Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Help Aggie Softball Take A Swing For Life

College teams have done a great job at raising awareness (and money) for cancer research, and the Aggie softball team is now lending its helping hands. If you're in town and looking for something to do, tomorrow's game is certainly a good cause.

Story from Texas A&M Media Relations

In its effort to help strike out breast cancer, the No. 24 Texas A&M softball team hosts its inaugural “Swing for Life” game on Wednesday, April 22 at 6:30 p.m. against Sam Houston State.

The Aggies will trade their traditional maroon and white jerseys for pink uniforms. The Aggie Softball Complex will be decorated in pink, including pink bases, pink foul lines and pink coaches’ boxes. In addition, fans are encouraged to join the A&M softball players in wearing pink to the game.

“I think the ‘Swing for Life’ game is a great opportunity for us to see firsthand how many women in our community are affected by breast cancer,” said head coach Jo Evans. “We are excited to do our part to create awareness and help raise money to aid in breast cancer prevention and research.”

As part of the event, breast cancer survivors are invited to come together and be acknowledged collectively on the field prior to the start of the game. Survivors will be treated to free admission for themselves and a guest, a pink T-shirt printed by the College Station Medical Center to the first 150 registered and a meet and greet with the A&M players and coaches at the conclusion of the game. Any additional family members of breast cancer survivors can purchase tickets for a reduced group rate of $3.

“Our focus with this event is awareness, so it is important to us that all of the women in the Bryan/College Station area that have been diagnosed with or have survived breast cancer come out and be honored prior to the start of the game,” said Evans. “We really want to make sure they are involved and are recognized.”

Fans also have the opportunity to bid on the pink game jerseys worn by the Aggies through a silent auction. The uniforms may be autographed if the purchaser chooses. All proceeds from the auction will be donated to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation’s breast cancer research program through Swing for Life.

The first 100 fans will receive pink breast cancer awareness wristbands. Other giveaways, including autographed softballs, will take place during the game.

For further information or if you are a breast cancer survivor who would like to be recognized on the field prior to first pitch, please contact Amy Norris at anorris@athletics.tamu.edu.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Weekend By The Numbers

35-7 - Scoring advantage for the baseball team in its four games last week. A&M bounced No. 1 Rice on Tuesday before scoring 28 runs in three games in a weekend sweep of Nebraska.

7 - Consecutive games in which the Aggie baseball team has not committed an error. The streak is the longest of its kind in school record books, which date to 1985. A&M is fielding at a solid .987 mark in Big 12 play.

0 - Losses at Olsen Field during Big 12 play. A&M has won all eight of its league games at home and currently sits at second place in the Big 12 standings with an 11-7 record.

65 - First-round score for senior Bronson Burgoon on Saturday at the Aggie Invitational at Traditions Club in Bryan. Burgoon's round of 7-under tied a school record and included seven birdies and no bogeys.

.018 - Combined margin of victory (in seconds) by the men's track team in the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relays at the LSU Invitational. The Aggies edged LSU in both races, winning the 4 x 100 by a 39.06-39.07 margin and the 4 x 400 by an even narrower 3:06.152-3:06.160. You can't get much closer than that!

147 - Yards receiving for sophomore-to-be Jeff Fuller in the Maroon & White game Saturday. Fuller pulled down nine receptions, one of which was a 30-yard touchdown.

10 - Matches that have been decided by a 4-3 margin for the men's tennis team. A&M owns a 13-7 overall record and a 7-3 mark in one-point matches. The team's two final regular season matches finished with a 4-3 score, with the most recent being a narrow victory over rival Texas last Thursday.

11 - Consecutive wins by the women's tennis team over Kansas. A&M picked up a 6-1 victory over the Jayhawks in Lawrence on Sunday and finished Big 12 play with a 9-2 record.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tough Glove: Erin Glasco's Mettle Behind The Mask

Erin Glasco looks right at home as she casually navigates the comfy confines of the Texas A&M softball team’s player’s lounge. She light-heartedly jokes with teammates and staffers as she bounces between computer consoles, plush leather couches and the locker room. It’s evident Glasco is in an ideal setting as the easy-going senior transfer from Johnston City, Ill., laughs with the ease of a person who has spent the last 18 years with her teammates rather than the last 18 months.

The Aggies are in the midst of their conference schedule—a grueling 10-week span that demands the utmost in focus and determination from players and coaches. As Glasco discusses the nuances of some upcoming games, as well as the challenges of being a leader on the team for the first time, she gently touches a tattoo on the inside of her right wrist. The ink depicts a large pink ribbon outlined in black.

Glasco’s smile briefly ceases for what is likely the first time all day when she’s asked about it.

“Yeah, this is new; it just happened,” she said, recalling the Tuesday in March that led to her new artwork. “My mom called me the Tuesday after our spring break and said, ‘I’ve got some bad news. I don’t want you to worry about me, and it’s not a big deal…I just have breast cancer.’”

Vickie Glasco’s statement hung in the air as Erin took in the words she had just heard on the telephone. Erin’s immediate reaction was the natural one—tears, fear, concern and uncertainty. For a mother and daughter who consider themselves to be best friends, Vickie’s diagnosis was difficult to comprehend. Erin skipped practice that day and tried to gather her thoughts as the team prepared for a weekend series against Nebraska.

As the middle daughter in a softball-crazy family of five (Erin’s father, Gerry, is an assistant coach at Georgia), Glasco knew her mother would want her to play against the Huskers. It helped that Vickie, who rarely misses one of her daughter’s games, was scheduled to be in College Station to watch both contests. Erin hasn’t missed a game in her two seasons at A&M, and despite the devastating news about her mother, never questioned whether she’d be behind the plate the following weekend. Rather, she said she drew strength from her mother’s ever-positive attitude.

“I got this (tattoo) to remind me that if my mom can get through this, I can suck it up and play softball and focus on what I need to do,” Glasco said.

After Vickie’s diagnosis, doctors immediately scheduled her for a surgery the following Tuesday. Before she worried about that, however, Vickie boarded a Texas-bound plane so she could be in the stands for the Aggies’ Big 12 opener. Erin reached base in all three at-bats that Saturday afternoon, and A&M claimed a 2-1 victory at the Aggie Softball Complex.

Some 72 hours later, Vickie was in the hospital for surgery. Doctors removed the lump and quickly gave the family the good news that the cancer had not spread.

“A lot of my positive attitude (before the surgery) had to do with how my grandmother and mother responded,” said Vickie Glasco, who pointed out that she represents the third consecutive generation in her family to be diagnosed with breast cancer. “I stayed positive because of my kids, too. I wanted them to feel like everything would be OK. It broke my heart to have to tell Erin about (the cancer). It caught her completely off guard, and she didn’t know quite what to do with it.

“You couldn’t believe how good I’m doing now, though. It turned out to be the best scenario, because we caught it early before it could spread to my arms or lymph nodes. I’m a very, very lucky person.”

Vickie’s good news gave everyone in the extended Glasco family, including those involved with A&M softball, reason to celebrate. Erin said her teammates and coaches helped carry her through the difficult hours and days after her mother’s diagnosis. That’s no surprise to those who have spent time around coach Jo Evans’ team, where the Aggie coaching staff and players readily talk about how close they are as a group.

The Aggies’ clubhouse atmosphere has been a particularly welcome environment for Glasco, who was recruited heavily by A&M and Notre Dame out of high school.

She eventually signed with the Irish, but her first two years in South Bend didn’t go exactly as planned. She made 39 starts her sophomore season but didn’t quite mesh with the coaching staff. As the 2007 season came to a close, Glasco decided she wanted to transfer.

Meanwhile, the Aggies finished their year by advancing to the Women’s College World Series for the first time in nearly 20 seasons. In the team’s first game in Oklahoma City, however, a speedy Tennessee team set a WCWS record by stealing five bases against the Aggies. A&M lost its only two games in Oklahoma City, and Evans immediately started scouring the country for a new catcher.

Evans’ eyes brightened when she learned Notre Dame had released Glasco, and she welcomed the hard-nosed catcher from Illinois into the program with open arms.

Glasco’s impact on the program was immediate. She gave A&M a dependable everyday starter behind the plate. Her statistics also improved greatly. In her final season at Notre Dame, Glasco hit .200 with nine RBIs, two doubles and a single home run. In her debut season in Aggieland, Glasco upped her batting average to .280, hit 12 doubles and drove in 29 runs.

In the field, she caught 64 of A&M’s 67 games, committed zero errors and provided former pitching star Megan Gibson with a reliable target. The Aggies soared through the season and won both the Big 12’s regular season and tournament titles. By the time the Women’s College World Series came back around, the Aggies had won 15 in a row and were considered one of the most dangerous team in the nation.

A&M proved the pundits right, shocking No. 1 Florida in the national semifinals to earn a berth in the national championship series.

“Last year, so much attention was given to Megan Gibson, Jamie Hinshaw and Jami Lobpries in that great senior class, and deservedly so,” Evans said. “But, I will tell you that if we didn’t have Erin Glasco, we wouldn’t have been playing for the national championship. We noticed her every day.”

As important as she was during last season’s magical run, Glasco may be even more needed this season. She’s one of two senior starters on A&M’s youthful roster. Considering the team’s two most used pitchers are a freshman and a sophomore, Glasco’s steadying hand behind the plate is a necessity if the Aggies want to experience another successful postseason.

Through the first 42 games of 2009, Glasco has maintained a .286 average with four home runs and 26 RBIs. She also led the team with a .486 on base percentage.

“(Being a senior leader) is harder than I ever thought it would be,” Glasco said. “There is a pressure to set an example through your actions every day, and sometimes when you put so much pressure on yourself, you can’t perform because you are trying so hard. Sometimes, it is hard to sit back and trust the process that we are taking, but that is one thing that coach Evans is great at. She is good at calming people down and saying, ‘Hey, it’s all right. We’re going to get there.’ But, I am definitely the most comfortable I have ever been behind the plate.”

Glasco has certainly won over her teammates with her play, and her easygoing nature off the field makes for easy interactions around the clubhouse.

She has certainly made a believer out of Evans.

“I could talk about Erin forever,” Evans said. “She is so blue-collar, and you will not find anybody more hard-nosed playing the game. If I was a fan—and I am a fan of hers—but if I was a fan in the stands, I would pick her as the one that I always pulled for. She’s one of the best team players, and she’s somebody that everyone should pull for because her intentions are absolutely where they should be.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Hope Stephen McGee Gets A Shot

Randy Riggs had a very good story about former Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee in the Tuesday edition of the Austin American-Statesman, and it’s a piece every Aggie football fan should read. You can read it by clicking HERE.

There are a few things to take from this well-written story:

1. By all accounts, McGee will get a chance to prove his worth with an NFL franchise. Considering all the debate during the 2008 season about whether or not he would be drafted, McGee has rehabbed his way past a tough shoulder injury and into draft position. That’s good to see, as McGee’s pedestrian passing stats in college were hampered by three years of option football.

2. McGee is mature beyond his years. Time is at a premium for big-time Division I athletes, and the fact that McGee has been a dedicated teammate and will finish his time in College Station with TWO degrees is truly remarkable. One quote in particular from today’s story really stands out. In discussing his up-and-down college career, McGee said: “I could have been in an offense that showcased my talents more. But the ability to play unselfishly and lay my best interests aside for the good of the team taught me something so much more than just having great numbers and winning trophies…One day I’ll be a better father, husband, teammate and person for having gone through all these things. In the big scheme of things, you don’t want to trade anything for that.” This is not a common individual.

3. McGee may be the most competitive person on the Texas A&M campus. Coaches have always raved about his level of play and attention to detail in practice, and few (if any) work harder in the weight room. And, as if McGee needed any further inspiration to get a shot in the league, he revealed in this story that he keeps a file of all the skeptical comments and jokes people have made about his over the years. He refers to the list when he thinks about easing up his workouts or not pushing through another sprint.

I got a taste of McGee’s competitive nature very early in his college career. Former A&M o-lineman Geoff Hangartner (now with the Buffalo Bills) always used to make a freshman lineman carry his pads out to practice during two-a-days. After McGee graduated from high school early in 2004 to take part in A&M’s spring drills, Hangartner reasoned that since McGee wanted to get to college so bad, he must also want to lug Hangartner’s pads to the practice field. Naturally, McGee disagreed.

The two decided to settle it on the golf course and invited myself and former 12th Man Magazine On Campus staffer Dallas Shipp along to referee. The two were deadlocked after 17 holes, but both players crushed long drives down the middle of the fairway on 18.

By this time, Hangartner was getting desperate. As McGee began to swing for his approach shot, Hangartner bellowed out a deafening ‘Gig em Aggies’ yell, and McGee’s shot soared far from the green. The fury in McGee’s eyes had us non football players backing up, afraid we were about to be reffing a boxing match instead of a friendly round of golf.

Hangartner finished with an 81 to beat out McGee’s 83, and the post round handshakes didn’t feature much eye contact or pleasant conversation for McGee. He was clearly not pleased by Hangartner’s successful (albeit questionable) distraction.

Some five years later, it’s good to see that same competitive spirit is helping push McGee into the NFL. Here’s hoping he gets a fair shake this go round.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Weekend By The Numbers

16 - Draft position for former women's basketball star Danielle Gant. Gant, selected in the second round of the WNBA Draft by the Chicago Sky, becomes A&M's highest-ever and fifth all-time draft pick.

59 - Pitches thrown by Rhi Kliesing in the softball team's 6-0 shutout of Texas Tech on Saturday. The Red Raiders managed just two infield singles, while only three balls left the infield for routine fly outs.

954 - Number of fans who saw Erin Glasco's two-out, two-run walk-off home run Friday at the Aggie Softball Complex. A&M was down 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh before Glasco ripped the first pitch she saw over the left field fence to give the Aggies a 5-4 win.

3 - Hits allowed by Brooks Raley during his complete-game win over Kansas State on Friday. Raley struck out 11 and set the side down in order in five innings.

39.13 - First place time for the 4 x 100 relay team of Tran Howell, Gerald Phiri, Chris Dykes and Justin Oliver at the UCLA Invitational. The Aggies out-paced two professional teams in the race, including the World Class team that featured two medalists from the Beijing Olympics.

6-0-1 - The soccer team's record in spring matches this season. A&M's most recent victory was a 2-0 decision over Oklahoma State on Friday night.

25 - Very early 2009-10 preseason ranking for the men's basketball team, as determined by ESPN.com writer Andy Katz. Katz picked four Big 12 teams in his ranking, including No. 1 Kansas, No. 4 Texas, No. 18 Oklahoma and A&M.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Schaefer Recognized As Rising Star

Voting is underway for basketballscoop.com's postseason awards, and Texas A&M associate women's coach Vic Schaefer has been nominated for the Rising Stars of the Profession honor. Schaefer is one of 20 semifinalists who was nominated by at least one of his peers.

Fans can vote online through April 15, and the 10 coaches with the most votes will then be evaluated by BasketballScoop's panel of coaches, who will then select five winners.

Show Coach Schaefer the love RIGHT HERE

For those who don't know much about Schaefer, he graduated from A&M in 1984. He's coached with Gary Blair for 12 seasons. Schaefer cut his teeth in coaching at Sam Houston before becoming Blair's assistant at Arkansas.

Many fans might not know that A&M almost missed out on having Schaefer on the bench when Blair signed with the Aggies six years ago. LIke most assistants, Schaefer ultimately desires to be a head coach, and he was in serious discussions with New Mexico State back in 2003. The NMSU athletic director even offered him the school's head coaching job, but Schaefer decided to come back to Aggieland in order to be closer to his ailing mother.

As he told me during an interview earlier this season:

"At that point in time of my life, my mother was alive and in Houston and I felt like if I went to Las Cruces, N.M., she may never get to see her grandkids again. And, I was exactly right because a year-and-a-half later we lost her. It’s a decision I’m so glad I made if for no other reason than family. It's been a great decision, obviously, but for the main reason of my mother and knowing what my parents did for me as a child, the least I could do for her in her final years was give her an opportunity to be around her grandkids. And you know what, it gave me a chance as a momma’s boy to be around her, too. It was a great decision, and I don’t regret it for one minute."

Schaefer's parents, by the way, used to tailgate for Aggie football games in the 1960s near the location of the KAMU-TV building, adjacent to Kyle Field on Houston Street.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Weekend By The Numbers

3 - Times in the last four years that the Texas A&M equestrian team has entered the Varsity Equestrian National Championships as the No. 1 seed in the western bracket. The Aggies will compete at the national championships on April 16-18 at the Heart O'Texas Coliseum in Waco.

19-0 - The record of the Texas A&M baseball team (through April 5) when leading after six innings. Conversely, the Aggies were 1-11 when trailing after six innings.

4-0 - The record of the Texas A&M volleyball team at the fourth Annual Texas Tornados College Spring Tournament in Houston during the first weekend of April. The Aggies beat TCU, Denver, North Texas and Wichita State en
route to a perfect record.

6 - Events won by the Aggie track and field teams at the recent Texas Relays in Austin. A&M was named the event's Most Outstanding Team after picking up wins in the men's and women's 4 x 200 relays, men's and women's triple jump and women's 100 meter dash.

168 yards - Length of the 13th hole at the Golf Club of Georgia, where A&M senior Clay Hodge recorded a hole-in-one during the opening round of the United States Collegiate Championship. Hodges aced the hole on April 5 with his 7-iron.

14-0 - Combined record of the men's and women's tennis teams from March 12-April 5. Each squad won seven straight, with all of the women's wins coming against Big 12 competition. The men's team posted three wins over league foes, as well as consecutive victories over top-10 ranked non-conference teams.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Gotta Love A Good Practical Joke

In honor of yesterday being April Fool's Day (I managed to go the full 24 hours without getting pranked), I wanted to pass along this story. I interviewed assistant men's golf coach Jonathan Dismuke for a Coaches Corner feature in the upcoming issue of 12th Man Magazine, and it turns out he has a pretty good sense of humor.

The story comes from the team's recent trip to play in a tournament in San Diego, where a certain player who shall remain nameless (and an unsuspecting hotel guest) learned a tough--albeit funny--lesson.

In Dismuke's words:

"Being a coach, you’re always trying to teach people lessons. (The player) knocks on my door at 5:30 in the morning, and he’s just gotten out of the shower and has nothing but a towel on. Well, that’s a terrible idea because where do you put your hotel key if you don't have clothes on? You don’t have it. So, if you’re roommate’s not in there or he's in the shower, you can’t get back in your room.

"He’s wanting to wear a different belt that day, so I said, ‘You’re going to have to ask coach (J.T. Higgins)...He’s down in room 236.’ Well, I knew J.T. was staying in room 240—and already downstairs. (The player) goes and knocks on 236, and some other guy stumbles out to see our guy who has on nothing but a towel.

"So I got to thinking, actually, I taught two people a lesson. First, I taught our player not to leave his hotel room in just a towel. I taught the other guy that you don’t answer your hotel door at 5:30 in the morning."

I'll be keeping my wits about me the next time I'm out at Traditions Club. So, make that three people who learned a lesson from this story!