MLB players mixed up in Madness of March
TAMPA, Fla. -- Even as we get down to the final roster cuts at major league spring training camps, many players are keeping one eye on the ball and one eye on their brackets. I caught up with several major leaguers to talk about this year's NCAA tournament. Here's what they had to say about Final Four contenders, pretenders and sleepers:
David Price, Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher
Price starred for three years at Vanderbilt before the Rays made him the top draft pick in 2007. The Opening Day starter (pictured above) has high hopes for his Commodores (No. 5 seed in the Southwest, facing No. 12 seed Richmond) on Thursday. "If the game is in the 80s, we're gonna win," Price said. "That means we're hitting our jump shots and our 3-pointers." Price also likes Duke, UConn and North Carolina. The 2010 AL Cy Young runner-up didn't give me his national champion, but he said he'll be watching as much of the tournament as possible. "I get into it pretty good. I enjoy watching it."
Nick Swisher, New York Yankees right fielder
Swisher, who played baseball at Ohio State, not surprisingly picks his Buckeyes, this year's overall No. 1 seed, to win it all. "Nobody in the country can beat us," Swisher said. The 2010 All-Star likes Pitt and Texas to join his Buckeyes in the Final Four. Stating what every college basketball fan is thinking right now, "Those three I'm pretty confident on, but other than that it's kind of a crapshoot." Swisher likes Jimmer Fredette and BYU to make a run and does not like Notre Dame's chances.
Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees center fielder
Granderson, a Chicago native, adopted the Kansas Jayhawks as his team in the early '90s and has been a fan ever since. He's sticking with them this year. "That's my team," Granderson said. "I've got to run with them to go all the way." He didn't give me his Final Four, but he likes red-hot North Carolina. Granderson loves Oakland University (No. 13 seed in the West facing No. 4 Texas on Friday) as a sleeper. "Oakland is going to come through big," he said. "They're going to surprise somebody."
Ben Revere, Minnesota Twins outfielder
The Kentucky native isn't picking his Wildcats to win it all and thinks Duke has a good chance to cut down the nets in Houston. Revere likes Tom Izzo's Michigan State team to make a run as it always does in March. "They know how to win in the tournament." He also likes North Carolina. "I'll choose anybody but Ohio State," Revere said when asked about his pick for champion. "My mom went there and I have to hear it all the time. She's been running her mouth the whole time. It's bad enough with football."
Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles center fielder
Jones has been a North Carolina Tar Heels fan since 1995 when he watched Jerry Stackhouse dunk. "I like my Heels," Jones said. "I'm not releasing my other picks, but I've got Carolina in my Final Four." Jones told me he also has Duke losing to Texas in the Sweet 16. He wouldn't reveal his champion, but he did confirm it's not North Carolina.
B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay Rays center fielder
Upton is no stranger to college hoops. He was born and raised in ACC country, and his father has been a longtime college basketball referee. The only two teams he gave me were North Carolina and Duke in the Final Four. He also likes Texas. "It's so tough for me to call because March Madness is so different," Upton said. "It's not the same as the regular season and you never know what's going to happen." Upton echoed everybody's sentiments: "This is probably the first year I can say it's a toss up. You can't really say who's going to be there because everybody's been playing each other tough all year."