Lopez, Broadway absorbed by March Madness

Giants have rooting interests in NCAA basketball tournament

Lopez, Broadway absorbed by March Madness

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A sampling of Giants polled Sunday reaffirmed some of sport's essential truths: You can count on the NCAA men's basketball tournament to awaken childhood loyalties. Or school spirit. Or both.

Right-hander Mike Broadway was born in Paducah, Ky., in the heart of the University of Kentucky's fan base. Though Broadway grew up in Golconda, Ill., he knew enough Wildcats fanatics among his relatives and friends to become one himself.

"I can remember for my birthday, for about four years in a row, I got the same miniature Kentucky Wildcats basketball," Broadway said. "Then I'd leave it outside and the dog would pop it."

As a University of Virginia alumnus, left-hander Javier Lopez naturally roots for his alma mater whenever the team participates in March Madness. But Lopez, who grew up near Washington, D.C., couldn't help but follow the exciting Hoyas of Georgetown University, who consistently had excellent teams when he was a youth. He recalled seeing a classic matchup of collegiate centers pitting Georgetown's Patrick Ewing against Virginia's Ralph Sampson. Lopez saw other stars perform, such as Chris Mullin of St. John's and Derrick Coleman and Rony Seikaly of Syracuse. That, said Lopez, was when "the Big East was the Big East."

Second baseman Joe Panik attended St. John's but didn't witness the heroics that Lopez did, being 13 years younger.

"They would be the team I root for," Panik said, "if my school were good at basketball." St. John's last reached the tournament in 2011.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.