The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend of baseball and softball and a prom for one special young lady and a great Stop Children’s Cancer Gala at the Cade Museum. It was a busy weekend. I like busy weekends.
10. No, I don’t get it either. Eddy Pineiro was the best kicker in college football percentage-wise, declared early for the draft and wasn’t selected. Sometimes, that’s a good thing because you get to pick your team instead of the other way around, but it had to be deflating for the Florida kicker. My theory is that NFL teams know that there are plenty of kickers out there to choose from and you can get one as a free agent or recycle one who has already kicked in the league. The only kickers chosen in the draft were Daniel Carlson of Auburn and Jason Sanders of New Mexico by Miami. Perhaps it was Pineiro’s lack of experience as a kicker with only two seasons at Florida and only a few kickoffs his senior year of high school. Maybe it’s just the Roberto Aguayo effect (second round pick who busted at Tampa Bay). Pineiro signed as a free agent with the Raiders and I will be stunned if he doesn’t have a great pro career. The guy is just too good, but kickers are a dime a dozen. I guess that’s it. I still don’t get it. I asked former Gator great Judd Davis, who has worked with Pineiro, about it and he was surprised, as well. But he also pointed to that lack of experience. “That’s the only thing I can think of, that he really only had two seasons of live-game kicking,” Davis said. Davis, by the way, is competing with partner Dan Mullen in the Chick-fil-A golf tournament that puts current coaches with former players. They have been paired with the Georgia team. Mullen vs. Kirby Smart, Round 1.
11. People get the wrong idea about me when it comes to recruiting. No, I don’t slobber all over commitments or spend too much time worrying about recruiting rankings, but I do understand the importance of getting the best players possible. The development part of it is just as important as getting players with a lot of stars after their names. The NFL draft is a good example in that half of the first-round picks were rated as three stars or lower. It doesn’t mean you don’t want to get five stars, but if you see potential in a player and can bring the best out of him through weight training and coaching, you’re going to be fine.
12. Florida’s win in baseball Saturday was huge when it comes to the SEC race because it gave the Gators a three-game lead over Arkansas and four over Georgia and Ole Miss with nine conference games to go. The conference in baseball feels a lot like it did in basketball with a lot of teams bunched up in the middle. In fact, there are eight teams with SEC records between 12-9 and 10-11. One of those 10-11 teams is LSU, which made the CWS final last year (duh) but is struggling mightily this year, especially away from home where the Tigers are 3-12. Here’s a look at the records (in order by wins) of last year’s College World Series teams:
• Florida 36-10.
• Oregon State 32-7
• Texas A&M 32-12
• FSU 31-14.
• Louisville 29-14.
• LSU 26-19.
• TCU 22-18.
• Cal State Fullerton 22-20.
Cal State started the year 1-7 and is fighting to get back to a regional. It just goes to show that it can be difficult to maintain success and illustrates the job Kevin O’Sullivan has done with his program.
13. With only a series at Missouri remaining in the regular season, the Florida softball team needs only one win or one Georgia loss to clinch at least a tie for another SEC title. Sunday’s come-from-behind win was huge in that respect. Florida has also basically clinched home field for the regionals and super regionals, which is the goal when the season begins. And the Gators are tough to beat at home with a 28-2 record. Still, there are no guarantees.
14. If you are like me (which means you have to find parking at Gator baseball and softball games), you probably have wondered what it is going to be like starting in 2020 when both baseball and softball will be in the same general area and have home games on the same days and sometimes (because of TV) at the same times. And it will be a bigger issue when lacrosse also has a match one of those weekend days at home. “A lot of shuttles,” Florida AD Scott Stricklin told me. The good news is that when softball is playing and baseball is not, there will be more than 300 available parking spaces at the baseball stadium. The bad news is when all of them are at home at the same time. A little help, SEC office. In the last two seasons, both baseball and softball played at home 11 times on the same weekend.
15. The LeBron legacy certainly grew with the Game 7 performance against the Pacers by LeBron James and it’s why it feels foolish to pick anybody but the Cavs to go to the Finals. When he decides to take over an important game, there’s not much anybody can do. And it’s why any comparisons to Michael Jordan when we’re talking about the greatest ever are premature until LeBron’s career is over. It’s not just about stats. It’s about championships.
16. I’m looking forward to seeing Billy Horschel at The Players next week although we have already decided most of our talk will be about Gator football. The former UF golfer notched his fifth win on the PGA Tour playing with Scott Piercy in the team format. Horschel said he wasn’t a big fan of the way they did the tournament this year at first, but he warmed up to the idea. Then, he got hot. His putting was the difference. Could not be happier for one of the really good guys in sports.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from author Matt Haig — “I’m bored of the perpetual anger of Twitter. I’m bored of finding something to be angry about within five minutes of logging on. I’m bored of all the preaching and screeching to the converted. I want to see sunflowers instead.” This hit me where I live. Twitter has become so vile that I am going to ease away from constantly checking it for breaking news. I will continue to Tweet, but maybe the answer is to purge a long list of followers. I just know I have to do something.
18. I’ve had several people ask lately where I get the songs that I use in this column. Some of them are suggested, some I hear on Sirius (usually on the Spectrum or North Americana channels), some I find on iTunes, some I hear on TV or movie soundtracks and look them up. A long time ago, I had a self-realization that if you only like the songs you already like, you never get to enjoy any new music. This is a really long way to introduce my latest playlist:
• “Fiddlers Green” by The Tragically Hip.
• “Sugar” by The Why Oh Whys.
• “Hey Ma” by Family of the Year, a song that hit me hard because it would have been my mother’s birthday this weekend.
• “Waiting for the Sun” by The Jayhawks.
• And for an old one, it doesn’t get much better than “Shelter From The Storm” by Bob Dylan.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.