Why wait until Spring Training begins? If you're willing to replace the crack of the bat with a ping, then the Houston College Classic is just what the doctor ordered.
The three-day, six-team college tournament to be held at Minute Maid Park on Friday through Sunday is in many ways the kickoff to the college baseball season. And you can watch every pitch live as part of the exclusive MLB.com Offseason Package on MLB.TV.
For just $14.95, you'll get all nine games of the Classic, beginning with Friday's opener between highly ranked Vanderbilt and Rice at 1 p.m. ET/noon CT. You'll also get the package of exclusive live video and audio from MLB Spring Training games.
Going into the weekend, Rice and Vanderbilt were clearly the headliners of the event. The Rice Owls were ranked No. 1 in the nation by Baseball America, while the Vanderbilt Commodores came in at No. 8. Arizona State University earned a No. 16 ranking. Baylor, Texas A&M and Houston are not ranked on BA's poll, though Baylor was No. 20 according to Collegiate Baseball and No. 24 in the USA Today/ESPN preseason Coaches' Poll.
The stands at Minute Maid Park should be filled with scouts on hand to watch a number of key draft prospects. None is bigger than Vanderbilt's ace David Price. The junior lefty is currently considered to be the top 2007 draft prospect in the country and will start on Friday against Rice's Chris Kelley.
The Owls have their own lefty ace in Joe Savery. Coming off of minor shoulder surgery, he's hoping to prove to scouts that he's healthy with every start he makes. If Savery is, he could easily be a top 10 pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. He'll get the ball on Sunday vs. Texas A&M.
One of the better pitching matchups of the weekend will come on Friday night when Baylor and Houston face off. The Bears send righty Randall Linebaugh to the mound to face the Cougars' big right-hander, Aaron Brown. Both are making their first starts of the season.
If it's position players you're interested in, there are plenty of those as well. Outfielder Tyler Henley, shortstop Brian Friday and catcher Danny Lehmann (known more for his defense) of Rice are all considered top prospects. A&M's Blake Stouffer is an outfielder worth watching, and ASU has shortstop Andrew Romine, the son of former big leaguer Kevin Romine.
Houston College Classic schedule
Vanderbilt vs. Rice, 1 p.m. ET
(David Price vs. Chris Kelley)
Texas A&M vs. Arizona St. University, 4:30 p.m.
(Jason Meyer vs. Brian Flores)
Baylor vs. Houston, 8 p.m.
(Randall Linebaugh vs. Aaron Brown)
Vanderbilt vs. ASU, 1 p.m.
(Nick Christiani vs. Josh Satow)
Texas A&M vs. Houston, 4:30 p.m.
(Kyle Thebeau vs. TBD)
Baylor vs. Rice, 8 p.m.
(Cliff Springston vs. Ryan Berry)
ASU vs. Houston, 12 p.m.
(Joey Parigi vs. Wes Musick)
Baylor vs. Vanderbilt, 3:30 p.m.
(Jeff Mandel vs. Brett Jacobson)
Texas A&M vs. Rice, 7 p.m.
(David Newmann vs. Joe Savery)
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.