Sunday, June 12, 2005

Jayhawks haven’t forgotten incident

Price, players learn from Sharpe's mistake


With Kansas University baseball players spread across the country this summer, KU coach Ritch Price only can keep his fingers crossed that they remain healthy and stay out of trouble.

Price has no control over either aspect, but he believes a March incident involving one of his players has served as a wake-up call about how easily a mole hill can become a mountain.

"It was a learning experience for everybody in the program," Price said. "Everybody learned about the microscope you're under."

On March 1, Scott Sharpe, a senior pitcher, was arrested by Lawrence Police on suspicion of battery during an altercation at the Hawk, a close-to-campus watering hole.

Although Sharpe was a second-line player -- basically a situational left-hander -- his arrest made headlines and lured at least one Kansas City television station to Lawrence to make hay of the situation.

"That's the first time something like that had ever happened in the program," Price said. "The University of Kansas is a great place, but we learned it's also a place where you're under a microscope, and things can get magnified and blown off the charts."

Although no charges ever were filed against Sharpe, Price handed the Overland Park Aquinas product a two-week suspension. Sharpe wasn't allowed to suit up for six games during that span.

"We have a list of team rules," Price said. "One of them is don't embarrass the university and don't embarrass the program. The suspension sent the message that it's unacceptable."

Summer Baseball

Many of Price's returning players have hooked on with semi-pro teams. Some are in California. A couple of others are in the prestigious Cape Cod League. And three are playing for Duluth in the Northwoods League, another well-known summer wood bat league for collegians.

The trio in Duluth are pitcher Kyle Klem, outfielder Brock Simpson and second baseman Ryne Price, the coach's second-oldest son who earned second-team All-Big 12 honors as a freshman. Young Price had been a catcher during his two seasons at Free State High.

"He'll catch some up there," KU coach Price said, "but mainly he'll play second base. He played really well there the second half of the season, and I don't want to get him too beat up."

Price's oldest son Ritchie, the Jayhawks' shortstop for the last three springs, is taking the summer off from baseball, as is center fielder Matt Baty. Both are attending summer school while nursing injuries.

During the season, Price played with nagging hamstring and triceps pulls, and Baty suited the last three weeks with a partial ACL tear suffered while making a spectacular catch against Texas in early May. Baty won't require surgery.

Last summer, Price and Baty were teammates with the Anchorage Glacier Pilots, a semi-pro team in Alaska.

"Both of them have really beat their bodies up," coach Price said. "They've been playing every summer for a long time."

Quick Playing Outfield

Kodiak Quick, KU's leading pitcher with a 10-6 record and a 3.41 earned-run average, is taking the summer off, too, but only from pitching. Quick is playing in the outfield for a club in the suburban Kansas City Ban Johnson League.

Pitcher Sean Land and outfielder Gus Milner are on Cape Cod League rosters. Land, a 6-foot-5 left-hander who became a starter late in the season, is with Yarmouth. Milner opted to play for a Cape Cod team after being selected in the 47th round of last week's baseball draft and electing to come back for his senior season at KU.

Pitcher Don Czyz, who led the Jayhawks with 10 saves, is playing for the Maxim Yankees in Palo Alto, Calif. He works as an intern for the Maxim Corp. in the San Francisco Bay area during the day and plays for the company's semi-pro team at night.

First baseman Jared Schweitzer, who topped KU's batting chart (.366), has returned to his native Canada and is suiting for a team in Lethbridge, Ontario. Outfielder John Allman and third baseman Erik Morrison are in California -- at Salinas and Santa Maria, respectively. Pitcher Tyson Corley is with the Hays Larks and with a Ban Johnson team.

Abney Managing

In addition, KU pitching coach Steve Abney is managing the Brainerd, Minn., team in the Northwoods League.

Incidentally, Price's youngest son Robbie once again is with the Firestone Rangers, a traveling team in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Robbie, who will be a senior at Free State High next year, toiled for the Rangers each of the last two summers.

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