Cougar Baseball Notebook

SO WHAT DO Donnie Marbut and Jonathan Stewart have in common? Aside from the fact they both spent time in Olympia – Donnie as a prep baseball coach and Stewart as a high school All-American running back – there would seem, at first glance, little connection. Except this: Both of them lit a spark leading to record CF.C message board territory.

On a Friday evening in late January of 2005, when Stewart went on TV to announce whether he would be playing his college ball at Oregon or Washington State, the CF.C football and Luxury Suite forums went into overdrive, with 812 readers logged in at one point. At the time, it marked the second biggest influx of message boarders for a breaking event, excluding Letter of Intent Days, in CF.C history. (The day in December 2002 when Mike Price confirmed ‘Bama saw 1,206 suddenly jump on the CF.C boards in short order.)

Now comes Donnie Marbut. On Sunday night and again Monday, with the Cougs locked in a titanic battle with Arkansas, the baseball and Luxury Suite forums breached the 600-user-mark. Think about that for a moment.


On a Sunday night. And then again Monday.

A program that registered just one Pac-10 win in 24 tries in 2005, Marbut's first year, is now generating fan interest on par with football and hoops.

The number of message board denizens that baseball produced each of those nights rivaled some of the busiest message board moments in CF.C's 12-year history -- right up there with some of the letter-of-intent signing days and the Big Dance runs of 2006 and '07.

Heck, even the individual baseball official game threads were over the top. Sunday's wound up with 151 responses and Monday's had 98.

Such is the juggernaut that Marbut is building. If you'd like to help keep this ship moving the right direction, make a donation right now to the AD's Fund for Baseball Excellence.

FOR COUG FANS NOT FORTUNATE enough to be near a computer during the team's various games in Fayetteville, it pays to have friends in the right places. One of CF.C's editors, who spends much of his spare time watching his kids' youth soccer and baseball games, said he felt like he had a transistor radio in his ear for all the Cougar contests thanks to the powers of text messaging. Justin Felker, the talented fundraiser for WSU Athletics, was in Fayetteville for all the games, and made the mistake of sending Greg Witter a "How ‘bout them Cougs?" message during Game One vs. Kansas State.

Discovering that Felker was actually field-side for the action, Witter eagerly kept the dialogue going. "Scores, pitching changes, home runs -- Justin was like the Bob Robertson of texting. It was amazing," he said. "Given that Justin raises money for a living, I hate to see what this is going to end up costing me in the long run!"

FROM THE STAT BOX COMES this little nugget: Cougar sophomore outfielder Derek Jones of Snohomish improved his batting average by nearly 100 points this season. And he did it without sacrificing his power. Jones hit .316 this year with 12 homers and 49 RBI. Last season he batted .223 with 12 HRs and 37 RBI. Look for his name to surface a year from now when the Major League draft is unfolding. He's not fast and his accuracy from the outfield needs some fine-tuning, but a kid with power, growing discipline at the plate, and a strong work ethic is going to get lots of interest.

Jones was one of four Cougs to make the all-tourney team at the Fayetteville regional. He collected eight hits and drove home nine runs in five games. The other Cougars picked for the tourney team were Matt Fanelli, Cody Bartlett and Michael Weber.

Bartlett, by the way, has to be one of the most inspiring little ballplayers of all time. And when I say little I mean it. He's all of 5-8 and 170 pounds. But he packs a big punch. The fourth-year junior second baseman from Kent hit two homers over the weekend and turned in some of the finest glove work this side of Omar Vizquel. He hit .323 this season, driving in 34 runs and stealing eight bases. When people call this Cougar team scrappy, Bartlett is the perfect illustration. Marbut says this fiery leader can lead the Cougs to Omaha in 2011.

HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED. In the old days, teams had white home uniforms and gray road uniforms. If they were lucky, the white ones might have pinstripes. Not anymore. The Cougars seem to have more uniforms and uniform combinations than the Village People. If I had to pick one combo, it would be the all-gray threads with "Washington" and "State" stacked across the chest and a big number over on the right. Pitcher James Wise in the photo at the top of this page shows what I'm talking about.

IN APRIL, WHEN MARBUT and the Cougar baseball team hosted a reunion dinner for past players, the term "family" was used often that evening to describe WSU and Cougar baseball. The word is taking on literal meaning in Marbut's new recruiting class. First baseman Jason Monda of Capital High in Olympia is the son of 1980s WSU standout Greg Monda, and outfielder Mitch Peterson of West Valley in Spokane is the son of Mike Peterson, a Cougar wide receiver who scored a TD in WSU's fabled upset of Washington in the 1982 Apple Cup. Mike's older son Bryan signed an LOI with WSU two years ago but opted for pro ball and is in the Red Sox organization.

Another member of WSU's incoming class of recruits, left-handed pitcher Nick Laroy of Class 1A powerhouse Kalama High near Longview has had his career turned upside down. A torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow and will require Tommy John the next season.

Laroy, who compiled a 27-0 career record and threw a perfect game this season in his last appearance before the elbow injury, told the Longview Daily News that he is upbeat about his future in baseball said he has received assurances from WSU that it will honor his scholarship.

AND LASTLY, IT'S BECOME pretty clear that an adjustment is necessary by CF.C to its message board forums. Within the next day or so, we'll be creating a board devoted exclusively to baseball. Our readers have spoken and we're listening. Moreover, at the suggestion of readers, we'll be naming the forum in honor of a WSU legend. It'll be called the Bobo Brayton Baseball Forum. The current forum where baseball resides will remain in place, but exclusively for track, volleyball, etc.

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