Southeast officials plan to make a pitch for OVC tournament

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Southeast Missouri State University baseball fans who remember all the fun and excitement at Capaha Park when the Indians hosted several Ohio Valley Conference tournaments shouldn't yet get too fired up.

But Southeast officials, along with the city's convention and visitors bureau, are exploring the possibility of making a pitch to host the OVC baseball tourney after the league's three-season contract with Brooks Stadium in Paducah, Ky., expires this year.

According to OVC officials, now that the Brooks Stadium contract is up, the league is basically exploring all possible avenues before agreeing to the next three-year pact with a host site. Conference officials said they have been pleased with the way the tournament has operated in Paducah, and that city is likely to make an attempt to continue hosting the event.

But, league officials said, it can't hurt to see what else is out there in order to make sure they are putting on the best baseball tournament possible.

The other possibilities for hosting the tournament from 2005 through 2007 are at non-university venues, but OVC officials said the fact Capaha Park is the home field of the Indians would not be held against Southeast and the community if they attempt to secure the tournament -- even though most people around the league feel that having the event at a neutral site is more fair for everybody involved.

Prior to its first year at Brooks Stadium in 2002, the OVC tournament was held at either the regular-season champion or the highest-finishing team whose field had lights.

The Indians hosted the tournament a few times, including once when they finished second and the champion's park didn't have lights.

That never seemed like a very fair process to me -- basically penalizing a team because its field was not lighted -- which is why I thought moving the tournament to Paducah was the right thing to do.

But I also remember all the great times I had covering the tournament at raucous Capaha -- no OVC baseball fans are more supportive than Southeast's --and it would be neat to have that atmosphere again.

My hunch is that the tourney will remain in Paducah following this season, but we'll just have to wait and see how it all plays out.

What a treat it was for me to interview Whitey Herzog last Monday as the former Cardinals manager was in the area for the first annual Joe Uhls Memorial Golf Tournament and Dinner, a major fund raiser for Southeast's baseball program.

The ever popular "White Rat" was hilarious and made me feel like we were great pals -- which is how I think he treats just about everybody he comes into contact with.

And it's great to see a guy really speak his mind without worrying if he's being politically correct.

Kudos to Southeast's women's track team for recently being ranked 19th nationally by the organization USA Track and Field.

It's a credit to the tremendous program longtime coach Joey Haines has built. Although Haines goes about his business without much fanfare, he's done a fantastic job and is one of the true coaching gems not only at Southeast but in the OVC.

Former Southeast football star Eugene Amano, named the top center in all of Division I-AA college football following the 2003 season, has an outside chance to get selected in the late rounds today as the NFL draft concludes.

But it's more likely that Amano will sign with a team as a free agent shortly after the draft ends, which often is better than going toward the bottom of the draft anyway.

Several other former Indians who completed their eligibility in 2003 also hope to earn invitations to some squad's training camp, including quarterback Jack Tomco and defensive end Ryan Roth.

Former Southeast assistant men's basketball coach Lew Hill was recently hired as an assistant coach at Nevada-Las Vegas under new head coach Lon Kruger.

Hill spent two seasons (1992-94) as an assistant under Ron Shumate during the Indians' early Division I days. He later went to East Carolina for four years and spent the past six seasons at Texas A&M, where he served as the program's associate head coach last season.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

My old pal, Chris Rushin, the former Southeast football player and Southeast football and basketball radio announcer who seems to know just about everybody in Southeast Missouri, is fast moving up the ladder of minor-league baseball play-by-play.

Chris spent his first season in the professional ranks last year with the Rookie League Billings (Mont.) Mustangs. He recently began his second season with the Kane County (Ill.) Cougars of the Class A Midwest League. The Cougars, from the Chicago suburb of Geneva, are affiliated with the Oakland Athletics.

You never know, it might not be too long before "Big Rush" hits the major leagues. Here's hoping that happens.

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