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Feb. 12, 2013

Monarch Blog

It’s baseball season. I know this because, deep down, I’m a baseball guy.

For the pros, this is the time of year when pitchers and catchers report. For the colleges, Opening Day is fast approaching.

For Old Dominion University’s baseball team, Opening Day is Friday.

Head coach Chris Finwood is hoping for great weather and checking his smart phone periodically to see if he gets his wish.

Finwood, by the way, has four smartphone apps for weather. That is not a misprint. He has an app for first base (Weather.com), an app for second base (MxVision WeatherSentry), an app for third base (Weatherbug.com) and another for home plate (Weather Underground, or, wunderground.com).

So why so many apps?

“I want to know if we’re pulling the tarp and playing or not,” Finwood said.

He’s hoping he’s playing, ready for the Monarchs to get the bad taste of last season’s 19-34 record out of their collective mouth. Getting off to a good start will require playing well at home early, for 13 of the Monarchs’ first 15 games are at home at Bud Metheny Baseball Complex.

That was part by design, part by good fortune.

The Monarchs were supposed to begin their season playing in a tournament at Coastal Carolina. But Coastal’s field is being renovated and Finwood learned in the fall that the tournament was going to be moved to a nearby high school field. Finwood opted out of that and so did Marshall, which was also supposed to play in the tournament.

With both squads opting out but looking for games, they decided to play one another in a three-set series that begins Friday at ODU (because let’s face it, nobody wants to be playing baseball in Huntington, W.Va., in the middle of February).

With ODU about to join Conference USA, it also gives the Monarchs an early taste of what Conference USA baseball might be all about.

 “The forecast for Friday is 54 degrees and sunny,” Finwood said, clowning around with his apps to come to a consensus. “That’s what I do, take the average of all four apps.”

Finwood’s forecast of his team is that they’ll win more this year and most certainly be better on the left side of the infield, an area he felt was in desperate need of an upgrade. To make that upgrade, Finwood looked west two falls ago, finding help in the junior college ranks in the form of Jordan Negrini, a hard-hitting third baseman from Hawaii by way of Yavapai Junior College in Prescott, Ariz.

Finwood was determined to look beneath every rock – and apparently behind every cactus – to find help. By bird-dogging Negrini early, Finwood landed what he hopes is a gem of a player.

“I like to call him ‘The Flyin’ Hawaiian,’ ” Finwood quipped. “In all seriousness, we were fortunate to get him. Jordan has ulcerative colitis. He has to watch what he eats. He got sick shortly after we saw him play two falls ago and a lot of the teams that were interested in him backed off.”

Finwood didn’t, liking what he saw too much. And in staying with Negrini, Finwood ended up with a package deal when Negrini’s teammate, switch-hitting shortstop Tyler Urps, also decided to be a Monarch.

So there’s a new left side of the infield at ODU and Finwood hopes it results in success for the Monarchs.

“We needed help on that left side and I think we got it,” Finwood said.

So, if you are thinking about watching the Monarchs this weekend, they will face the Thundering Herd on Friday at 3:00, Saturday at 2:00, and Sunday at 1:00.

The pitching lineup is as follows: Junior righthander Dean Ali will be the Opening Day starter,  6-6 junior college transfer Ryan Yarbrough will start on Saturday and freshman righthander Tommy Alexander will get the start on Sunday.

Yarbrough, by the way, will probably get drafted this spring. A scout for the New York Yankees showed up over the weekend just to watch him pitch in an inner-squad scrimmage.

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All Jim Corrigan wanted was a chance to prove he can be a men’s basketball head coach at the Division I level.

So far, he’s had the Monarchs playing at a much higher level than they had been playing at prior to the termination of Blaine Taylor a week ago.

The Monarchs posted a much-needed 78-66 victory at Drexel last Thursday, lost in overtime to visiting Northeastern 79-74 on Saturday, then fell at Delaware 75-73 Monday night.

They were competitive. This came on the heels of a 10-game losing streak in which the Monarchs lost by an average of 10 points.

Corrigan says he’s glad the Monarchs didn’t have much time to mull Taylor’s departure. It happened on a Tuesday and they were on the road playing two days later.

“Look, this isn’t my first rodeo,” Corrigan said. “I’m a big boy and know the world be a surprising and sometimes cruel place. I’m well-equipped to deal with it. But college-age kids, they might not be as equipped for it. It’s a big part of their world being flipped upside down.

“That our kids were able to get back on the basketball court as quickly as they did, it worked to our favor. Winning made it a good night in Philadelphia. That locker room after that game was excited, happy and relieved.”

As timing would have it, the Monarchs chartered a flight to Philadelphia for that game and took a group of donors and sponsors who made a side trip across Philly to take a look at Temple’s practice facility. ODU is in the process of funding its own practice facility, to be built on Monarch Way in the shadow of the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

Truly, it was dumb-luck timing. But it certainly didn’t hurt to have more ODU fans in the stands at Drexel than would have normally made the trip.

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Sunday is Hoops for a Cure Day for the Lady Monarchs. It’s also the 11th annual Hoops for a Cure game at ODU.

Personally, I was never a big fan of pink as a fashion statement. But, I’m wearing more and more with every passing week.

My mom passed as the result of breast cancer last June. There are very few of us who haven’t been touched in some way by the disease, either through family or friends, co-workers or neighbors.

Almost everywhere you turn in the athletic department at ODU, you’ll find some evidence of this disease. The Lady Monarchs will host Northeastern at 2:00 on Sunday. If you are a survivor, login to coxtix.com and use the code “pink” for a free ticket to the game.

We’d love to see you there.


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