I have time this morning before Virginia takes on Wake Forest with the ACC championship on the line. If UVa can win, it will only be the second time Virginia has won the ACC title outright; the first time was when Ralph Sampson was a sophomore. So you can understand my excitement. (UPDATE: UVa lost to the last place Deacons. Not a surprise; Virginia can never win a big game in any sport. I’m used to it now.)

Now, back to the baseball. Here’s what the papers are talking about this morning:

–Josh Hamilton remains a topic of conversation, as John Fay has this in the Enquirer, and here is Hal McCoy’s piece in the DDN. His homer the other day, though, wasn’t his longest:

People still were talking Friday about Hamilton’s Thursday home run, which cleared a 30-foot high batter’s-eye wall above the center-field fence. It was written that it was the farthest ball Hamilton ever hit, but he disputed that Friday with a smile.

“I hit one when I was at Bakersfield (2002) that was actually measured at 549 feet,” he said. “There was a dirt canal behind the ballpark, and it rained a couple days before so it was still kind of wet. They found it stuck in there and marked it off. It was pretty cool.”

Is there anyone who isn’t rooting for this kid?

–As evidence that there is little to write about at this point in the year, there is more Dustin Hermanson chatter this morning, too: in the Enquirer and in the Post and in the DDN. Lonnie Wheeler has some information on the back troubles Hermanson has had, and how he has recovered:

The problem was an instability of the vertebrae, and by the start of last season Hermanson, sure enough, wasn’t pitching. For most of the off-season, his back simply didn’t get better. It was the first of the year before he found out why.

“I realized I was doing too much back work,” he said. “I was working so hard, I’d be dripping in sweat, and a month goes by and it hasn’t healed at all. What I did was I found a physical therapist, and found out I needed to do a lot more abs and a lot less back. I’m only doing about 15-20 percent with my back work now. That’s what got me back.”

He felt ready to pitch by the second half of last season, but the White Sox were going well and didn’t wish to push it and, for just a little while there, Hermanson got ticked off and went home to see his family. Then he reconsidered, returned to his Triple-A rehab, and was in Chicago by September.

“I actually felt I had just as good or better stuff than ever. I’m not throwing mid-to-high 90s like I used to when I was younger,” Hermanson allowed, “but I’ve been throwing anywhere from 89 to 92 for a couple years and when I came back I was still throwing 90, 91.”

Wheeler says that the Reds were the only team who didn’t rely on the 1+ year old medical report on Hermanson; they sent him to see Doc Kremchek, who gave him a clean bill of health. That explains why the Reds were able to sign him without much competition.

Best case scenario: Hermanson is healthy, pitches great, and the Reds reward him with a nice contract after this season. Seems like that might be Hermanson’s ideal situation:

Meanwhile, the risk to Hermanson is even slimmer. “This is my home team,” he said upon his quiet arrival. “This is the team I was brought up watching with my father, and I thought it might be neat to come over here and hopefully finish my career here.”

As a kid at Kenton Ridge High School, Hermanson reserved a special fondness for the Nasty Boys – Rob Dibble, Randy Myers and Norm Charlton from the 1990 world champions – and it still hasn’t left him. In his heart, he thinks he’s Dibble’s size.

“I don’t care how good you are,” the 12-year veteran said matter-of-factly, “and I don’t care what your name is, I got bigger you-know-whats than you do. That’s my attitude. I like being as mean as I can on the mound. Dibble was a mean dude out there, and I loved it.”

Meet Kyle Lohse! And see what he thought about hitting a batter in the head yesterday.

–The Reds’ “Most Outstanding Pitcher” from 2004 is still working on that comeback.