The Kinder Garden - June Swoon

As we head into the down summer months, there are still several topics that have grabbed our attention on the WVU sports scene.

I don't think that Mountaineer pitcher Zac Cline has received the attention he deserves for the outstanding season he recorded. As the ace of a shaky pitching staff, Cline was under great pressure to produce a win every time out, and he usually responded.

The junior led the Big East with a 2.65 ERA, and also hurled ten complete games, tops in the nation. He also tied for tops in the league with 10 wins, and had a solid 2-1 stirkeout to walk ratio.

In looking at the numbers, it's hard to figure out why Boston College's Chris Lambert and Pittsburgh's Nick Evangelista won the conference's pitcher of the year award over Cline. Lambert did record far more strikeouts than Cline, and opponents' batting average against him was .196 (as opposed to Cline's .214), but in all other statistical categories Cline either equalled or outpaced his BC foe. The same was true, with even bigger gaps, when comparing the numbers of Cline and Evangelista. The only thing the Pitt hurler did better than Cline was to strike out 26 more hitters. I guess chicks dig the strikeouts.

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WVU Director of Strength and Conditioning Mike Barwis is getting more notice for his innovative programs in developing strength, speed, balance and explosiveness in Mountaineer athletes, and deservedly so. Greg Hunter profiled Mike in a recent article in the print edition of the Blue & Gold News, but it's almost impossible to relate the sheer energy that the man radiates.

During a recent speaking engagement, Barwis paced, rocked, and demonstrated movements as he talked energetically to a crowd of listeners. It almost made me tired just watching him. If anyone ever needs a demonstration of kinetic energy, they simply need to lasso Barwis and display him for a few minutes. Hook him up to a generator, and he could probably power the lights at Mountaineer Field.

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Taking in all the construction at WVU's athletic facilities this summer threw me into a nostalgic trance while I remembered the forebears of many of today's great venues. While I am in full support of the changes and upgrades going on at the football complex, the Coliseum, and the soccer field, those projects also served to remind me from whence we came.

Some of the best memories I have of my early years of WVU football are of our first tailgates. We'd eat ham or pickle and pimiento loaf sandwiches out of the trunk of our car, then either catch a shuttle bus, or later, ride the PRT from Engineering down to Beechurst. Either way, the trip ended with an uphill trek (doesn't it always) to our seats at Old Mountaineer Field. Basketball trips were more infrequent, but I can still remember sitting on high for Notre Dame's visit in the early 70s and some of the Mountaineer Classic tournaments that were held during the same era.

In those days, getting to buy a drink at the stadium was a big deal, as was bringing home the plain white or blue souvenir cup with "WVU MOUNTAINEERS" spelled out around the rim. (I still have some of them, and no, I'm not selling.) Progress is good, and I wouldn't trade the new stadium for anything, but that old horseshoe on the banks of the Mon is still a special place for me, even though it only exists in my memories.

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Finally, the news came yesterday of the passing of Betty Furfari, who was the wife of Mickey Furfari, the Dean of Sportwriters in the state of West Virginia. My heartfelt condolences go out to Mickey, who was as much a devoted husband as he is an outstanding writer. Professional organizations may give out "Writer of the Year" awards to rabble rousers and other "edgy" columnists these days, but to me Mickey is the Writer of the Millenium.

When I first started working for the Blue & Gold News, I was met with a number of attitudes, ranging from disdain to contempt. The Internet wasn't (and still isn't) viewed on an equal footing with print and broadcast media, so suffice it to say that I wasn't exactly overrun with welcoming greetings.

One of the few exceptions to that, however, was Mickey. Upon introducing myself to him, he talked to me for a few minutes, and never fails to greet me and chat for a momemt or two. And I won't lie - that made me feel good. Thanks Mickey, and my best wishes for you in this time of trial.


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