One of the great things about Out Of The Park Developments baseball simulation software, OOTP, is the users ability to create whatever world they want or can imagine. This could be something completely fictional, semi-fictional or even a historical replay. As all baseball fans know, if we could change one decision or one at bat, the results of baseball history could have been completely different. So, seeing as how I live in a college town, I researched the evolution of college baseball. And I wondered, what would collegiate baseball look like if it were more like modern-day football and basketball? How differently would baseball history have turned out if there were no minor leagues for teams to develop their talent? What if the players had to play collegiate baseball before they could go pro? Where would some of the greatest players the game has ever known have gone to college? And if that weren’t enough, how would they do over a four-year period?
Have I got your interest peaked? Good. So, I created a semi-fictional world of collegiate baseball. It roughly mirrors which universities and colleges had teams first and how it evolved. The only catch is, I don’t delete teams whose programs were closed by their respective schools. They’ll live on here, playing in regions first and conferences later, as they develop. The Collegiate Baseball Association starts with 14 teams in three regions in the northeast part of the United States. By the time we reach 2016, there will be 354 teams throughout ten regions and many conferences. The teams will include any team which played at the Division 1 level, regardless whether they still do today. The teams play a 60 game schedule and four teams make the playoffs, with three regional winners and one wild card. The playoffs are a best of three series, with a home-away-home format. While the playoffs will change over time, the playoff 1-1-1 format will remain.
The inaugural season begins in 1871 and follows the development of the league through its first commissioner, James Herring, and his successors. James begins this inaugural season like most young leagues, with anticipation and caution. He tours each team’s facilities and meets with their staffs. He worries about the success of the association and attendance numbers. A much more detailed version is posted in the OOTP message boards, which you can read here. For the sake of this blog, I’m only posting yearly reviews.
The 1871 season consisted of fictional players, but starting the following year, historical major league players will be introduced to the association, supplemented by fictional players. The first season of the Collegiate Baseball Association finished up better than I could imagined. After sixty games, there was a tie for the wild card spot between Syracuse and Penn, who both finished 35-25. As a result, Syracuse traveled to Philadelphia for a 61st game. The Orange prevailed and faced off against the best team in the association, the Yale Bulldogs. Yale finished up their year at 43-17 and won the New England Region by 13 games. Princeton (37-23), winners of the Northeast Region, traveled to Villanova (41-19), winners of the Atlantic Region. Syracuse managed to upset Yale, two games to one, while Princeton pulled the upset on Villanova, two games to none. So, Syracuse and Princeton faced off for the first Collegiate Championship Series. While the Orange took Game 1 of the series, Princeton won games 2 & 3 with some late inning heroics to take the title. Princeton looks like they could be in contention for the next few years, thanks to their freshman pitching phenom Jon Richmond.
Following the season’s end, some administrators and coaches were relieved of their duties and awards were handed out. Freshman first baseman Nick Swan (Brown) won the batting title after he finished the season at .381, with 0 HR and 46 RBI. Noah Breault (Yale) won the Manager of the Year award. The Pitcher of the Year went to freshman Kyle “Rebel” Brown (Yale), after he finished his season at 33-11, with a 2.90 earned run average. Finally, junior Luke “Tired” Rising (Penn) was named the association’s Most Valuable Player. Rising hit .376 for the season, with 1 HR and 57 RBI.
With the off-season, players were lost to graduation. The two most notable losses were Syracuse’s starting pitcher Joel Weary and Yale catcher Jake Hurd. Weary finished the season 31-23, with a 3.05 ERA, while Hurd hit .350, with 2 HR and 58 RBI. New players were introduced in the off-season in the form of incoming freshman for the 1872 season. First baseman “Orator Jim” O’ Rourke signed with Brown. O’ Rourke played professional baseball for 22 years (1872-93) and finished with a .311 lifetime batting average. 23-year-old Candy Cummings signed to play a single season for Villanova. Cummings is credited with inventing the curveball. Left fielder Paul Hines also signed with Brown. Hines played 21 years in professional baseball, finishing with a .302 lifetime batting average. Second baseman “Blackjack” Burdock signed with the champion Princeton Tigers. Burdock played 18 seasons of professional ball over his career. Obviously, there were many others. Some only played a single season, while others played many years in the pros. But they live on here, in the world of the Collegiate Baseball Association.
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