Sure, it’s December, time for football bowls and the NFL homestretch, with college hoops and the NBA gathering steam.
But it’s never too cold to talk baseball.
So, let’s consider three teams with ties to Central Kentucky: Houston Astros (parent club of the Lexington Legends); Cincinnati Reds, and University of Kentucky.
Good guy and former Legends pitcher Chris Sampson will be Dave Raymond’s guest on the Astroline call-in show tonight (Wednesday) at 7 p.m.
Sampson retired after his first season of pro ball, 1999, as a shortstop for short-season A Auburn. He began his comeback as a pitcher for the Legends in 2003, going 4-3 with a 1.39 ERA over 22 games, including 14 starts. Those results earned him a mid-season promotion to Salem.
Sampson, 30, made a career-high 54 appearances last season, including 11 starts. He finished 6-4 with a 4.22 ERA; in his 43 relief assignments, Sampson was 2-1 with a 2.92 ERA. After the season, he had surgery to repair a tear in a tendon in his right elbow.
The show airs in Houston on KTRH-AM 740 and is streamed live at www.astros.com.
Great gift idea — Jerry Dowling, retired sports cartoonist for the Cincinnati Enquirer (has assembled a book of his drawings that dealt with Pete Rose, on and off the field, over four decades. Baseball Hall of Fame writer Hal McCoy wrote the introduction to Drawing Pete!
For more details, check out: http://www.edgecliffpress.com/pages/ECP_Drawing_Pete_Release.pdf
* Redsfest XI will take place Friday and Saturday (Dec. 12-13) at The Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati. Proceeds benefit the Reds Community Fund. Two-day tickets cost $20 for adults, $10 for kids (12 and younger). One-day tickets are $15 and $7. Children under 3 will be admitted free. Tickets are available online at www.reds.com/redsfest/ or by phone (513) 381 REDS, as well as at the door.
Free player autographs and photos come with admission; nine autograph and photo booths will be staffed all weekend. The Reds indicate 50-plus current or former players will attend.
Current Reds include Bronson Arroyo, Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Keppinger and Edwin Encarnacion, as well as Manager Dusty Baker.
Former Reds scheduled to attend include Mario Soto, Eric Davis, George Foster, Lee May and Tom Browning.
Also attending will be Reds TV and radio personalities: Marty and Thom Brennaman, Jeff Brantley, Chris Welsh, George Grande, Jim Day and Jeff Piecoro.
Main-stage activities include introduction of Reds players, past and present, Friday at 6 p.m. Also on Friday, music will be provided by Team Cincinnati Choir and The Bronson Arroyo Band. Both days will feature kids-only press conferences. Team awards, including Phillips’ Gold Glove Award, will be presented Saturday.
* In case you missed it, the Cincinnati chapter of the Baseball Writers of America made Votto a unanimous pick for team MVP. Volquez was voted Pitcher of the Year and Aaron Harang won the Joe Nuxhall Good Guy Award.
Left-handed starter Chris Rusin, Kentucky’s first pitcher to earn all-Southeastern Conference first-team honors in 11 years, has been named to the Brooks Wallace National Player of the Year Watch List. (Scott Downs did so in 1997.)
UK outfielder Sawyer Carroll was among eight semifinalists for the award last season.
As UK’s Friday night starter, Rusin, a 6-foot-2, 190-pounder, went 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA over 83.2 innings. He led the staff with 65 strikeouts and was later selected by the Oakland Athletics in the 23rd round of the draft. Two of his three losses came in complete-game SEC road games, with a two-game total of 18 strikeouts.
Rusin’s final start of the season, when he tried to pitch through an injury against No. 13 Michigan in NCAA regional play, was the worst outing of his career and lasted only 1.1 innings. Throw that game out and his final line would have been 6-2, 2.84 and 82.1 innings.
UK, coming off a school-record 44-win season, opens play in 2009 Feb. 20 at Myrtle Beach, S.C., under new head coach Gary Henderson. The Coastal Carolina pre-season tournament field also includes Troy and James Madison.
* Henderson’s first fall signing class appears impressive.
Six pitchers and one catcher signed letters of intent.
“We’re excited about this group,” Henderson said in a UK press release. “Going into the summer, our two priorities were to improve our pitching depth and to keep the best players in the state of Kentucky at home, and we felt like we did just that. All of these kids are extremely projectable and we expect them to be very good players in the Southeastern Conference. This group, along with the 2008 class (current freshmen), should enable us to continue to compete for an SEC championship annually.”
Here is a brief look at the recruits, courtesy of UK’s sports information director for baseball, Brent Ingram.
Jon Carlson, LHP, 6-5, 200 (Rolling Meadows, Ill., Rolling Meadows H.S.)
A participant in the Perfect Game National Showcase in Minneapolis, Minn. … Named All-Conference and All-Area in 2008 … Led Rolling Meadows High School to the 2008 MSL East Championship … As a junior this past spring, he went 3-1 with two saves, while striking out 59 in 50.2 innings … Coached by Jim Lindeman … A three-year member of the “B” Honor Roll. … Henderson on Carlson: “Jon is a very talented left-handed pitcher from Illinois. He has a strong body, a very good slider, is a very good competitor and is a very good student.”
Jordan Cooper, RHP, 6-3, 190 (Shelbyville, Tn., Shelbyville Central H.S.)
The No. 1 pitching prospect in the state of Tennessee and the 81st best prospect in the nation by Baseball America … Participated for Team Tennessee in the Junior Sunbelt Classic in McAlester, Okla. … Was on the New York Yankees team at the East Coast Professional Showcase in Lakeland, Fla. … Was on the Oakland Athletics team at the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif. … Earned all-district honors as a junior … Led baseball team to the district championship and basketball team in 2008 to the district title. … Posted a 5-2 record while collecting 48 strikeouts and a 1.31 ERA in 2008. Henderson on Cooper: “Jordan is a tremendous athlete who has excellent arm strength and a quality second pitch. We are extremely excited about Jordan, who has the potential to help us early in his career.”
Joe Devine, RHP, 6-2, 180 (Mount Carmel, Ill., Wabash Valley College)
Rated as the 13th-best junior college prospect in the nation and the best in Illinois by pgcrosschecker.com … Led Wabash Valley to a 40-15 record and the 2008 GRAC Championship … Named first-team All-Conference … Earned a 7-2 record and a 2.83 ERA in 67 innings, striking out 60, walking 20 and allowing 49 hits. … Henderson on Devine: “Joe is an extremely talented Kentucky native (Owensboro Catholic) who has the ability to step in and contribute very early in his career. Joe has an outstanding frame and we expect him to only get better.”
Sam Kidd, RHP/OF, 6-2, 170 (Hartford, Ky., Ohio County High School)
Second-team All-State selection as a junior and participant in the KHSAA Junior East/West game … While leading Ohio County to the district title in 2008, posted a 0.88 ERA and a 9-2 record, striking out 97 in 64 innings … Earned a 7-1 record and a 1.88 ERA in 52 innings, striking out 62 during 2007… Hit .527 eight doubles, two homers and 30 RBI, stealing eight bases in 2008 … In 2007, hit .337 with five doubles and 27 RBI, stealing nine bags … Owns school records for wins, strikeouts and ERA … Named academic honorable mention from 2006-08 … Played football junior season. … Henderson on Kidd: “We expect Sam to be a very good two-way player. Sam is a legitimate pitcher/hitter talent, is an extremely good competitor and an outstanding student-athlete.”
Luke Maile, C, 6-3, 200 (Crestview Hills, Ky., Covington Catholic H.S.)
First-team All-State as a junior, Maile is considered the top prospect in the state of Kentucky … Maile, the two-time Northern Kentucky Player of the Year was named a first-team All-American by MaxPreps.com as a junior, after hitting .554 with 62 hits, 62 runs scored, six homers and 40 RBI, while hitting leadoff for Covington Catholic … Played for the Chicago White Sox team at the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., and for the Kentucky Colonels during the 2008 summer … As Covington Catholic’s cleanup hitter in 2007, hit .486 with eight homers and 66 RBI … Owns school records for season batting average (.554), RBI (66), runs scored (62), totaling the second-most walks (37) and hits (62) in program history … The career record holder for batting average, triples and RBI, ranking third in hits, second in doubles, fourth in homers, second in runs scored, third in walks and seventh in at bats … Named the team MVP in 2007-08 … Named all-state in 2007 and 2008, earning Cincinnati Enquirer All-Star honors in 2008 … Helped lead Covington Catholic to a region runner up finish in 2007 and 2008 … Has played four years of basketball and two seasons of golf … Coached in baseball by Bill Krumpelbeck … Has earned the Mt. St. Joseph College writing award and the Northern Kentucky University writing award while maintaining a 3.2 GPA. … Father, Rich, played football for UK (1986-87) … Grandfather, Dick, was an all-American basketball player for LSU. … Henderson on Maile: “Luke is the top prospect in Kentucky. He is a strong, smart leader who plays with a tremendous amount of poise and confidence. Luke is an outstanding student who will be a very good player for us.”
Taylor Rogers, LHP, 6-3, 170 (Littleton, Colo., Chatfield Senior H.S.)
First-team All-State as a junior in 2007 while playing at Chatfield Senior High School in Littleton, Colo. … Earned a 1.98 ERA and a 5-2 record, while striking out 82 batters in 53 innings … Tallied one save in 2007, while leading team to the state final four … Coached by Mike Yansak … Played for the Colorado Slammers during the fall of 2008 … Has played basketball for four seasons and football as a freshman. … Henderson on Rogers: “Taylor is a late-blooming athlete with tremendous potential. Taylor has a frame to add additional size and strength. He has an above-average moving fastball and a solid curveball.”
Walter Wijas, RHP, 6-3, 200 (Elk Grove Village, Ill., Conant High School)
One of the top pitchers in Illinois, Wijas posted a staggering 0.76 ERA and a 2-1 record while striking out 40 in 28 innings in 2008 for Conant … As a sophomore, earned a 6-1 record and a 0.42 ERA, working 33 innings, with 66 strikeouts … Owns the single-season ERA mark at Conant … Hit .482 with seven doubles, two homers and 17 RBI as a sophomore and .419 with four doubles and 11 RBI as a freshman … Coached by Jerry Song … Played for the McHenry County Hurricanes during the summer of 2008. Henderson on Wijas: “Walter is one of the best pitchers in the state of Illinois. He has a strong body and has outstanding movement on his fastball.”
* Former UK lefty Andrew Albers has been named to the first-team All-Canada collegiate team, and junior pitcher James Paxton has been named to the third team.
Albers, from North Battleford, Saskatchewan, worked as a weekend starter, reliever and closer during his career, appearing in 81 games from 2004 through 2008. His 20 career wins are tied for fourth all-time at UK and his 12 saves rank third all-time. Last season, Albers was 7-4 with five saves and a 2.40 ERA, striking out 64 over 56.1 innings.
The San Diego Padres selected him in the eighth round of last June’s draft.
Paxton, from Ladner, British Columbia, went 4-2 with a 2.92 ERA last season. A 6-4, 215-pounder, he worked 52.1 innings, striking out 43 and yielding 46 hits over 17 games. His complete-game shutout of Ole Miss, in the final regular-season weekend of SEC play, clinched a conference tournament berth for the Cats.
All-Canada selections are compiled from a voting panel of 42 experts from Canada and the U.S., including 14 coaches, eight executives, eight scouts, three scouting directors, three former players, three writers and one broadcaster, in addition to the Canadian Baseball Network staff.