RAKE'S TAKE BY GREG RAKESTRAW
Sports Journal Monthly Columnist
Pardon me if I have Colts, or at least Colt on the brain. For the last 10 days, that's all I've covered, thought about, or talked about – even though it's two different entities, two different sports and in two different parts of the state.
While the Sports Journal focuses primarily on high school and college sports in the Kokomo/Howard County region, you also get your fill of racing, especially during the summer months. Maybe this fall, and with my presence here, you're also likely to get a larger dose of pro football talk. After being removed from covering the Indianapolis Colts for four years since my full-time radio days, I have the new honor of hosting the post-game show on the Vectren Radio Network statewide, and in Central Indiana on 1070 The Fan.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to cover Super Bowls, Indy 500s, Final Fours, and dozens of IHSAA state championship events. And while I previously covered the Colts on a nearly daily basis from 2000-2008, this time I'll be receiving a paycheck with a horseshoe on it. It's a dream for any broadcaster to work for a major sports team. I'll get to work with a great friend in Barry Krauss, and every Sunday I get to follow a broadcasting legend in this state, Bob Lamey.
So with that, it was out to Anderson University, a place I hadn't visited in well over a decade. In fact, the last time I covered a Colts camp it was at Rose-Hulman University and Peyton Manning was there, as was Tony Dungy, Dallas Clark, Jeff Saturday, etc. It is certainly a startlingly new era for the Colts. Of the 90 players on the training camp roster, 50 of those players were not part of the 2-14 disaster of 2011.
While so much attention, and understandably so, is focused on Andrew Luck, when you step back and look at the team as a whole, you'll see a team brimming with energy. New additions Corey Redding and Tom Zbikowski bring some of that Baltimore swagger with them to this Colts defense. Some think that this year could rival last season in terms of victories, others like myself think that this team will improve throughout the year and surprise some people down the stretch. I may not be as optimistic as team owner Jim Irsay, who was quoted on the opening day of camp as saying he'd like to see his team “be in the playoff conversation come December.” But, I definitely believe that this team is back on the right course.
Fans, you'll love the enthusiasm of new head coach Chuck Pagano and you'll see the great quarterback traits installed in Andrew Luck by Bruce Arians. Arians played a crucial role in Peyton Manning's development in his early days in Indy. He just left an outstanding tenure as Ben Roethlisberger's guide in Pittsburgh. You'll see vets like Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis, and Antoine Bethea remain to steer this team back towards the greatness we all enjoyed from 2003-2009, a 12-win per season run that the NFL has never seen before. We may not see it here again in Indy, but I still think this team is already back on the way up and will surprise some teams this year.
Not all of my "Colt" thoughts are limited to the Indianapolis “Colts.” For the last four days I've been stationed at Loeb Stadium in Lafayette as Tippecanoe County plays host for a 40th consecutive year to the Colt World Series. This is a championship for 15 and 16 year olds and has seen numerous major leaguers play in this park during their younger days. Two area teams, the Lafayette All-Stars and Hoosier North, are representing the area with over 10 high schools represented on those rosters.
Also in this tournament are youngsters from Puerto Rico, Mexico, South Korea, Germany, and four additional teams representing the United States. It's a great week of baseball, not to mention memories that will last a lifetime for these kids. The championship game isn't until Thursday night, so you still have time to make the short drive across SR26 to take in some baseball. Hopefully, the Lafayette All-Stars will be in that game, if not a semi-final game tonight. While you're here, it's also never a bad thing to walk out past left field to pick up some Arni's or Original Frozen Custard. Two things I've checked off my list already with a few days to spare in the tourney.
So, in one week, I've been able to go to watching every throw of the No. 1 draft pick who we all hope will be the face of our NFL franchise for the next 15 years, to young baseball players who happen to be 15-16 years-old. It's one of the reasons why we're so lucky to be sports fans in this state, and why I'm so lucky to have the chance to chronicle their stories. Talk with you next month.
(Greg Rakestraw is vice president of Hometown Sports Indiana. His familiar voice can also be heard on the IHSAA Champions Network, NCAA.com, and on ESPN 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis, where he hosts the Sunday morning “The Golf Connection.” He is the primary fill-in host for The Dan Dakich Show and The Ride with JMV. His column appears monthly in the Sports Journal.)