Welcome to the special Fathers Day Edition of Rounding the Belt, your MAC roundtable of all the news, happenings and MACtion this past week. Joining us, as always, are three highly esteemed MAC writers from Hustle Belt. This week's panelists are Keith Scheessele (@BSUKeith), Max Lowe (@lowe1md) and the pseudonymous thechuck_2112 (@laplanck). Without further ado, let's get right into it:
Nick Harney just transferred from Akron, which can only mean basketball season is right around the corner. Who's your early season favorite?
Keith: It's the Toledo Rockets, and it's Toledo by a lot. This is a Rockets team that should have won the MAC Tournament last season. The Rockets began the season on a 12 game winning streak before giving Kansas all they could handle in a nationally televised game. In the conference championship they hung with Western Michigan for a half before the Broncos blew them out and cruised to an easy win. By many measures last season was the most successful in Toledo history. The Rockets will return four starters from a team that lead the MAC in scoring last season. Take the Rockets while the odds are fat.
Max: I'm with Keith in that the Rockets are the odds-on favorite, but I'm going to make a sleeper pick: Eastern Michigan. Rob Murphy, a Jim Boeheim protege, has done an incredible building job there in only three years, and the Eagles have some momentum going into the offseason after their first postseason appearance in over a decade last year. The Eagles return two of their best players in Karrington Ward and Mike Talley, both of whom will be playing their final season at the college level. There's the sense out of Ypsilanti that something big is coming, and hopefully this year the fan base will show up and see what might be their best basketball team in recent memory.
thechuck_2112: Everyone is going to say the Toledo Rockets, and with good reason. But I like Max's sleeper pick of Eastern Michigan. My other dark horse is the Ohio Bobcats. They have a coach who, unlike Jim Christian, actually wants to be there. (He may well bolt at the first opportunity, but unlike Christian, it seems Saul Phillips is truly excited to have OU as a place in his career, rather than being "meh" about biding time.) And I think that's huge. Ohio has regularly had the talent to be in contention for a MAC title in the past few years, but when Jim Christian is so abrasive that seniors quit the team rather than play postseason games, you know there's something wrong. I know the Bobcats lose some big talent like Nick Kellogg, but when you combine the people they have in place with the right coach, I think they could go places.
15 MAC players got chosen in the MLB Draft. Do you expect to see any in the Majors?
Keith: Jordan Foley of Central Michigan. Like Alex stated in his review of MAC draft picks, Foley is thought by many scouts to be "the most MLB-ready prospect in the conference." Getting drafted to the Yankees certainly helps. As New York slides further and further away from the glory days of Jeter/Posada/Rivera, and with the death of George Steinbrenner in 2010, I think we will eventually see a departure from the "buying pennants" mentality of old. Further emphasis will be placed on the farm system, and that will create opportunities for players like Foley.
Max: Absolutely Jordan Foley. Foley has a tremendous pitching repertoire at his disposal; he gets great velocity on his fastball and has a good slider and changeup as well. His control has improved each of the three seasons he's been at Central Michigan, and should continue to get better as he works his way up through the minor leagues. I could see Foley getting playing time on a major league team as early as 2016 if his development pans out like it should.
thechuck_2112: Jordan Foley. Absolutely, and for all the reasons Keith and Max said. I also think Seth Varner of the Miami RedHawks stands a good chance at eventually making it. The Reds have been scouting him since high school (he's from Batavia, Ohio), and they know very well what they're getting. While baseball teams always like to do "local kid makes good" picks in the draft, it's not something you do on day one unless you think there's really a chance he'll make the bigs.
Western Michigan is getting a bit crazy with their recruiting. What's on your business card?
Keith: Actually, just within the last week I received new business cards. I disputed the new layout, as it reads top to bottom, unlike the old ones that read left to right. When asked what I wanted the cards to read, outside of the obvious information, I wrote down "Keith Scheessele, BS." I received my degree from Ball State in Sociology. My buddy Josh is always reminding me that Sociology is a "soft science." Still a science, jackass.
Max: My business card has my name, my position, and my contact info; it's to the point and accomplishes what people need it for. Coach Fleck can keep pulling all the PR stunts he wants, but they're going to start wearing real thin on the Western Michigan fan base if he doesn't start winning some football games.
thechuck_2112: I don't have a business card. I do not have a job. PLEASE HIRE ME TO WORK AT YOUR LAW FIRM, HUSTLE BELT READERS BASED IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.
BONUS QUESTION: It's Fathers' Day. My dad recently told me "write with more snark. I only read things with snark." Love ya pops! What's the best advice your dad gave you?
Keith: The best piece of advice that my father gave me he repeats still today, and I'm convinced every time I hear it, he thinks it's the first time he's said it. The story always starts the same. "Keith, you know, when I play ball at the Y, things get a little heated, hard fouls, people get upset. But inside the gym, just inside the doors, there's a big sign on the wall. Know what that sign reads?" I always respond, "Tell me," even though I've heard this story hundreds of times. "Keith that sign says, 'Think Before You Speak.'" The enthusiasm present when he describes that sign is staggering. It works though, I repeat that to my employees all the time.
Max: Maybe it's because of Keith's, but the best one I can think of right now is this: "Don't put anything in writing or on the internet that you wouldn't want on the front page of every newspaper tomorrow." I got this advice at the dawn of the social media age, back when Myspace was just starting to become a thing. It's advice that rings truer and truer every day.
Runner Up: The first time I ever played catch with my dad, he kept telling me to "Catch the ball affirmatively." I was either three or four years old at the time, and if I'm not mistaken, "affirmatively" is not a word in the vocabulary of most kids that age. I'm sure it sounded very impressive to me, although I don't think I was able to apply it.
thechuck_2112: My father is a blacksmith, owner of a blacksmith shop that has been in my family since 1887. But he didn't set out to be a blacksmith; instead, he wanted to be a history professor, and he has a PhD in medieval history. For various reasons, academia didn't pan out, and he moved back home to take over the family business. (Before you ask, Hustle Belt readers based in Southern California who might hire me to work at your law firm, I have no desire to do that. I worked at the shop. If you happen to go to football games at a certain high school stadium in Southeastern Ohio, I built all the railings. That is not what I want to do for a living.) So while my dad isn't the kind of person who gives advice in the form of a perfect aphorism or good story, his life experience certainly taught this: even if your life doesn't turn out the way you planned, you can still have a pretty damned good one.
Happy Fathers Day to all. Join us next week when we discuss the implication of time travel on the MAC non-conference schedule and all other things Rounding the Belt.