BEVO BEAT

Breakfast with Bevo: Baseball steps up to the plate

Posted January 24th, 2014

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Good morning. Breakfast is served.

It’s January 24th: 24 down, 341 to go.

And 12 till national signing day.

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YESTERDAY: An arctic blast hit Austin, bringing sleet with it. The Houston Astros’ winter caravan rolled into town. The Cleveland Browns hired Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as their head coach. Tiger Woods made his 2014 debut with an even-par 72 at Torrey Pines, in 63rd place at the Farmers Insurance Open. His playing partner, former Longhorns standout Jordan Spieth, is tied for 46th at 1-under. And former Longhorns Eric Metcalf (46) and Phil Dawson (39) celebrated birthdays.

TODAY: Will we get … snow? More cold weather, for sure; AISD has called off classes. The Astros caravan wraps up with a free autograph signing (5-6 p.m., Academy Sports and Outdoors, 12250 Research Blvd.) with All-Star catcher Jason Castro, outfield prospect George Springer and former ‘Stros Jeff Kent and Alan Ashby. And tickets go on sale for Austin’s inaugural Games this June.

TOMORROW: The Texas men play at Baylor (12:45 p.m.) and the women host West Virginia (3 p.m., Erwin Center, Longhorn Network). Li Na and Dominika Cibulkova meet in the Australian Open women’s final (2:30 a.m., ESPN).

Jan. 24 has a sports history. On this date, the 49ers beat the Bengals in Super Bowl XVI (1982); Joe Namath retired after 13 years (1978); Jackie Robinson became the first African-American elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame (1962); Dallas got its first NFL team — the Dallas Texans, formerly known as the New York Yanks (1952); Robinson, 12 years before his Hall of Fame election, signed the highest contract in Dodgers history — $35,000 (1950); and the NFL made two important rules additions — a sudden death for playoff games and a fifth field official called the back judge (1947).

Last year on Jan. 24, former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o played three recorded voicemails for Katie Couric, including someone posing as his “girlfriend” saying “I love you.” … Former Longhorns All-American Russell Erxleben was arrested for running an illegal Ponzi investment scheme. … And former UH quarterback Case Keenum signed a reserve/future contract with the Houston Texans.

Today’s sports birthdays: Texans linebacker Brian Cushing (27), Oakland A’s pitcher Scott Kazmir (30), Olympic gold gymnast Mary Lou Retton (46). Other notables: Neil Diamond (73).

And a tip of the cap to the late, great John Belushi, who would’ve turned 65 today.

TODAY’S TRIVIA: Which former Longhorns quarterback married Mary Lou Retton in 1990, six years after her gold medal at the Los Angeles Games? (Answer is below.)

THE LEAD: Texas baseball.

The two hot topics if you’re a Texas fan? Recruiting and men’s basketball.

National signing day is Feb. 5. Texas has 22 commitments. Charlie Strong and his coaches are zig-zagging across the state, wooing those last few targets and shoring up the class that Mack Brown started.

The Texas men are 15-4 and 4-2 in the Big 12, having won four straight games, including back-to-back Ws against nationally-ranked Iowa State and Kansas State. Next comes Baylor, on Saturday. ESPN’s bracketologist, Joe Lunardi, has Texas as a No. 8 seed in the West, facing New Mexico in the first round. We’ll see. The Longhorns are 34th in the RPI.

But today, let’s take a moment to think about baseball.

Texas baseball opens practice today, or at least is supposed to, the arctic blast acting like a season curve ball.

When last we saw the Longhorns, they were the odd team out in the eight-team Big 12 tournament. Offensively-challenged Texas went 27-24 last season. Not bad. But the Horns also were only 7-17 in the Big 12. That’s bad.

Pitching figures to be the team’s strength this year, over hitting. That’s been a familiar storyline. Six position players are back, led by senior outfielder Mark Payton, who hit .393 and is a preseason All-American. Top pitchers should be senior starter Nathan Thornhill, who had a 2.21 ERA, led the team in strikeouts and was drafted by the Astros in the 24th round last summer, and junior starter Dillon Peters, who went 6-3 with a 1.97 ERA and was a second-team All-Big 12 selection.

The season begins on the road, Feb. 14-16, at Cal. The annual alumni game will be Feb. 1 at Disch-Falk Field.

So, what’s being written out there about the Longhorns?

Charlie Strong‘s early get-tough stance against players is sending the right message, the Houston Chronicle’s Randy Harvey wrote, and the new Texas coach seems intent on putting the “student” back in student-athlete (pay story). Sports Illustrated’s Chris Johnson looked at one of the real keys to Texas’ surprising men’s basketball start — defense, which is not only saving the Longhorns, but also perhaps Rick Barnes‘ job.

AROUND THE BIG 12: Good news for Texas. The Big 12 may field a record number of teams in this year’s NCAA tournament, the Dallas Morning News’ Chuck Carlton writes. The Waco Tribune-Herald reported on the sad case of former Baylor defensive end Tevin Elliott, who was convicted Thursday of multiple counts of sexual assault and sentenced to 20 years in prison. There also was an update on the new McLane Stadium, which is about 60 percent done and on target for August. Texas Tech has dismissed right guard Beau Carpenter, who started seven games last season, for violating team rules, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported. The Daily Oklahoman, trying to figure out the destination for former Sooners quarterback Kendal Thompson, knows where the Sugar Bowl MVP won’t end up. The Tulsa World takes a look at how former OU defensive back Aaron Colvin, who tore his ACL on Tuesday during Senior Bowl practices, will see his NFL draft stock altered. And the Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger wrote on Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, who can’t control the expectations placed on him but can control what he does on the court.

COUNTDOWN TO SIGNING DAY: We’re 12 days away. On Thursday, ESPN announced that Texas will be one of 12 schools that’ll be featured on the network’s signing day coverage. Other schools are Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, LSU, Miami, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee and Texas A&M. The 12th school will be named later.

MACKTWEETS: Charting Mack’s full-force foray into the land of Twitter (@UT_MackBrown). Mack’s Thursday tweets:

First tweet: “One of life’s great rules is this: The more you give, the more you get.” — William H. Danforth.

Second tweet: Coach Royal told our seniors the following about giving in 1998. “What I gave I have and what I kept I lost.” We miss you Coach.

Mack, by the way, has nearly 57,000 Twitter followers.

AROUND THE FORTY ACRES: What else is going on around UT athletics?

Men’s basketball: At Baylor on Saturday, 12:45 p.m.

Women’s basketball: Hosting West Virginia on Saturday, 3 p.m. (LHN, KVET 1300).

Men’s swimming: Texas, ranked No. 3, hosts TCU in UT’s annual Senior Day meet on Friday, starting at 4 p.m. at the Jamail Texas Swimming Center. Senior swimmers will be honored at 3:30.

Women’s swimming: Ditto the women, who are ranked No. 6.

Track and field: Texas competes at the Cherry & Silver Collegiate Invitational today, in Albuquerque.

Men’s tennis: Hosting Auburn on Saturday, 10 a.m.

Women’s tennis: At Vanderbilt on Saturday, 10 a.m.

CLIFF CLAVIN’S LITTLE-KNOWN FACTS: Impress your friends. Three things of note that have happened on Jan. 24:

On Jan. 24, 1984: The first Apple Macintosh went on sale.

On Jan. 24, 1986: Voyager 2 passed within 50,600 miles of Uranus. Giggle.

On Jan. 24, 1908: The very first Boy Scout troop was organized in England by Robert Baden-Powell.

TODAY’S TRIVIA ANSWER: Mary Lou Retton married Shannon Kelly, who quarterbacked Texas in 1987 and 1988, in 1990.

TODAY’S LITTLE NUMBER: 1. Number of Longhorns who’ll be starting this year’s NBA All-Star Game. Kevin Durant, naturally, who was the West’s top vote-getter.

TODAY’S BIGGER NUMBER: 22. The number of commitments Texas has, two weeks before national signing day.

TODAY’S BIG NUMBER: 40/1. The odds of Earl Thomas being named Super Bowl MVP, according to Vegas.

OK, Breakfast is over. Thanks for stopping by.

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