Thursday was a double-duty day for us on the Going Yard trip, with another quick stop at USC before heading north to see NAIA powerhouse Azusa Pacific University.
While we were still in L.A., we swung back over to Dedeaux Field again, this time to chat with freshman catcher Robert Stock, who left high school a year early to come play for the Trojans. Sure, we were just at USC the other night, but we didn't want to leave any unsolved mysteries. No, wait. That was Robert Stack.
Stock gave us a quick tour of some of the USC campus where we got to see some college staples, like the random campus protest, and some unusual sights, like the flea market-like tents set up selling such wares as pepper spray. Because you can never be too safe.
The first thing we noticed in talking to Stock was how mature he was. If you didn't know that he arrived on campus as a 16-year-old with braces after leaving Agoura High School before his senior year, you wouldn't guess it from talking to him. Even some veteran players we've encountered get a bit of the deer-in-headlights look when the camera goes on, but Stock was easy going and relaxed like he'd been giving interviews all his life.
Plus, he was hardly wide-eyed about the whole college experience, which is impressive not just because most of his friends are still changing classes at the ring of a bell but also because he didn't even get to campus until two days after classes started. His dad came into his room and said, "We're going to USC" once word came in that Robert could enroll early. So he got stuck taking whatever classes were available. This sounded like a real hardship when he first mentioned it, right up until he mentioned one of those was a film class that was visited by several cast members of The Office. Makes us wonder what the popular classes are.
Of course, you're wondering: Does he still get to go to his senior prom? Well, he's hoping he doesn't because it conflicts with NCAA Regionals. So if Stock is with his girlfriend at the prom, it means the Trojans are out of the College World Series hunt. He says his girlfriend understands and doesn't mind that he's rooting for Regionals over prom. But this is one case in which Stock's youth betrays him: Dude, no matter what she says, she wants you at the prom.
Thank you, come again.
After hanging with Stock, we headed north to Azusa to watch the Cougars, who are the No. 2 team in NAIA baseball, take on Concordia. This being our first adventure outside NCAA-sanctioned college baseball, we learned that the NAIA has some funky rules, like the "courtesy runner" rule, which allows teams to pinch-run for the catcher any time he reaches base while keeping him in the game. Another oddity is that any player that started the game can re-enter it after leaving, provided it's not the pitcher or designated hitter.
Azusa Pacific's star player, senior catcher Stephen Vogt had plenty of reason to celebrate this week. The three-time All-American proposed to his girlfriend, APU basketball player Alyssa Ferdaszewski, on Monday and then had a career game Tuesday, racking up four extra-base hits. Three of those were doubles and one was a grand slam, helping him to a career-high six RBI. Not a bad couple of days for Vogt.
It only got better today when he increased the Cougars' school-record winning streak to 23 games with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to beat Concordia 14-13 . It was his second homer of the day.
A couple of notable fans were here at APU as well. One is a local homeless man who watches from beyond the right-field fence. He whistles throughout the game, and the Cougars' players and coaches periodically whistle back at him. He also shouts "two! two! two!" a lot, something he picked up from listening to the players. The other fan of interest is Eric Calhoun, a blind man who enjoys the game from the bleachers. Despite not being able to see, he always knows the count and what's going on in the game thanks to helpful fans around him. Plus, he has a sense of humor, constantly riding the umpires with heckles like, "Come on, Blue! How can you call that a strike?!"
"Dude, you forgot the milk."
A quick stop into the student cafe at Azusa Pacific also yielded some interesting knowledge about its sports history. First off, there was a wall of tribute to the school's most famous football alum, Christian Okoye, a.k.a. The Nigerian Nightmare. On top of that, APU was the amateur home of Dave Johnson, of 1992 Olympics "Dan and Dave" decathlon fame. In fact, Azusa has had six Olympic medalists in its history.
The Nigerian Nightmare is much beloved here.