The San Francisco Examiner from San Francisco, California on April 8, 2012 · A30
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The San Francisco Examiner from San Francisco, California · A30

San Francisco, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, April 8, 2012
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30 SPORTS a a w O o o c (0 X CD g Xi H H K H COLLEGE BASEBALL: STANFORD Likely top draft Appel took long Stanford ace credits faith, determination with his rise up ranks ByPaulGackle Special to The S.F. Examiner On most campuses, being the projected No. 1 overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft would make you a big deal. But at Stanford, Mark Appel's just another face in the classroom and that's OK with the humble right-hander. There's no shortage of reasons why the Cardinal hold a Top 25 ranking power, speed, clutch hitting heading into Monday's Battle of the Bay showdown with Cal. It also doesn't hurt having one of the game's most promising young arms on the mound every Friday night, even if he doesn't bring ESPN, Sports Illustrated and the rest of the sports media down to the Farm like Andrew Luck. "I see it as a blessing," said Appel, referring to the lack of attention he receives. "I'm just able to focus on doing my best every week." Despite throwing in the ,l)i',,, mid-90s at Danville's Monte Vista High School, Appel's KEEPING IT REAL Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, possibly the No. 1 overall pick in this year's MLB draft, is perfectly content out of the spotlight. NEXT GAME Stanford at Cal WHEN: Monday, 2:30 p.m. WHERE: Evans Diamond, Berkeley RADIO: KALX (90.7 FM) rise to the top of Baseball America's prospect list was unexpected. He didn't start a single game in high school and was knocked around the yard during his freshmen year at Stanford, posting a 5.92 ERA as a middle relieverspot starter. "We basically tried to teach him how to pitch on the fly" pitching coach Rusty Filter said. Appel threw hard, but he had no command over his secondary pitches. So that summer, he flew across the country to work on his stuff with the Newport Gulls in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. He returned a new pitcher. By the time he stepped on the rubber to start his sophomore year in 2011, he'd developed a change-up that dances in the low-80s and a slider that drops off a cliff. The Houston native quickly became the Cardinal's undisputed Friday-night starter as well as one of the top pitchers in the confer choice road up ence, posting a 3.02 ERA while fanning 86 batters in 110 innings of work. "It just kind of all clicked," Appel said. His evolution has continued this season. At one point, he set career-highs for strikeouts in three consecutive starts against Texas (10), Fresno State (11) and Rice (14). Appel said his turnaround is a reflection of his strong-Christian faith. "Everything I do, I want to bring glory to God," Appel said. But the idea slipped away from Appel as he struggled with his command freshman year. Although his faith never waned, he was consumed with things over which he had no control. "I just worried about everything," he said. "I worried that I couldn't throw my slider for a strike. What do the coaches think of me? Was I going to be able to start again?" The turning point came when he remembered to simply put 100 percent of his heart into everything he did. The rest, he said, was turned over to God. "It just made it a lot easier knowing that my hope isn't found in success, it's found in my relationship with Christ," he said. MYCHAEL URBAN Giants demonstrate faith in young players When the Giants set their 25-man roster for the regular season Wednesday, it marked a welcome shift in philosophy of which we first caught a glimpse during that magical run to glory in 2010. It was just as dramatic and emphatic back then, but as we found out in the disappointment of 2011, it was temporary. Will it stick this time? All signs suggest it will, and for that the franchise will be healthier than it's been in a long time. The philosophical shift? Trusting youth. Putting the here, now and future performance and potential over the past, status and contracts. In 2010, we saw it in the club's anchoring to the bench of Aaron Rowand and Pablo Sandoval late in the season, then keeping Barry Zito off the playoff roster. Rowand and Zito were highly paid, underperforming 30-somethings, Sandoval the lovable Kung Fu Panda providing no love at the plate and no glove on the hot corner. The Giants have long had a difficult time making the difficult decision to sit veterans with big contracts and fan favorites, particularly the former subset, and particularly during the time manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Brian Sabean have been working together. But with time running out on their pursuit of the San Diego Padres and a postseason berth, they bit the bullet and went with whomever was producing. Worked like a charm, too. Obviously. You'd think they've have carried that mindset over into the title defense. But having given Aubrey Huff a $22 million reward for his role in winning those rings, they couldn't bring themselves to go back to the hit- or-sit approach when it was clear that his early season struggles were likely to last all season. They did it with Rowand, eventually releasing him, as well as Miguel Tejada, but they just couldn't pull the trigger on Huff. Or on the mound with Zito, though his injury issues took them off the hook to a degree. Well, Wednesday's decision to keep 22-year-old backup catcher Hector Sanchez and give Huff's starting job at first base to 23-year-old Brandon Belt, as well as giving jobs to unheralded outfielder Gregor Blanco, reliever Dan Otero and infielder Brett Pill, appeared to show that the team is going with the best players right now, regardless of age. They showed it to a degree even before camp started by making Brandon Crawford their shortstop, too. Now, might all of this change over the course of the year? Sure. But it looks like the only thing that will change it is the one that should: what happens between the lines. Not contracts. Not veteran cache. It's going to be simple, and as sensible as possible, and it's something by which they should govern themselves from here on out but never quite have. Get the job done and you get the job. No matter who you are. STAY OUT: If Gregg Williams coaches in the NFL again, it'll be one of the biggest black eyes in league history no pun intended. The audio that got out of him discussing specific injuries he wanted his players to inflict on specific members of the 49ers was nothing short of sickening. In fact, it should rekindle a notion that seemed dismissed when it was first broached, that perhaps criminal charges would eventually be brought into play. Why would they not be? Because football is a violent sport and players know for what they signed up? Save it. Nobody signed up for a middle-age man telling absolutely huge, strong, violent men to target body parts in an effort to disable and to offer payment for it. If that's not a crime, what is? And it'll be a crime if Williams doesn't pay the price most still prices imaginable. MychaelUrban, a frequent co-host of The Wheelhouse (10 a,m.-2p.m.) on 95.7 FMThe Game, can be followed on Twitter BigUrbSports. His website is US PRESSWIRE FILE PHOTO

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