April 4, 2014
By Sean Brennan
Special to BIGEAST.com
Scott Googins was nestled in his seat on Xavier’s team bus Thursday afternoon as he readied himself for the Musketeers’ eight-hour sojourn to Washington D.C. Now eight-hour bus rides usually rank right up there with root canal, but with Googins the excitement in his voice was palpable.
And why not? Xavier, new to the BIG EAST this season, was on its way to play its’ first-ever conference games with a three-game series at Georgetown this weekend. For Googins and Co. it was time to let the good times roll.
“We’re very excited about joining the BIG EAST,” said Googins, now in his ninth season at Xavier. “It’s going to be a new challenge for us but there is also a lot of apprehension because we’ll be facing, aside from Butler - and one meeting against Villanova in a Florida on spring break several years ago – teams we’ve never met before. We’ve never played Seton Hall, St. John’s Georgetown or Creighton. I’ve never even met the other coaches. I’ve never met (Georgetown coach) Pete (Wilk) so I’m excited to meet him this weekend. But I’m not sure what kind of club he has, no sure what his style is. I don’t know much about Seton Hall and St. John’s either, what they like to do. So it’s going to be a little feeling out this year.
“There’s obviously going to be excitement but a little bit of anxiousness as well.”
Butler head coach Steve Farley is in a similar situation as Googins, perhaps even more so, as the Bulldogs’ move to the BIG EAST this season marks their third conference in as many seasons. Butler, a longtime resident of the Horizon League, played one season in the Atlantic 10 last year before making the jump to the BIG EAST.
“I think everybody is excited about it, there is a lot of energy, a lot of positive vibes here at Butler,” said Farley, now in his 23rd season with Butler. “I think it was good for us to get a taste doing the A-10 thing last year. Back in Horizon League it was mainly bus trips to places like Milwaukee and Dayton. Places that weren’t too far away. But last year in the A-10, flying to Richmond, flying to Charlotte and other places kind of gave us a taste of what that travel is like and I know the players enjoyed that.”
Something else Butler and Xavier have in common is their lack of history against their new conference rivals. Well, that might be understating it a tad as there is virtually no history whatsoever between the schools - and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to Farley.
“I checked with our Sports Information guy (Kit Stetzel) and I asked him. ‘What is Butler’s all-time baseball record against all these BIG EAST schools?’’ Farley said. “And like I thought the only school we had played before was Xavier because they are kind of a local opponent. They were always in our league in the past in the old Midwestern Collegiate Conference when I first got the job at Butler. But our lifetime record against all the other BIG EAST schools is 0-0.”
Yes, it’s going to be a season of firsts for Butler and Xavier, as well as Creighton, the third new member of the BIG EAST. But the Bluejays don’t open their conference schedule until April 11 when they host Georgetown.
“I’m excited to see new places,” Farley said, whose Bulldogs host Seton Hall in a three-game set beginning Friday. “Everywhere I’ve ever gone in the world has had something to do with baseball. Now we’ll go to St. John’s and we got Seton Hall coming out here this weekend and some of these coaches are so well renowned and Hall of Fame-types. We’re so excited and I know the school is excited. We’ll be seeing things with new eyes because we’ll be going places we’ve never been to before and you just can’t help but be excited.”
One of the things that appeals to Googins in the Musketeers’ first foray into the BIG EAST is that, unlike the Atlantic 10, each BIG EAST team will play each other this season.
“That was kind of a negative with the A-10 because you didn’t play everybody,” Googins said. “Now we’re going to play everybody and you can get a better feel for who are the better teams in your conference. And there are some really good teams in here. I don’t want to slight the A-10, that’s a pretty good conference, but I think this is a great conference for us. Our guys are really excited about it. It’s a new opportunity for them. We talked about it from a team and program standpoint that when you start playing in a new conference, you can be the first to do anything. They’re excited to put their fingerprints on this new conference.”
Both Butler and Xavier – and Creighton, for that matter – have rosters comprised of players that have rarely if ever seen New York City, which includes Brooklyn, the site of the BIG EAST conference baseball championships from May 22-25.
And the Road to Brooklyn begins this weekend for the new kids on the BIG EAST block: Seton Hall at Butler; Xavier at Georgetown. Play ball.
“You can’t help but be impressed with Seton Hall,” Farley said. “They’re ranked at least 20th in the country and they’ve already swept Arizona in three games out there earlier this year so I have a healthy respect for Coach (Rob) Sheppard and his program. It will be huge test for us but, hey, if you’re going to start the season, why not start it against the best team in the league? So we’re excited to do that.”
Googins’ Xavier team has had Brooklyn on its mind since Opening Day.
“We have our batting practice tape and all of a sudden I hear the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep till Brooklyn” playing,” Googins said. “And I’m thinking, ‘Wow, that’s kind of old school. Why is that song on the tape?’ Then the guys said ‘Coach, the conference tournament is in Brooklyn!’ It’s pretty neat and they’re really excited to get there but they know first we have a lot of work to do.”
Works begins Friday. Batter up.