Minor League baseball games aren’t like their MLB counterparts. Fans know the best players won’t be around long, and the players who do hang around might not be as athletically gifted as the ones who move on up to the big time.
In that way, it’s a lot like college hoops.
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are combating ennui at the RAC in much the same way MiLB general managers do – by staging wacky stunts during timeouts. Where’d they get such an idea? From their Director of Marketing Geoff Brown, who they happen to have hired away from the Lakewood BlueClaws, the Class A affliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Brown is mostly concerned about getting fans out to the football games this season, and to that end he’s introducing familiar baseball concepts like bobblehead dolls, tote bag giveaways and family ticket/food packages. Can fireworks after the game be far away? Or maybe “Kids Run From Scrimmage” after every game. Could make for a huge recruiting windfall.
“We didn’t want any announcements beforehand,” Brown recalled, “but right before a timeout we were lucky enough to get one of the kids from the student riot squad, then put him in a yellow (usher) shirt and he went and replaced (the real) usher (near the court). I was all kinds of nervous doing one of these,” he said, illustrating how he shielded his eyes while sitting in his office last week at the RAC. “Luckily the kid was really into it and it went great. The crowd absolutely responded to it.”
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.