As the burning coals cool down beneath the barbecue and the final burst of fireworks twinkle into the night, a stark realization overcomes the senses. “Holy crap! We’re half way through summer!”
That’s right, before you know it the leaves will start falling as the rain will resume pouring. With this in mind, the cessation of Independence Day can only mean one thing: Football season is just around the corner.
The American Psyche then fills with anxious excitement. And here in Eugene, where there is virtually no sports occurring during the summer months (no disrespect to the Eugene Emeralds), this fact is amplified as seemingly all of our attention becomes increasingly fixated on the pig skin. Topics like how Mark Helfrich will fair, who our biggest competition will be this season, and of course the NCAA sanctions are thrown into everyday discourse.
Undoubtedly, it seems as though we have this tendency to neglect and over look what is occurring in Oregon sports as a whole during the summer months. However, although it is the off season, there is, in fact, a lot happening as Ducks compete across the country, as well as internationally.
While many athletes spend the summer in the training room lifting weights or perfecting that ultimate fake out move, seven members of the baseball team are competing in wooden bat leagues, three of which are playing in the esteemed Cape Cod Baseball League, which is known for grooming collegate players for the majors. Sophomore left-handed pitcher, Garret Cleavinger is a member of the Falmouth Commodores, while right-handed pitcher Darrell Hunter is playing for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, and outfielder Scott Heineman is snagging balls for the Brewster Whitecaps.
While three others compete in equally prestigious West Coast summer leagues such as the California Collegiate League and the West Coast League, junior left-handed pitcher Tommy Thorpe is representing his country on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team during the 39th USA-Japan series, which started yesterday in Matsuyama.
Before heading to Japan, Thorpe and Team USA completed a 10-game series competing against various teams found in North Carolina. Impressively, the boys in Red White and Blue went 10-0, with their biggest victory coming against Carolina Virginia CBL Select, winning that game 14-0. So far, Thorpe has made his way out of the bullpen during three games, pitching four innings with a 6.75 ERA and four strikeouts.
Also making an appearance this summer in a Team USA jersey is Oregon basketball’s Damyean Dotson. No more than a couple weeks ago, the sophomore guard out of Houston achieved becoming one of 16 finalist for the 2012 USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Championship Team. The team has since been cut down to 12 players before they left on June 19 heading to Washington for further training, and then on to Prague for the FIBA U19 World Championships.
Although Dotson unfortunately did not end up making the final cut, he was still able to represent Oregon on a national, and incredibly honorable stage. The fact that he achieved becoming a finalist, subsequently rubbing shoulders with some of the greatest collegiate basketball players today, speaks incredible volumes about the progression of the basketball program and ever improving player development.
Representing the USA during international competition, however, is not an honor designated only for the boys. In fact, perhaps the most impressive showing this summer season of all the Oregon athletes is coming from now sophomores Danica Mercado and Cheridan Hawkins as they share their talents with the USA Softball Junior National Team during the 10th Junior Women’s World Championship held in Brampton, Canada.
After completing the first round of Pool Play, facing teams such as Great Britain, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, and Canada, Team USA enters the fifth day of competition an impressive 7-0. The team not only leads the tournament with wins, but also in “runs for” with a combined 66 points, while also disallowing a single run against.
Yeah. That’s right.
Not a single team has scored a run on Team USA this tournament. Upholding this defensive dominance is Oregon’s left-handed pitcher Hawkins who has totaled 17 strikeouts and has allowed only one hit during the two games which she has started.
Playing second base for the national squad, Mercado has maintained a solid .500 batting average throughout the tournament. However, during their match against New Zealand on the 4th, Mercado gave the Kiwis a little taste of American freedom by knocking the ball clear out of the park, obtaining her first homer in the Junior World Championships and helping her team surmount a 7-0 victory.
Clearly this summer has been everything but an “off season” for our Ducks.
Rather than simply training in a dark room in some obscure location, they’ve been honing their skills out on the court or field, dawning elite jerseys, and battling against the greatest young athletes in the world. It is by far these stellar performances given by the multitude of Oregon athletes on both a national, and international scale that are the most noteworthy this summer. For it is their abilities and talents that ultimately enhance and maintain the honor and prestige associated with the University of Oregon even during this “off-season.”