Texas is losing its captain.
Radio broadcaster Keith Moreland, who captained the 1975 national championship baseball team and has been the voice of Texas baseball and football since 1996, will serve in the same capacity for the Chicago Cubs.
“He’s going to be pretty hard to replace, but we’re happy for him,” Texas baseball coach Augie Garrido said.
Moreland will replace legendary Cubs broadcaster Ron Santo, who died last December after a long battle with cancer and diabetes.
“Nobody’s going to replace Ron Santo,” Moreland told the Chicago Tribune. “I’m not going to try. All I can do is keep the seat warm.”
Moreland was a frequent stand-in for Santo on WGM-AM, and beat out other candidates after two months of interviews. The former Longhorn also played for the Cubs for six of his 12 seasons in the MLB.
“Keith is a big loss for us, and it isn’t the emotional loss that’s the big part of that, it’s the professional loss,” Garrido said. “He had almost a perfect balance between being loyal to the University and being professional in his responsibilities as a sportscaster.”
Garrido added that Moreland had a great balance of educating those who were listening to him, while making it exciting for them to hear.
“More than anything, Keith made it an intelligent and impassioned broadcast,” said Craig Way, Moreland’s partner doing Longhorn football and baseball games for the last 10 years. “Calling a game with him, he’d be two or three pitches ahead. He’ll never be over anybody’s head, but you’ll be impressed with how he sees the game.”
The 56-year-old Moreland, who signed a three-year deal with WGN-AM, said Wednesday he was excited about working with play-by-play man Pay Hughes, and making the transition from collegiate to professional sports.
“I understand there’s a lot of difference in an 18-year-old getting his education paid for free and a professional athlete,” Moreland said. “I’m not a critical guy; though, if somebody’s not hustling, I’ll say it. That goes with the territory.”
The Cubs begin their spring training Feb. 27. Their season starts April 1.
<strong> Bye-bye, home-run bats </strong>
Always a place with a low number of home runs, roomy Disch-Falk Field has a reputation as a pitcher’s park.
With a new NCAA-mandated bat to make its appearance today, expect even fewer balls to make it over the walls.
“The game will be dramatically different with the new bat,” Garrido said. “We played 72 innings in the fall against 17 top-rated teams, and there wasn’t one home run hit in any of the 72 innings.”
While the bats will still be aluminum, they’ll play more like a wooden one because of the new Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution standard, put in place to make the game safer for bystanding players and spectators. The bat will also shorten the length of the games — because of less scoring — and diminish what has become an inflated home run statistic.
The bat should have a dramatic effect on the game. Distances of fly balls should decrease by 10 to 15 percent, meaning many balls that might have left the park will instead become pop flies. The effect shouldn’t change the offensive scheme for the Longhorns, who prefer the small-ball method anyway.
“With the new bat, the offense is going to be about sustaining rallies and getting guys to the play,” Garrido said. “All of the little things are going to matter more.”