On the day he was named Ohio State’s baseball coach, Greg Beals stood behind a lectern on the third-base line of Bill Davis Stadium and envisioned the Buckeyes playing in front of capacity crowds.
Never, though, did he think those games would be scheduled on a football Saturday in September and October.
But to have Northern teams avoid playing as many as five straight weekends thousands of miles from home in February and March, Purdue coach Doug Schreiber received the Big Ten’s support to gauge interest nationwide in allowing college teams to play games that count in the fall.
Big Ten deputy commissioner Brad Traviolia has said he doesn’t know whether or when such a proposal would be sent to the NCAA. Schreiber said his idea got lukewarm interest during an American Baseball Coaches Association meeting in January.
The college season begins in mid-February. Ohio State played its first 15 games in Sarasota, Fla.; Port Charlotte, Fla.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; and DeLand, Fla.
Beals, whose Buckeyes (21-10, 5-4) open a three-game series at Nebraska (13-17, 7-2) at 5:05 tonight, thinks Schreiber’s proposal has merit.
“I’ve given it a lot of thought, and it’s something I believe in, to a certain extent,” he said. “At Ohio State, you can stir a lot of interest in the fall, when the weather is a little better. At the same time, I do want to play a majority of the season in the spring. I don’t want to leave the union, so to speak.”
If teams eventually play in the fall, they still would be limited to 56 regular-season games. For example, a team that plays 10 games in the fall would play 46 in the spring.
Schreiber favors a maximum of 14 games in the fall. Indiana coach Tracy Smith said four to six games would be a good starting point.
Whatever the limit, Beals said most of those games probably would be against Midwestern and eastern teams because warm-weather teams would have little interest in playing at that time of year.
“I could see playing at noon on a football weekend,” Beals said. “Ohio State played Central Florida in football last fall, so it would be a good idea to play Central Florida in baseball. Then you return the game (by playing in Florida) the next year.”
Playing in the fall, Beals said, would eliminate some midweek games or an entire Southern trip in the spring.
“Playing midweek games and then getting ready for Big Ten games is a scramble,” he said.
Junior outfielder Mike Carroll said fall games would be a big change.
“I think it would be interesting, especially with the possibility of playing in front of that many fans,” he said. “Right now, we don’t have a lot of time off in the spring. But fall ball is a time when players, especially the freshmen, prepare for the season.”
Sophomore pitcher Jake Post wouldn’t want to see a change. A strong argument against fall baseball is that pitchers would be throwing in game situations from January through mid-October.
“I do like the midweek games because, as a young player, you are zeroed in on them,” he said. “It gives young players a chance to play. We do have a fall season as it is. We go all out during intrasquad games.”