Yes, baseball is finally back on the blog! We kick the 2014 season off with some of the highlights from the Irish Classic. This year’s Irish Classic, hosted by Notre Dame at the USA Baseball complex, boasted an impressive resume of teams including defending national champions UCLA. NC State, Michigan, Appalachian State and Youngstown State also participated.
If you have not been to a game at the USA Baseball National Training Complex, you are missing out! It is beautiful! As a photographer, there are few places I enjoy shooting at more. The lighting is always great. The games are always exciting. It is impossible to walk away without a few gems.
As a fan, there is no place better to get up close to such great talent. You will be feet away from players that you know will make the show. Want to stand next to Carlos Rodon while he throws a bullben session? How about watching guys like Bryce Harper or Mike Trout hit homers a few feet in front of you? And you can do it all while enjoying your hot dog! Seriously, come out to a game!
The thing I love most about shooting for USA Baseball is meeting these incredible players and watching them take their games to the next level. I first met Ty Moore back in 2011 when he was trying out for the USA Baseball 18U national team. A year later, Ty was back with his Mater Dei teammates and took the first National High School Invitational by storm. He was electric and so much fun to cover.
When UCLA was announced as one of the 2014 Irish Classic teams, I immediately sent messages to Ty and his dad. He was once again returning to Cary, and I was beyond excited!
This year’s Irish Classic brought in several players from the 2012 & 2013 National Collegiate Team. David Berg of UCLA and Carlos Rodon and Trea Turner of NC State were all back on the field at the USA Baseball Complex. Although I will admit, after covering them the last 2 years on the collegiate team, it was a little weird seeing them play on that field with something other than USA across their chests.
There were several interesting story lines to follow during the tournament. The first was arch rivals Michigan and Notre Dame squaring off to start the second day of action. No matter what the sport, any time Michigan and Notre Dame face off, it is intense. Both teams got great pitching performances from their starters. Notre Dame scored two runs late. Just as it looked like they had sealed the deal, Michigan stormed back with two runs of their own. Michigan went on to win 4-2 in the 10th.
The other great story line from the Irish Classic was the Omaha rematch of UCLA and NC State. Just how big was this game? NC State held off throwing their ace, Carlos Rodon, on Friday night so that he would pitch against UCLA on Saturday. The stadium was filled to its limits with Wolfpack fans (and a brave few donning the UCLA blue).
It was a thrilling game! UCLA’s pitching was dominant and ultimately shut out NC State in a 2-0 win.
Man, what a great weekend of college baseball! The games were top notch, and the weather was good (at least it didn’t rain this year!). Notre Dame and USA Baseball have set the bar high for the 2015 Irish Classic.