Let's forget for a moment about our gaping hole at second base, the defensive woes of Mat Gamel, and the affront to humanity that is untuckage.
Instead, think of the children. Well, not the children, but college kids. (And not kirbir, either, I don't want any distractions right now.)
Starting Friday in Appleton is the Division 3 College Baseball World Series. It's not quite the event that the D1 tourney in Omaha is, but it's still a great time. Eight teams have qualified from around the country by winning regional tournaments, and 15 games will determine the national champion.
I've gone to the D3WS each of the last two years, and I'm headed back this year. Personally, I think it's way more fun than major league games, and maybe even a better time than the low minors. The tournament is held at Time Warner Field in Grand Chute (where the Rattlers play), and most of those in attendance are either friends/family of the players or serious baseball fans.
There aren't a ton of professional prospects at the Division 3 level, but there are some. Two years ago, I saw Jordan Zimmermann (now of the Nats) play for UW-Stevens Point, and last year, Kurt Yacko (now a Rockies farmhand) pitched and played shortstop for Chapman. There are no big-time prospects in this year's field, but a handful will have their names called in the later rounds of next month's draft.
There's also not much of a Wisconsin presence. The final team to be eliminated in a regional was UW-Whitewater. They lost to Carthage College (from Kenosha), who will play Wooster (OH) in the first game at 10 a.m. on Friday.
What makes it so enjoyable for me is the sheer enthusiasm the players bring to the games. Let's say they act more like Ryan Braun does and less like some people would prefer that Ryan Braun act. The teams that make it this far are generally quite well-coached, so you'll see some very solid fundamental baseball on display, even if there aren't a lot of 95 mph fastballs.
Speaking of well-coached, there's a special bonus for Brewers fans this year. This year's representative of the New York region, SUNY Farmingdale, is led by none other than Brewers great Keith Osik. Farmingdale is a bit of an underdog coming in (they didn't get a single vote in the latest national poll, while about 50 other teams did), but not every team has that much grit in the dugout.
If you're in the Fox Cities, make plans to come on out. Here's the tournament website, with the full schedule for the weekend. A great site with frequent updates and information on the field is d3baseball.com, so even if you're not around, you can follow along. If you're interested in the numbers side of things, I'll have an article up on The Hardball Times later this week previewing the tournament (along with the Division 2 World Series, which also starts this weekend).
If you make it, be sure to say hi. I'll be there for almost every pitch. You'll generally find me a few rows behind the home-plate side of the first-base dugout with a white Nike hat and a notebook in my lap. Sitting next to me will be a guy who looks like he could be my dad because...well, he is my dad.