Former Wichita State third baseman Conor Gillaspie made a lot of memories during his three seasons.
He hit a baseball like few others, especially in 2008 when he compiled a .419 batting average and a .697 slugging percentage. He worked obsessively in the batting cages to refine his swing, a skill that overshadowed improvements defensively and as a runner. Known as a quiet kid, he carried a load as a spokesman, even in tough times, and even as a freshman. His love of the weather made him the team's go-to guy during rain delays.
He tied that package together to become the 37th player chosen in the 2008 draft — after coming to WSU undrafted out of high school in Omaha. He is in Double-A with the San Francisco Giants, hitting .379 since July 1.
That might be a little much for some younger brothers to follow. Not Casey Gillaspie, who orally committed to WSU earlier this month.
"There was a little bit of doubt, but I kept thinking about it and it seemed like the right decision," he said. "Wichita State was the only one I was really interested in."
Casey (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) is a switch-hitting first baseman and outfielder who hit .477 with five home runs and 12 doubles for his American Legion team. The Omaha World-Herald named him to its All-Nebraska second team after he hit .383 with 12 doubles during his high school season.
Oklahoma State worked its way into the picture. WSU, however, started the race in front. Conor gave coach Gene Stephenson and assistant Jim Thomas a good recommendation.
"I looked at the coaches and thought they had the best chance of getting me to the next level," Casey said. "They're good guys, and I've heard nothing but good things about them."
Millard North coach Dave Cork isn't worried about Casey following Conor. They're different people, and Casey's personality should hold up well.
"He's not going to feel any pressure at all," Cork said. "Casey is more outgoing, joking around with people. The thing they have in common is that they have a passion for the game, particularly hitting. They both think they get a hit every at-bat, which isn't all that bad."
Their temperament is similar, but with an important distinction, Casey says. Conor famously fretted over every out and needed to learn not to wear himself down mentally.
"I don't like getting out, but I try not to beat myself up like my brother," Casey said.
Cork describes Casey as a gap hitter with more power from the right side. He plans to hit the weight room hard in preparation for college. His future appears to be at first base.
"Casey is more athletic, naturally, than Conor," Cork said. "Conor just willed himself to be a good baseball player."
Keep it moving — Stephenson's goal of speeding games with a clock looks closer than ever. He's long lobbied for the move, saying it would make college baseball more attractive for fans and TV.
Last month, the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee passed a proposal to use a 20-second pitch clock (when the bases are empty), a 90-second clock between innings (in non-TV games) and a 108-second clock in TV games. Next month, the Playing Rules Oversight Panel is expected to approve the recommendation. Missouri Valley Conference associate commissioner Joe Mitch expects that to be a formality.
"The thinking is it will probably be approved for this season," Mitch said.
The MVC used the clock, as the NBC World Series does every year, as an experiment in 1990 and 1991. In 1990, the clock shaved 19 minutes off the average time of a nine-inning game, down to 2 hours 33 minutes. MVC Tournament games ended 18 minutes faster than NCAA regional games. In 1991, the clock saved 21 minutes.
"It did speed up the pace considerably," Mitch said.
The Southeastern Conference used a clock for its tournament last spring. The average game lasted 2:43, down from 3:17 in 2009.
If a pitcher violates the 20-second rule, he risks giving up a ball in the count. A batter who steps out of the box within five seconds of the clock expiring can be issued a strike. The same penalties can be assessed to teams violating the clock.
One issue will be the cost. Mitch said the MVC estimates it will cost schools around $2,000 to mount a clock on the outfield wall. Schools may be given an option to have the third-base umpire use a stopwatch. Mitch said in 1990, many schools used floor-level basketball shot clocks. That option is likely dead, now that all schools mount shot clocks on the backboard.
In memory — Roger Shurtz established a memorial fund for former teammate Alan Riemer, a member of WSU's track and field team from 1978-83.
Riemer, 50, died recently in Kansas City. He competed in distance races and was an All-MVC cross country runner in 1981.
Proceeds will benefit the track and field program. Donations can be mailed to The Alan Riemer Memorial Fund, Shocker Athletic Scholarship Organization, 1845 Fairmount St., Wichita, Kan., 67260-0018.
On sale — WSU will put around 350 men's basketball season tickets on sale at 8:30 a.m. Monday. Tickets are $275 each for chairbacks and $265 for benchbacks. Some tickets require a donation to the Shocker Athletic Scholarship Organization. Tickets are on sale at the Koch Arena ticket office or by calling 978-3267.
Around the MVC — Missouri State sophomore basketball player Keith Pickens will miss the season recovering from surgery on his left knee.
Pickens ruptured his patellar tendon during conditioning. He started 17 games at guard as a freshman, averaging 3.9 points and 2.4 rebounds.
* The Bears baseball team lost two pitchers to professional baseball last week. Lefty Mike Kickham signed with the Giants after being picked in the sixth round. He went 4-9 with a 5.25 ERA in his one season with the Bears. Recruit Ryan Hafner, from Lee's Summit (Mo.) West, signed with Pittsburgh as a 17th round pick.
* Defending MVC champion Northern Iowa opens its men's basketball season at Syracuse on Nov. 12. The Panthers also play Iowa and Iowa State. They meet Indiana in Las Vegas, followed by Colorado or New Mexico.
* Evansville and Indiana begin a three-game basketball series this season in Bloomington. In 2011-12, the Hoosiers will play in Evansville's new downtown arena to help the Aces showcase their first season. The series concludes in Bloomington in 2013-14.