perceives the NCAA is taking away from college baseball. I know he probably makes some NCAA people cringe, but he has been the number one guy, who loves the game, who will do whatever he can to help the game and the people of the game. Having a great Athletics Director like Larry Templeton at Mississippi State helps Ron Polk a great deal because he is such a great man and loves college baseball deeply. And I think he deeply respects Ron Polk's opinions on things.

"The other coach is Bob Bennett, who was formerly at Fresno State. He did the same thing as far as fighting for his sport, but they, eventually, let him go.

"And even though he's no longer coaching, if you put Dave Keilitz in that mix, he would be the third guy. He has made more happen for college baseball, in a positive way, than anybody in the history of the sport. And he's done it in a quiet, dignified way. He is very classy man."

Is there a need for someone like Ron Polk, a man that is almost militant in his stance toward the NCAA in regard to what they are doing to college baseball?
"I think it is good to have someone like him. The thing about him is you know he is not going to pull any punches and that he is going to be very honest with you. He never lies about anything and, sometimes, people don't like to hear the truth. I know folks at the NCAA cringe when he's involved in something. But I think he's everything that is good about the game. He's like a father to a lot a coaches and is such a well-respected guy. If there is such a thing as a baseball saint, it would be him because he really cares deeply about all the players and the coaches."

We touched on many things that you cover in your newspaper, but you also have your own college and high school baseball polls that come out throughout the season, pre-season college and high school baseball issues and you even rank college recruiting classes as well. So, there's really something for anybody who loves college and high school baseball. For the people who want to subscribe to your publication, how much is it and how can they purchase a subscription?
"They can send a check for $28 to Collegiate Baseball, PO Box 50566, Tucson, AZ, 85703 for a one year's subscription. Or they can call us at 520-623-4530. Those are the main ways. There is also a form on our website that they can fill out and send to us through the mail or fax to us."

How many times does it come out during a year?
"It comes out 14 times per year."

For more information about Collegiate Baseball Newspaper check out their website at http://www.baseballnews.com/

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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