The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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April 19, 2013

Legislators make right decision on ballpark — finally

It took a little longer than it should have, but as the old saying goes, all’s well that ends well.

The West Virginia state Legislature finally put politics aside and let common sense prevail Wednesday when it approved the Morgantown TIF bill, clearing the way for the necessary funds to build a new baseball park at West Virginia University.

A simple look at Hawley Field in Morgantown compared to the other baseball venues in the Big 12 makes such a decision an obvious one, not to mention the more than 1,000 permanent jobs that the project, which will include other major infrastructure to go along with the stadium, is expected to create.

Is baseball ever going to be a huge money maker at WVU? I doubt it. But if you’re going to recruit kids to come to your campus to play a sport, it’s important to provide them with the tools necessary to succeed.

Playing in an outdated ballpark — even if you slapped up a couple of locker rooms and a fresh coat of paint — isn’t the way to do that. The baseball athletes at WVU deserve a state-of-art facility, and that’s what this bill will provide.

First-year coach Randy Mazey has done a phenomenal job in his first season in Morgantown, competing in a league that, quite frankly, I thought would embarrass the WVU baseball team. With a new stadium and all of the other training tools that will come with it, Mazey could start to put Mountaineer baseball on the map, and winning always brings fans.

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The Internet was buzzing Thursday about former WVU wide receiver Tavon Austin’s reportedly low score on the Wonderlic intelligence test, used by NFL scouts to evaluate prospects for the upcoming NFL Draft.

According to reports, Austin scored a 7 on the 50-question test.

Rated by most services as one of the top receivers and most dynamic all-around players in this year’s draft, many have questioned whether such a score will hurt Austin’s draft status.

My thoughts are simple. If officials begin stopping the game, rolling out a dry erase board and asking players to solve algebra equations to complete a 2-point conversion, I may look elsewhere. But as long as points are being awarded for making defenders miss and finding the end zone, I’m going to stick with Austin.

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Uniforms can provide as much debate among college football fans as evaluating a head coach’s performance. When WVU took the field in gray last year, it lit up the message boards and created whispers in the press box faster than if head coach Dana Holgorsen had brought his offense onto the field and lined up in a Wing-T.

So while Saturday’s Gold-Blue Spring Game, slated for a 1 p.m. kickoff, may not reveal much in terms of how many games the Mountaineer football team will win in 2013, there is sure to be plenty of discussion about exactly how the team will look among the school’s fashion critics.

At 12:30 p.m. Saturday, the Mountaineer Athletic Club will get to see a private unveiling of three different color combinations of new Nike football uniforms for the WVU team. Photos will be released following the event.

Be sure to follow @CamHuffmanRH on Twitter to see the pictures as soon as they are released.

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Trickett may be coming back to Morgantown.

No, not that one.

Clint Trickett, the son of former WVU offensive line coach Rick Trickett, has received his release from Florida State, where his father is currently employed, and is looking for a transfer destination.

Because the quarterback, who grew up running around Mountaineer Field with the other coaches’ kids during the Rich Rodriguez days, is expected to graduate next month, he could be eligible to play immediately, even at another Division I school. He’ll have two years of eligibility remaining.

WVU, USF and Kentucky have been rumored as possible destinations.

During his career with the Seminoles, Trickett played in 17 games and completed 66 of 106 passes for 947 yards and seven touchdowns. Against Clemson in 2011, he threw for 336 yards and three touchdowns, on his way to an ACC Rookie of the Week Award.

Where would Trickett fit in the mix in Morgantown? Who knows. But competition is what usually leads to success, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to add another arm — especially one that has seen time in big-time college football games.

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I’ve been asked many times this week, since the news broke that Shady Spring High School senior basketball standout Chase Connor would be accepting an offer as an invited walk-on for the Mountaineer basketball team, just how I think the Tigers’ all-time leading scorer will fit in at WVU.

My honest answer is just fine.

Connor isn’t going to go in and become a huge contributor right away. As he has readily admitted, he needs to get bigger, faster and stronger. There’s a huge difference between high school basketball in West Virginia and college basketball in the Big 12, and there’s going to be an adjustment period.

But anybody who has seen Connor play knows he can scorch the nets from the perimeter as good as anybody, and WVU clearly needs shooters.

Unlike some of the walk-on 3-point specialists the Mountaineers have had in the past, Connor also has the ability to create his own shot. He’s not just a shooter, he’s a great athlete, and that makes a big difference.

If Connor does what he’s told. Improves his game on the defensive end — a precursor to anybody seeing the floor on a Bob Huggins-coached team — and continues to work hard on his game, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him contributing before the end of his WVU career and probably even earning a scholarship.

— E-mail: chuffman@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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