June 27, 2010
FORT WORTH, Texas — Several hundred TCU fans braved 100 degree temperatures Sunday afternoon to greet the Horned Frog baseball team on its return to campus from the College World Series. TCU won three games in Omaha and was one of four remaining teams at the CWS. The Horned Frogs fell just one game short of advancing to the championship series. TCU won a school record 54 games and climbed as high as No. 3 in the national polls.
It was also the realization of a goal set forth by National Coach of the Year Jim Schlossnagle when he arrived on campus seven years ago.
The Horned Frogs’ dramatic run through the College World Series, in which they were one of only four teams remaining, captivated not only the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex but the entire city of Omaha and a good bit of the nation. Everyone was talking TCU baseball.
Historic Rosenblatt Stadium became a sea of purple for over a week. TCU’s first visit to Omaha was even more special given that 2010 is the final year of Rosenblatt. The College World Series will move across town next season to the new TD Ameritrade Park.
TCU apparel sold out mid-week, and new shipments of Horned Frog shirts, jerseys and caps had to be ordered to accommodate the mad rush of everyone in Omaha seemingly wanting to don the color of their new adopted team.
Beginning with the immense roar, by far the loudest any school received, when TCU was introduced at the opening ceremonies, it was readily apparent which team the Omaha faithful were calling their own.
TCU opponents commented on how they felt like the road team at a “neutral” site.
The Horned Frogs were rock stars in Omaha. Autograph seekers sought them out, and everyone wanted a picture with the baseball team from Fort Worth. On several occasions, security personnel were needed to get TCU baseball players to the safety of the team bus.
When the Horned Frogs arrived in town, they were no different than the other seven teams. They all looked like tourists with flip cameras in hand, snapping pictures with cell phones and buying t-shirts. However, when it came time to hit the diamond, the Horned Frogs were ready. A five-run first inning keyed an 8-1 opening-game victory over Florida State.
One of the defining moments in not just this season but one that will also live in future CWS lore came a few days later in an elimination game, also against the Seminoles. TCU trailed 7-2 after six innings. After closing the deficit to 7-3 in the seventh, the Horned Frogs’ rally continued in a memorable manner in the eighth.
TCU plated two runs to close within 7-5 and had the bases loaded with two outs and a full count on Matt Curry. The Horned Frogs were down to their final four outs of the season.
With over 22,000 fans on their feet inside Rosenblatt Stadium, Curry connected on a bomb over the batter’s eye in centerfield to put TCU on top 9-7. Two batters later, Jantzen Witte’s two-run homer capped the eight-run inning and provided TCU with its 11-7 margin.
Curry’s grand slam, which capped the Horned Frogs’ largest come-from-behind win this season, not only goes down as one of ESPN’s Plays of the Day and an instant YouTube hit, but also one of the greatest moments in TCU’s proud athletics history. It’s a postseason moment that will be replayed for years.
The Horned Frogs won three games in their initial visit to Omaha, the most by a newcomer since Georgia Tech also won three times as a CWS rookie in 1994.
TCU won in a frenzied atmosphere. Four of the five games in Omaha drew over 22,000 fans, representing the four-largest crowds to ever watch a Horned Frog baseball game.
From Chancellor Victor Boschini to members of the Board of Trustees, Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief, former players, current students, alumni, faculty and staff and Fort Worth fans making an 11-hour car trip, Omaha was turned into a gathering place for the TCU community. Watching the Horned Frogs at the College World Series was the place to be.
Whether it was its cover photo on USA Today sports weekly, non-stop coverage in the national media or its final eight games of the season televised on ESPN’s family of networks, the TCU baseball team received unprecedented exposure.
The Horned Frogs are also receiving plenty of love locally. Several hundred TCU faithful greeted the team in 100-degree temperatures upon its return to campus Sunday. Later that day, the Horned Frogs were honored by the Texas Rangers in a pre-game ceremony at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
The 2011 TCU baseball team, much like the 2010 squad did, can perhaps find motivation in a near miss to take that next step and reach its ultimate goal of a national championship.
A year ago, TCU fell a game short of Omaha. By virtue of Kyle Winkler’s dominant effort in the deciding game of the 2010 Super Regional in Austin, the Horned Frogs made the leap this season to college baseball’s promised land.
It was Omaha or bust.
By falling just shy of a berth in the championship series this season, the Horned Frogs, with seven of nine position starters and a strong nucleus on the pitching staff returning next year, will look to again take that next step in 2011.
TCU baseball has been on the big stage. The entire nation has seen that TCU is truly one of the elite programs in the nation.