Spartans Battle Grand Canyon, Time Change

Andruw Jones is batting .400 this season. | Samantha Battersby/ The Minaret

An eleven-inning win that stretched deep into Saturday night ended, daylight savings time stole an hour, and before they knew it, Sunday morning was upon them.

The NCAA top-ranked University of Tampa baseball team won two games in just over 14 hours last weekend, separated by a few precious winks of sleep. UT Head Coach Joe Urso was frank about the challenge.

“It was a tough turnaround,” he said. “The alarm went off real quick.”

The Spartans took two of three from the Grand Canyon Lopes, losing the opener of the series 3-1 on Friday before sweeping the final two.

Saturday night was the kind of evening that can build a team’s momentum heading into conference play.

Tampa starter Sean Bierman threw six innings while walking just one and striking out six. The Spartan defense though, wasn’t as prepared as he was. They committed six errors in the game leading to three unearned runs, all charged to Bierman’s line.

Tied 6-6 through nine, the game went into extras. In the top of the eleventh, Grand Canyon managed a pair of runs off Mike Adams sending the middle of Tampa’s order up in the bottom of the inning with the task of crossing a pair of runs; they found themselves more than up to the challenge.

Jake Schrader hit a tying two-run double after a walk and a hit batter, and Adam Pendleton knocked a single into rightfield to help the Spartans walk-off.

“It showed a lot of character on our part,” said outfielder Andruw Jones, who scored the winning run. “But if we play a better game, don’t make as many errors, we should never even be there.”

The rest of this article can be read here as originally published in The Minaret.

UT Hall of Famer Freddie Solomon Dies

"Fabulous Freddie" Solomon set an NCAA record for quarterback rush yards in a season in 1974. | Courtesy of UT Sports Information | Courtesy of UT Sports Information

University of Tampa Hall of Fame football player and former NFL wide receiver Freddie Solomon died on Monday afternoon at the age of 59. His family said the cause of death was lung and colon cancer.

“We not only lost one of our greatest athletes, but we lost our favorite son,” said UT Athletic Director Larry Marfise. “This is an extremely sad day for the University of Tampa. Freddie was a person who exemplified what a true Spartan was, never forgetting his roots.”

Solomon was drafted out of UT in 1975, selected in the second round by the Miami Dolphins. He played three seasons with Miami before spending his final eight in San Francisco alongside Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, cementing his status as one of the greatest athletes and leaders to play football in the Tampa Bay area.

“Freddie was very influential to me and my career, and taught me about work ethic and professionalism. He inspired me to go out there every day and emulate him,” Hall of Famer Rice said, as quoted in a report by ESPN.

Solomon caught 371 passes during his 11 year NFL career to go along with 5,846 yards and 48 touchdowns. His most famous moment on the football field, though, might be a play he never got to make.

During the 1982 NFL Championship game between the 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys, Solomon had six catches in the game for 75 yards and a touchdown. During the final drive though, as the Niners were down six with about a minute left, Montana overthrew Solomon on what would have been the winning touchdown.

“Solomon looked like he beat (Dallas DB) Everson Walls,” said Vin Scully during CBS’ broadcast of the game.

Two plays later, Dwight Clark caught what forever will be referred to as “the catch.” He leapt, seemingly miles above the ground and came down with what would send the Niners to the 1982 Super Bowl, where they would defeat the Cincinnati Bengals.

What most fans don’t know is that Clark wasn’t the original option on that 3rd down play-call; the play’s first option was UT alum Freddie Solomon, who slipped in the mud during his route. And Clark knows it.

“If Freddie doesn’t slip,” Clark said, to the Tampa Bay Times, “Freddie is the guy who makes “‘the catch.’”

Solomon is regarded as one of the best players to ever come out of UT’s football program. Although a wide receiver in the NFL, Solomon played quarterback for the Spartans. In his final season, he set an NCAA record with 1,300 rush yards while also compiling 19 touchdowns. “Fabulous Freddie” as he was called, finished his four years at UT with 5,803 total yards and garnered 13 first-place votes in the 1974 Heisman Trophy voting.

“He was the best player in the country,” said Vin Hoover, Solomon’s teammate at UT, to the Tampa Tribune. “Had he played for Oklahoma, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, some place like that, he would’ve won the Heisman. Freddie was a phenomenon.”

After the ‘74 season, Solomon left for the pros and UT disbanded its football program for many reasons, including growing competition from within the Tampa Bay market.

Even with all of his statistical accomplishments, Solomon’s greatest gift wasn’t in his football prowess. It was in his personality and in his passion for the Tampa Bay community and with the University of Tampa in particular.

From Sumter, S.C., Solomon spent the beginning of his life self-conscious and quiet, embarrassed of a speech impediment that troubled him for years. He was scared of people for most of his childhood, except for one day a week.

“Except for Friday night (during high-school football season),” Solomon once said, according to the Tribune. “I wasn’t frightened then.”

Solomon used his success as a football player to overcome his social issues and eventually become a role model for the community where he attended college.

In December, UT held an event called “Freddie and Friends” to raise money for an eventual scholarship in Solomon’s name. Roughly 500 people attended and over $200,000 was raised. During a 10-minute speech, Solomon vowed to fight his illness while also imploring attendees to help others fight as they go through the same battle.

“What I would like to say is that not only pray for me, but pray for all the other cancer victims,” Solomon said then, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “For they need just as much prayer, or even more, than Freddie Solomon do. You’ve given me the will to stand up and fight, and I’m going to fight it with all I’ve got. I’m not afraid. It’s another game. I must prepare myself to take on that challenge.”

Solomon will be remembered for his blazing speed but more importantly, his lasting principle.

“He gives from the heart,” Solomon’s wife, Dee, said at the December event. “And doesn’t expect anything in return. I think he’s touched a lot of lives.”

The wide-out with the sixth-most receiving yards in 49ers’ history, and the mentor to Jerry Rice, has a place in UT’s Hall of Fame. But there is so much more to the story of his life, so much more room for inspiration.

“Your greatest asset and greatest legacy is you’re a teacher,” Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said in December.

“You’ve taught so many about what it means to have good character.”

This article was originally published in The Minaret.

Beyond the Rinse Cycle: The Story of Spartan Jerseys

While most UT teams have jerseys that last multiple years, the JV baseball team jerseys have an unknown lifespan. The JV players’ jerseys are passed down from varsity baseball players. | Illustration by Mike Trobiano

Adrian Bush is sometimes up until 3 a.m. after games. He collects the jerseys, shorts and socks from the University of Tampa men’s soccer team and then takes them on a journey back to his home.

He spot cleans some stains, turns the shirts inside out and tosses them into the washer. Afterward, he dries them too. And in 2006, Bush was inducted into UT’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Not, of course, for his laundry prowess alone; he is also the University of Tampa men’s soccer head coach.

Uniforms, and jerseys in particular, are an important subject at UT. Buying new ones and getting the used ones washed is a topic that each coach in their respective sport has to tackle at some point every year says UT’s Associate Athletic Director, Gil Swalls.

“I remember one year, the baseball team had their white [uniforms] turned pink because someone did something wrong,” Swalls said. “They had to buy a whole new set. They weren’t going to wear them pink.”

They probably wouldn’t wear them dirty either. Whether it’s a manager, a student with work-study or the coach himself, Swalls says the laundry finds a way of getting done.

Coach Bush says he’s probably the only coach in Division II soccer to wash all of his team’s game jerseys.

“When I wash them, I know they’re gonna get done the right way,” Bush says. “If we’re winning, I’ll keep washing them. If we’re losing, I’m not going to wash them anymore.”

For a school that gives each sport a set lump budget for all costs, it’s important to make sure the cleaning process is done correctly, so as to not ruin any items, and not have to buy more than absolutely necessary; a problem that occurs when players don’t return the jerseys after visiting home as well.

“With the Jamaicans, we end up getting jerseys stolen.” Bush says smiling. “Because they like to take them back to Jamaica and prance around in them.”

Coach Bush asked that a request be made for the return of UT jerseys from his Jamaican alumni.

UT’s newest coaching hire, Coach Rory Whipple, is the winningest coach in Division II lacrosse. He’s helped start four separate lacrosse programs and he says he has no intention of getting into the laundry business.

“I’ll tell you one thing; I’m not doing it,” says Whipple. “If I get an assistant coach or something, maybe they’ll do it.”

As he’s begun building a varsity team from scratch, uniforms haven’t exactly been at the top of his priority list. He mentions that he has to have a team before he can worry about equipment. But the department is pushing for at least the beginnings of a list, so it can purchase some items on the Spring 2011 budget. After all, lacrosse uniforms aren’t cheap.

Whipple says that they may spend close to $10,000 between home and away clothes for more than 50 players. The jerseys last longer than most sports, though. Because of a relatively short schedule, the coach says one set can last a player four years or more. He hasn’t come to a conclusion on whether or not he’ll let graduating seniors take their jerseys with them. He’s got a bit of time to mull it over though, since the program isn’t set to start playing until Spring 2012.

Coach Schmidt is among the ones who have it a little easier after games. Not only is he not doing the laundry, but his players aren’t either. Men’s basketball is living luxuriously, gifted with a manager, Max Carroll, who’s in charge of cleaning the game and practice gear, among his other duties. Schmidt says a previous manager also ran into the pink jersey problem, but emphasized that it wasn’t Carroll.

Coach Schmidt says that men’s basketball uniforms for the entire team cost about $5,000 per set and must be bought approximately every two years. His policy on seniors taking their jerseys is more about luck than anything.

“That just depends on if they ask at the right time,” Schmidt says.

The team donates old jerseys to youth basketball organizations in need after they’re no longer game-usable, says Schmidt. As well as being environmentally friendly, the act is one that helps the community. Although many Spartan sports may be receiving thousands of dollars to doll out for new uniforms, that doesn’t mean they all are.

Freshman Matt Bailey has experienced uniform nightmares that would make a varsity superstar shiver. Formerly a player on UT’s Junior Varsity baseball team, Bailey shares a room with varsity catcher Ryan Messina. The two men’s clothing stories couldn’t be more far apart.

Messina explained that Varsity baseball received new uniforms this season. On a whole, they got to pick numbers, and received freshly pressed jerseys. Pitcher Shawn Ferris and outfielder Andrew Jones share laundry duties for the team, but they volunteered for the job and now get paid through the university, says Messina.

Bailey says that J.V. isn’t so lucky. It’s common knowledge that they receive the hand-me-downs from the varsity squad, but the conditions of the uniforms they receive aren’t always up to Major League Baseball standards.

“It sucks,” Bailey says, in reference to wearing the used clothes. “I had a hole [in my pants] in my crotch, the size of a baseball. It was bobby pinned together.”

“Didn’t it have ducks on it?” Messina chimes in.

“Yeah, it was like a diaper pin with ducks on it,” says Bailey, cringing at the memory. “I have no idea [who’s uniform it used to be], they handed it to me and it was like, still dirty from last year.”

UT sports might have a lot of different outlooks and opinions on uniforms, but on the whole, they recycle and reuse them. They may spend a lot of money on them, but there’s a reason behind it.

“They’re important because you want to look good. You’re representing the school,” says Coach Whipple. “It’s a necessity.”

The players need to look sharp and feel fresh and have nice, new clean jerseys on their backs to perform at their best level. That seems to be the consensus.

Even if it means paying $5,000. Even if it means being part coach and part Laundromat.

This article was originally published here in The Minaret.