Don't Kill The Mellinger

Five minute break: baseball smiles, KU-KSU bruises, fish tacos and firewood

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Before I could even see his face I heard his voice. That unmistakable, crackling, joyous voice of more than 60 years working in professional baseball.

"Welcome home, Sam!"

There's Art Stewart, 88 years young this month. He's the Royals' Hall of Fame scout, my friend and – I mean this literally, because every day of my life I hope I'm strong enough and smart enough to enjoy my life as long as Art is enjoying his – an idol.

We start talking. A little about the book I helped him with, but more about our families and more – hopefully our wives don't see this – about baseball. With Art, that means prospects. Lots of prospects. It is corny and overdone and all of that, but there really is something about spring training that gives you a little smile on your face.

Especially when you see people like Art.

Kansas and K-State play basketball tonight, and it’s probably tempting to think the Wildcats have cashed it in this year. Gone fishin’, as the saying goes, but there’s enough talent on that team and will be enough energy in the building Monday night that it would be a surprise – to me, at least – if KU had an easy go.

Course, I wouldn’t have thought the Wildcats would struggle nearly as much as they have this year, either.

Marcus Foster is shooting 40 percent? It’s one thing for that team to struggle offensively, but they’re also not guarding as well as they need to. They’re not giving up a ton of points, but that’s a more a function of tempo than defense.

But, yeah. All that said, KU will have to earn it tonight.

Turns out Danny Duffy spent part of his offseason in Kauai. That's where the wife and I took our honeymoon, so Duffy and I exchanged notes. It is an amazing, breathtakingly gorgeous place, and as it happens Duffy and I fell in love with the same fish taco place.

Except, Duffy went there as part of his daily workout. On vacation. In Kauai.

There are many, many differences between Duffy and me. One is that he works out diligently on vacation.

Busy championship weekend in high school sports, and you can see our coverage here, but I did notice that Oak Grove won its 16th state wrestling championship which reminded me of one of my favorite stories from my days covering high school sports.

I had written this piece about the pressure felt by high school kids at perennially championship-level programs, the strange place 15-, 16- and 17-year old kids find themselves in being expected to live up to something. It was actually a more interesting story than I'm probably making it sound here, but anyway, I talked to one coach at a program that won state consistently who told me up and down, over and over, about how he doesn't care about championships.

Just wants his kids to try hard, do their best, and whatever happened after that was fine.

Anyway, as it turned out, his team took second place that year. I remember seeing him afterward, waiting for an interview, when an assistant came up with the second place trophy and asked where he should put it.

"Firewood," the head coach replied.

There are so many real life lessons in that, right?

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365 or send email to Follow him on Twitter @mellinger. For previous columns, go to