Diamonds are for now

So, it's Final Four weekend, and I should really be more excited.

But after Louisville beats Wichita State (probably by double digits) in tonight's first game, my already waning interest in the final stanza of the Big Dance will plummet.

In fact, most of my viewing the rest of the way will be on my iPhone app. Hubby and I are headed up to Tampa, to see some great friends and hopefully some good baseball, as a Rays team picked by Sports Illustrated to win the AL will be taking on what all accounts say is a much-improved Indians team on Sunday. While much-buzz prospect Wil Myers won't be called up until his service-time clock stops ticking, David Price will be on the mound. 

I've never seen Price, the Rays' first pick in 2007 out of Vanderbilt who had a 2.56 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 211 innings pitched as the bedrock of a Rays staff that posted the lowest ERA (3.19) in the American League in 22 years and held batters to a .228 batting average, the lowest since the AL adopted the DH (shudder) 40 years ago, pitch in person. (These numbers, and other fascinating ones, available in Tom Verducci's fantastic article, "The Rays Way," in the April 1 SI.)

I love pitching. I love 2-1 games that take less than two hours to play and are ultimately decided by the guys on the mound. This is why I am a National League girl, but it is refreshing to see the Proper Way embraced by the Junior League.

I also love the Rays' esoteric manger, Joe Madden, who conjures up a "thought of the day" to post in the team's spring training clubhouse and talks about the importance of a player's mental makeup in addition to his mechanics. I love Madden's geek glasses and wine collection and less-than-storied minor-league career (he was a catcher for four seasons, never advancing higher than A ball and never batting more than 180 times.)

My husband took me to a Rays game last year as part of a birthday trip, and B.J. Upton, a product of the Hampton Roads, Va., area where we met, treated us to a three-home run performance. B.J. and brother Justin are now roaming the Atlanta outfield, but I'm certain the Rays will put on some sort of show for us.

I also take a perverse sort of pride in having seen baseball games at what must be two of the worst venues in the majors - the domed, catwalked flying saucer of the Rays' Tropicana Field and the waaay-past-its-prime Sun Life Stadium (when the Marlins still played there - though the garish Marlins Park, save for the bobblehead museum and the retractable roof, has little to offer the aesthetic gods, either). This alone must be some sort of evidence of my love of the game. 

At any rate, the somewhat rambling point is, my sports thoughts have already shifted to the boys of spring. I hope the Final Four is compelling and dramatic, though I wouldn't bet large sums of money on that. My attention, however, is now firmly held by diamonds. They are a girl's best friend, you know.