April 11, 2011
Game Notes for Joe Nuxhall Classic
By Shawn Sell
On the surface, the back-to-back doubleheaders at Marge Schott Stadium this Tuesday and Wednesday may look like nothing more than four local teams squaring off. But when the third annual Joe Nuxhall Classic gets underway at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, looks will sure to be deceiving.
The Joe Nuxhall Classic was born of a joint effort between Cincinnati head coach Brian Cleary and Miami (Ohio) skipper Dan Simonds. With both programs enjoying the luxury of fine facilities on their respective campuses, the two coaches began searching for a way to showcase the quality of college baseball in Southwest Ohio. The result they came up with not only showcases quality baseball, but honors one of the true legends of the game in the Greater Cincinnati area.
"It came about as a calibration between us and Miami in looking at how can we take advantage of our facilities and good weather and what can we do to educate the Cincinnati community about what is going on in college baseball," Cleary says. "College baseball has really caught on in a lot of places across the country. This is really an effort to showcase college baseball in the area and we have a great facility to watch it in so we thought what can we do? We can't play each other on the weekends because we are all in conference, but we can showcase four local teams in a great format in a mid-week event."
What started with the Bearcats and RedHawks soon grew to include Xavier and Wright State as head coaches Scott Googins and Rob Cooper, respectively lent their program's support to the idea. What came next was a name for the event that would bring great exposure to the set of games. Cleary and company had to look no further than to the family of "The Old Lefthander" for support.
"So as we were putting this together, with Joe Nuxhall's ties to Miami and him being the local baseball icon that he is, we asked his family if it would be okay if we honored him by naming the event after him," Cleary continues. "They were gracious enough to allow us to do that and I think they are very proud to be a part of it. I don't want to speak for them, but I think (Joe's son) Kim is very proud. If you talk to him, his father had a great love for college athletics and for education. I think they are really proud to have their family associated with an event that features guys that are getting an education and that are playing college baseball. We are thrilled that they are involved."
The 2009 event was marred by bad weather, but saw Xavier topple Cincinnati and Wright State on consecutive days to win the inaugural Classic crown. In what has been set up as a yearly rotation of hosting duties between UC and Miami, the event moved to Oxford last year and it was the Bearcats taking top honors after wins over Wright State and the host RedHawks. The Bearcats will be looking to repeat as champions and bring a 15-14 record into the week. Xavier sits at 18-16, Miami is 16-16 and Wright State is atop the Horizon League standings at 19-9 overall. Inside the UC locker room, both players and coaches alike are looking forward to participating in this week's Joe Nuxhall Classic.
"It's a lot of fun," says sophomore outfielder and Cincinnati native Jake Proctor. "The guys on the other teams, we know the majority of them. We played summer ball together; we grew up playing summer ball together; some of us were high school teammates. So it's a lot of fun seeing them around and playing games against them. Everybody is familiar with Joe Nuxhall and it's a cool event having all the local guys come around and rally around the Reds."
"The event is growing and this one is going to be better than it was here two years ago," Cleary concludes. "We hope that this will be an event that the community can latch on to and come see. We have a chance to pack this place because whether you like us or Wright State or Miami or Xavier, we should have fans from all four schools flocking to Marge Schott Stadium to watch the teams play. Obviously, there is a great local rivalry among all of us. We are trying to defend our championship so there will be some passion, some energy, all that that stuff that I think baseball fans, especially college baseball fans, really like to see."