I’m not sure when college baseball coined the term “Friday Night Guy.”
ESPN suggests it came about in the mid-1990s when the SEC (the always power-packed Southeastern Conference) changed its weekend schedule, moving one of its traditional double-header Saturday games to Friday night.
On that night, in the SEC and in ballparks around the country, the best college pitchers – the aces – pitch.
To be a Friday Night Guy is to be the best pitcher on your team. Facing the other guy’s Friday Night Guy.
When the University of Virginia takes the field in the first game of this year’s College World Series on Saturday afternoon, their Friday Night Guy will take the mound – Sophomore Connor Jones.
(I know. It’s Saturday. Friday Night Guys get juggled around some once the post-season arrives.)
Jones didn’t start the season as the Friday Night Guy. He was, uh, I guess you’d call him the Saturday Dude for much of this season. The #2 guy.
Not this Saturday Night Guy.
When UVa’s ace Nathan Kirby went down with a shoulder muscle strain in April, Jones stepped up.
We call him CoJo.
(And, by “we,” I mean, really just me. But, it’s a good nickname, don’t you think? I spend a lot of time thinking up nicknames for the players and shouting them out, hoping they catch on. They usually don’t. This one, though, is a shame, because it’s pretty good.)
The Hoos will wear their “Connor Camo” jerseys, which they’ve worn whenever CoJo pitches, ever since wearing them for a dominating 5-2 win over heavily favored Miami on April 18. That afternoon Jones went 7 2/3, struck out 11, and gave up two runs, just one earned.
Camo-Clad Connor Jones pitching in that April 18 win over Miami.
Why the camouflage jerseys? “I thought they looked really cool,” Jones said this week.
(Fun Fact: The camouflage jerseys don’t really camouflage the guys. You can still see them.)
In this short interview, CoJo admits that 1) sometimes he doesn’t know who he is pitching to, he just throws, and 2) he’s a Red Sox fan. A Red Sox fan. How did that happen? The Red Sox could use a CoJo.
Since becoming the Friday Night “Connor Camo” Guy, Jones has started seven games and is 3-0 with a 2.09 ERA. The team is 6-1 in those games.
The University of Virginia Cavaliers face the Arkansas Razorbacks in the College World Series today, Saturday, June 13, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern.
What? You mean you’re not in Omaha? You won’t be at the game?
(Yeh, me neither.)
The game airs on ESPN.
Photos: Davenport Field, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia © The Baseball Bloggess