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The Right Direction

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Back during those dark and depressing years of Steve Lavin many of us would cringe after the last games of his underachieving seasons to hear sentiments to the effect of how we should all take solace in "a gratifying season". In Dorrell’s case we now hear the clichés of "growing," "learning" and how the program is supposedly making "progress" and headed towards the right direction. Obviously both of those coaches came across as laughable caricatures of incompetence and mediocrity expressing those end-of-the-season sentiments given their teams underachieving results year after year. Luckily for us the Lavin nightmare is over. While the Dorrell show is still in business in Westwood, the performances of our basketball team and now our baseball program, are only helping to make our cases of what successful program, that are on the upswing, producing tangible results, showing progress look like at UCLA.

The baseball season came to an end last night in the OC. Freshman southpaw Gavin Brooks brought his A game to the biggest game of the season, putting together a phenomenal performance. But he and his team just came up short losing by a score 1-2 to one of the perennial powerhouse programs from Southern California. Sure we are disappointed. Losing is never fun. And this is not the place where you will find Bruin fans reveling in moral victories like bunch of self-hating losers just so they feel good about their incompetent coaching staff. But the feeling around our baseball program is right now is the identical one we have been experiencing following Ben Ball warriors.

Something special is happening with UCLA baseball. It is unmistakable. He inherited a program, which pretty much was dead. It was going nowhere producing mediocre to below average seasons year after year despite having wealth of talent who were coming to Westwood, just so they could be associate with the magical four letter words in blue and gold. But in three years Savage has put together a program which made clear and discernable progress from one year to the next (no tourney – regional appearance – super regional). He has turned out to be a superb recruiter building a team in a methodical manner so that the Bruins find themselves going into his four year with a program, which is going to be poised to achieved higher goals with a nucleus of sophomores and juniors, while another class full of blue chip recruits on the way.

And there is Savage’s track record. If anyone wants to question why we have so much faith in Savage’s abilities, then he or she should read the story about UCI, which just advanced to CWS. From the LA Times:

From 1993 through 2001, UC Irvine baseball was dead. It's alive today.

With the Anteaters' 3-2 victory over Wichita State (53-22) in a super regional Sunday in Kansas, Irvine (45-15-1) advanced to the College World Series only six seasons after reviving a program that was disbanded for nearly a decade. Irvine won the best-of-three series in two games.
And who built that program from scratch (just like a certain basketball coach we are in love with built a program from scratch in Pittsburgh).

Just like Howland Savage is getting it done in Westwood. And just like Howland, he is poised to take UCLA baseball to higher places. Because of those feelings it’s not an empty cliché when we say the 2007 season was a gratifying one for UCLA baseball. We are proud of our team. And we are beyond excited about its future prospects already looking forward to what it’s going to achieve in 2008.

In the coming years we are going to have more and more Bruin fans getting interested in baseball. I guess the attendance level of Bruin fans was disappointing this past weekend at Fullerton. But we are just starting. We are going to do our part to talk up UCLA baseball. However, we all also need the athletic department to show firm commitment to this sport by getting done the upgrades for Jackie Robinson Stadium, that are necessary for UCLA to host super regionals in the near future. As we mentioned in the comment thread, necessary upgrades for Jackie Robinson Stadium and Pauley renovation are not mutually exclusive. UCLA athletic department should strive to accomplish both goals in the coming years. If not we will be hear to keep the pressure on.

Lastly, please join me in extending a huge thank you to ryebreadaz for keep is appraised about UCLA baseball from start to finish of this wonderful season. I have already said this before and I will say it again. We are lucky to have the best college baseball blogger to keep us informed about Bruin baseball week after week. I know I have become a more informed and interested college baseball fan, and my own interest in this sport has shot up few decibels thanks to thanks to rye’s Ace posts week after week.

For now we need say once how incredibly proud we are of our baseball program. We have no doubt that John Savage, just like Ben Howland in hoops, has our program heading in the right direction. We just hope we will have the sentiments at the end of football season in 2007 (otherwise we will need to get ourselves a coach who will produce results like Savage or Howland).

GO BRUINS.