Top of the Morning, June 14, 2019


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Louisville's LUKE SMITH and JAKE SNIDER are not the only ex-Champaign high school baseball players participating in this year's College World Series.

Former Centennial pitcher BRANDON BARAK ("I might have been around .500") is in his first year as Vanderbilt's director of player development.

The Commodores open the tournament Sunday against Louisville at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.

"It's definitely cool to have three Champaign guys in Omaha," Barak said.

A one-time News-Gazette scoretaker, Barak is the son of longtime former N-G copy editor RICH BARAK, who is now working in Milwaukee.

Brandon Barak studied recreation, sports and tourism at Illinois, graduating in 2012. He worked with the Illinois women's basketball team during his time in school.

Baseball has always been a part of Barak's career path. He had an internship with BILL JAMES' company in 2012.

Barak spent three years with the Toronto Blue Jays' scouting department as minor league video coordinator.

"I was with an affiliate every day, getting to learn from tons and tons of different people," he said.

Barak, 29, first joined TIM CORBIN's staff at video coordinator in 2016. The Commodores were coming off back-to-back appearances in the CWS title series, winning in 2014.

During the season, Barak concentrates on preparation for upcoming opponents. He produces scouting reports and crunches the numbers.

"Anything I can help them with," he said. "We pride ourselves on being the most technologically advanced team in the country."

Barak is also coming up on his first wedding anniversary with wife BREA.

Where did they meet? At a baseball park in the minor leagues.

"I was just walking around the concourse scouting a game and struck up a conversation with a beer vendor," Barak said. "We got married four years later."

On to my weekend recommendations:


"The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," 10:30 p.m., NBC

Fallon welcomes the cast of Netflix hit "Stranger Things," including Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin.


"The Rookie," 9 p.m., ABC

Not the baseball movie starring Dennis Quaid, but the police drama starring Nathan Fillion. The freshman series has been renewed for a second season.


"The Good Fight," 8 p.m., CBS

The spinoff of "The Good Wife" makes its network debut after originally airing on CBS All Access. Christine Baranski stars.