Peterson will be your Seawolves host on ESPN2

ESPN analyst Kyle Peterson will call Stony Brook's ESPN analyst Kyle Peterson will call Stony Brook's debut in the College World Series. Photo Credit: Ronna Gradus

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Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept. ...

Kyle Peterson will have an important dual role today when Stony Brook makes its College World Series debut.

As an ESPN2 analyst, he will be charged with helping to introduce the Seawolves to America.

And as someone who grew up and still lives in Omaha, Neb., he will help introduce the event to Long Islanders who do not customarily tune in.

The best part of the latter, which he understands from decades of personal experience, is that the Seawolves likely will be embraced by Omahans as if they were from across town rather than across the country.

"The new teams always are the fan favorite the minute they show up,'' Peterson said. He recalls the frenzy over TCU and its horned frog mascot a couple of years back and expects more of the same for the Seawolves.

"A lot of times -- maybe this sounds kind of stupid -- but if the name is different and it doesn't sound like a state or anything else, that kind of stuff resonates with the kids,'' he said. "Stony Brook just sounds cool.''

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While that might be enough for Peterson's 7½-year-old son and his friends, as an analyst and former major-league pitcher (with the Brewers in 1999 and 2001), Peterson also appreciates Stony Brook's baseball credentials. In fact, he believes the Seawolves can win it all.

"It's not something I would have said at the beginning of the tournament just because I hadn't seen them with my own eyes,'' said Peterson, who pitched in the CWS twice for Stanford and learned he was drafted in the first round by Milwaukee during a CWS batting practice.

"They can match up with anybody. A lot of times when the Cinderella-type team makes it to Omaha, they got hot, went on a good run. It's different with these guys. Yeah, they got hot. But they're good.''

Maine was a CWS regular in an era when the selections were more purely regional. But its last appearance was in 1986, the last time any team from the Northeast made it. "It's a testament to them in a variety of different ways,'' said Peterson, 36, a third-generation CWS fan.

Karl Ravech will call play-by-play Friday, with Jenn Brown as the sideline reporter. If Stony Brook loses, it will draw the same crew Sunday. If Stony Brook wins, it gets Mike Patrick, Nomar Garciaparra and Jessica Mendoza.

Patrick, Peterson and Orel Hershiser will work the finals. Peterson wouldn't be surprised if SBU is there with them.

'Unbelievable' gig

Matt Mankiewich, 47, has appeared on Stony Brook's WUSB (90.1 FM) since he arrived as a freshman in 1983. But nothing before has been quite like this: He will call play-by-play when the Seawolves make their College World Series debut Friday against UCLA.

"This is unbelievable,'' he said, "to have my own alma mater in it and be involved at the level I am.''

Mankiewich, a web producer for NHL.com and a stringer for commercial radio stations, is no stranger to major events. But this will be extra-special. When he was an undergrad, the school played in Division III against "schools even we never heard of. Now Stony Brook is fighting at its proper weight level.''

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Joe Nathan Field is not well- suited to live radio broadcasts, so WUSB did not carry regular-season games. But it has been on board through the postseason.

WUSB's signal extends deep into Nassau County from its transmitter in Selden, so even Long Islanders not near a TV Friday can follow the region's new favorite college team.

Mankiewich, who calls men's lacrosse games, said the station uses a mixture of students and alumni for on-air work on a volunteer basis. In this case, the payoff is greater than money.

CWS is an ESPN tradition

Some of the early staples of ESPN, such as Australian football, have long since faded on the network, but one such property remains a late spring tradition.

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The College World Series first appeared in 1980, the first full year of ESPN's existence and the last time a team from the New York area (St. John's) qualified. The network is scheduled to carry up to 83 games overall this year.

Bess Barnes, director of programming and acquisitions, said the event is an important part of ESPN's deal with the NCAA and that coming at the end of the academic year, it fills a scheduling void that has allowed for continued growth.

Underdogs such as Stony Brook always are welcome. "Everybody loves the Cinderella story, certainly the way they came back and beat LSU in those final two games,'' Barnes said.

In this case, there is an added bonus in terms of TV appeal that is uncommon for college baseball. Said Barnes: "Certainly we love having the New York market tuning in.''

Seawolves' run is a trip

College baseball usually is an afterthought in this area, but Stony Brook's run has made a mid-June trip to Omaha sound more attractive than usual.

Sam Soni, president of PrimeSport, the official ticket and hospitality provider for the CWS, said demand is up 13 percent overall with "definitely more sales out of the Northeast than we've seen in past years.''

"We definitely saw for [Stony Brook's] session in particular and some of the early sessions a spike in sales,'' Soni said. "It's always good to have the blended dynamic of the perennial powers with the newer teams.''

StubHub said fewer than 200 tickets had been purchased from its site for Stony Brook's first game. The least expensive went for $15.99, the most for $224.

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