POSTED ON APRIL 7, 2010:
Sprung into Sports Seasons
Warmer weather usually cools down sports -- not this time
Spanking New. ONEOK Field might be the shiny, new toy on the block, but there are still players to be seen when the Tulsa Drillers open the season on April 8.
This is supposed to be downtime for the city of Tulsa's sports scene. The off season I'm referring to includes everything outside of the college football season. By those standards, this is shaping up to be one of the busiest "off seasons" in T-Town history.
Our Talons ushered in the new AFL with a commanding victory against the Tampa Bay Storm. The question of whether the Talons could compete at the next level were answered in large part by quarterback Justin Allgood's eight touchdown passes.
Catch the Talons next home game against the Dallas Vigilantes Saturday, April 10 at 7pm. Visit tulsatalons.com for more information.
Unless you have been trapped inside an orange traffic cone, you know the Drillers open at ONEOK Field this week. More on the team (yes, more than a stadium) in a bit.
Tulsa inherited the D-League franchise now known as the 66ers prior to the 2005 season. Most assumed playoff caliber basketball was to follow. After all, the Ashville version of the same franchise won back-to-back NBDL (as it was called at the time) championships.
Fast forward to 2010. The Tulsa 66ers finally captured a playoff berth.
The 66ers is often viewed as the step-child of Tulsa sports. The Drillers have legacy. The Oilers have puck heads. The Talons have championships. For years, the 66ers vied for its just due.
The team appears to have taken its rightful place among Tulsa's elite. For starters, its singular affiliation with the Oklahoma City Thunder raised its marketability ten-fold. A savvy front office, smart coaches and dedicated players worked toward a common goal. The same could not be said in the past.
The D-League employs a genius playoff structure. A playoff structure that should be implemented in every sport. Eight teams make the playoffs. The top-three seeds pick who they want to face in the first round. How awesome does that sound?
Now, the playoff games have added intrigue. Lower seeds can use the underdog motivation and also play the lack of respect card. "Oh, you picked us because you think we'll be an easy out. Just wait."
Twenty-two different players balled for the 66ers this season. This is common due to the fluidity of the roster moves with call-ups and send-downs from NBA squads.
Mustafa Shakur, Larry Owens and Moses Ehambe are three constants. Owens and Ehambe played college ball at Oral Roberts.
The Sioux Falls Skyforce drew Tulsa in the first round of the D-League playoffs. The 66ers went 3-2 against the Skyforce during regular season play.
The best-of-three series begins Thursday, April 8 with a home game for the 66ers. Tip time is 12:30. No excuse T-Town. We have plenty of time for a basketball game, dinner, then Drillers baseball. I hereby proclaim April 8 the most interesting day in Tulsa sports so far in 2010.
Up to the Plate
ONEOK Field is like the big birthday gift at a party. It is the bicycle. All the excitement surrounding the bicycle is warranted. Eventually, you'll tire of the shiny bike or rain will cancel your riding adventures and you will turn to the "other" gifts.
The "other" gifts in this case would be the Drillers' players. Imagine going to a baseball game with no players on the field. How quickly would the allure of food, beverages and stadium landscape wear off? Even if the food, beverages and stadium were premium, you would lose interest fast.
So let's take a peek at a few marquee players who will don the new Drillers uniforms and take a run at the Texas League title.
Christian Friedrich is creating huge buzz entering this season. The elite pitching prospect has huge upside, according to scouts. The hard throwing lefty dominated in Class A ball last year. The Rockies top pick in 2008 might one day be the No. 1 guy on the Rockies big league staff.
He registers low-90s on the radar gun. His breaking ball is top shelf. Friedrich totaled 224 strikeouts in 168 innings pitched as a professional the past two seasons.
Now, I'm not up to speed on the new baseball advanced metrics. However, I know more strikeouts than innings pitched is good, especially for a starter.
Adding local flavor is Sean Jarrett. He pitched for ORU in 2006. He returns to Tulsa as a member of the Drillers. Jarrett will come out of the bullpen.
The Rockies organization is high on Hector Gomez. The 22-year-old rising star plays shortstop. He's the fifth-ranked prospect in the Rockies minor league system according to Baseball America. He hit .275 with 32 extra-base hits for Modesto in 2009.
Behind the plate, Wilin Rosario attempts to stay healthy and fulfill his lofty potential. The Rockies believe he is the best catching prospect they have had in their system. His offensive ability and defensive prowess makes him a can't miss guy, unless injuries continue to derail him.
Another budding star will line up at first base. Kiel Rolling won the South Atlantic League batting title with a .331 batting average a year ago. He is skipping High A and coming straight to the Drillers. He added 20 dingers to his résumé.
The organization continues to leak additional tickets for opening week via tulsadrillers.com. Check out their site for schedule information.
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A29678