The Back Nine: Wait, what? UF baseball, softball seasons over

Florida players at McKethan Stadium. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)

The Back Nine comes at you after an emotional weekend when my daughter turned 18 and graduated high school. How did she get so old?

10. Of course, there was a lot of attention on the sports that require bats and balls over the weekend and sad endings for both baseball and softball. And yet they were appropriate ones, given how their seasons went. Softball was eliminated not because it couldn’t get anyone out Saturday against Alabama, but because the Gators again couldn’t get the big hit on Thursday. And I’m not sure this team had a chance once it lost that first game. Baseball lost because of pitching, although I’m not sure I have ever seen a team give up nine runs in an inning and none the rest of the game. I felt all along like anything after Florida got in and after softball went to Oklahoma City was gravy. Still, it’s a strange feeling to have both seasons over on June 2. That has happened where both were done only once since 2008.

11. Certainly, it was a class move by Tim Walton to put Kelly Barnhill back in the game for one pitch so she could end her career on a standing ovation. Barnhill’s career places her among the all-time greats, as does fellow senior Amanda Lorenz’s. “Where it gets emotional is that I won’t be able to coach them again,” Walton said. “They are really good people.” So are the seniors who are leaving the baseball team. It’s part of living in a college town that we get to know these young men and women and we also know that we are just borrowing them for four or five years. In the end, the impact they have on an athletic program pales in comparison to what they do in the community, what kind of teammates they are, how they have affected the lives of children and less fortunate. And all of these seniors who are leaving us from those two sports made this community a better place to live.

12. Now let’s get down to the serious stuff — legalized boozing at Florida Field. I exaggerate, of course, because I’m sure there are some stuffed shirts who are imagining all heck is going to break loose now that the SEC has approved beer and wine sales at stadiums. Some SEC schools have already said they won’t sell it, some will and some — like Florida — are still deciding. Three reasons the league approved the sale of alcohol:

1. It’s another revenue stream (although not that much to put a dent on all of the facility upgrades around this conference).

2. It’s another effort to put fannies in seats. Again, it will help, but I don’t think it will be significant. On the other hand, the league and college football need to try something to stop the hemorrhaging of fans attending games.

3. All of the studies have shown fans are less likely to binge drink in the parking lot if they can buy a cold one inside and less incidents have been reported at places who do sell beer and wine at their games.

Now, if we can do something about selling it in the press boxes of the SEC. I kid, of course, but it is going to be interesting to see if there is an impact or not. Personally, I think it’s going to end up being much ado about nothing.

13. Now that everything is done for the year except track and field (NCAAs start Wednesday), there is kind of an empty feeling. It won’t last long. Shoot, SEC Media Days will be starting in 41 days if you need a countdown clock to something. It’s going to be strange to have the same 14 coaches back for this year’s clambake, something that hasn’t happened in 13 years. Math tells you it won’t happen again, because someone has to lose every one of the games you’re looking forward to. Just, please, as we get ready for talking season, nobody refer to Aug. 24 as Week Zero. It’s Week One. Just accept it. Or I‘m coming through my radio at you. Anyway, we are planning to do some things to get you through the doldrums of the summer starting with an unscheduled “Dooley Noted” podcast that should be up sometime Tuesday afternoon. There’s a lot to talk about.

14. One thing you have to love about the talking heads — the TV googans, not the band — is the way they will dismiss a series as being over based on what happens in one game. Yes, I like the Warriors’ position after stealing one in Toronto, but there is a long way to go. Maybe if Golden State wins this one with so many guys either injured or hobbling this team will get the credit for being a pure dynasty rather than blaming it on injuries to opponents. Go Dubs.

15. It seems that about every three years someone with a loud voice talks about moving the Florida-Georgia game out of Jacksonville. In 1984, it was my voice, I wrote a long piece on why it needed to move and get out of the stank Gator Bowl. It didn’t. And it won’t. Kirby Smart got this one started when he complained about losing a recruiting weekend. Yeah, it’s just devastating Georgia’s recruiting to have to play that game in Jax. It would be a shame to see it ever move and I don’t think it will. But we are living in a different world now in terms of scheduling. Anything is possible. Maybe Texas and Oklahoma could play in Jacksonville.

16. It’s game week. The 25th Bob Dooley Invitational to help Stop Children’s Cancer is Saturday. I am excited, nervous and praying to the weather gods. If anyone wants to come out to Ironwood and bid on silent auction items during the day you are more than welcome. It’s all about raising the most money possible. We have some unbelievable stuff, including one item that I’ve been offered a lot of money to pull, but that’s not how I roll.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Ken Suguira of the Atlanta Journal Constitution — “I’ve learned today that Chanticleers is pronounced “SHON-ti-cleers.” It’s a rooster, derived from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I think that’s where Miami got Hurricanes from, too.” Ah, there is nothing like time to kill at a baseball regional.

18. As the knee continues to heal, there has been some pool time for this ink-stained wretch and that means a new playlist.

• “Sleeping on the Blacktop” by Colter Wall.

• “It Will Follow the Rain” by The Tallest Man on Earth.

• “Couch Song” by Sera Cahoone.

• “Murder Ballad in G Minor” by The Rosewood Thieves.

• And for an old one because I have been having this discussion with myself over the Beatles album you’d most like to take on a desert island (surprisingly, not many people have joined in), “Sexy Sadie” by The Beatles from the White Album and let the discussion begin.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at


  1. I, too, felt all along like anything after Florida got in and after softball went to Oklahoma City was gravy, and if there’s icing, it’s that the younger players got the experience of participating in post season play. Also, sometimes you can’t appreciate how great a program is until they don’t meet their expectations or those of others.

    As for alcohol sales, the biggest factor in making it lucrative is pricing. You go to any event and expect to pay between $10 and $16.50 for a 25 oz beer. It’s obscene. And if the prices ARE that high, experts at sneaking in alcohol (boy, have I stories to tell!) will continue to do so. The only properly priced beer sales I’ve seen in a long time occur only on Friday nights at Rays home games, and only on the Budweiser Porch in center field. That’s also the night you can purchase tickets for $7.11 with 7/11 coupons.

    And the game will remain in Jax.

  2. Pat, Phil, my feelings exactly on the endings for both baseball and softball seasons. Both had up and down seasons with each lacking the firepower in critical areas (pitching for baseball and offense for softball) to win their respective championships. Sully will need to get his pitchers to throw strikes and Walton to get his players to swing at them. The fact that both got into their respective NCAA tourneys was a positive that should be embraced, especially the young women getting to Oklahoma City. And kudos to Kelly Barnhill, who was as much a warrior as any player I’ve seen over 4 years, putting her team on her back and taking the ball game after game. I’m surprised her arm hasn’t fallen off! Looking forward to next season for both, and the new baseball stadium, whenever it gets built.

    • Agree, Dan. The only thing I’d add is that Coach Walton may have to figure out a pitching rotation, also. Next season will be the first in ten years without an obvious heir apparent in the role of ace. Stacey Nelson was followed by Stephanie Brombacher, then Hannah Rogers, then Lauren Haeger, then Delanie Gourley, then Kelly Barnhill. That line of succession was pretty much established while the previous ace was still pitching. I don’t think that’s the case now.

      • Joe, great point. I think the baseball team was hurt this season without a true ace to lead them, and that is a spot that basically plays one game a week. Most softball team’s ace pitch the majority of the innings throughout the season, so you are spot on with the need for Walton to fill this critical role. A couple years back he had the luxury of Gurley, Barnhill and Ocasio together. At this point, Kelly pitched so many innings this season that he didn’t have much opportunity to groom the next ace from the current roster. Will be interesting to see. Thanks.