ESPN Analyst Aaron Boone Talks About the College World Series
There are moments in sports that you'll never forget. Moments that forever change your life and moments that make you love and truly appreciate sports. For many on October 16th, 2003, that moment came in one of the best games in Major League Baseball history.
The stage was perfectly set. It was a Game 7 that featured the Yankees and Red Sox, the best rivalry in the MLB and possibly in all of sports. Aaron Boone walked up to the plate in the 11th inning for his first at-bat of the game. With one swing, he sent the Yankees to the World Series and hit one of the best home runs in Yankees history.
11 years later, after Boone has finished a long and productive career, he now is a a baseball analyst for ESPN. While he normally covers the big leagues, this weekend Boone is covering the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
Boone learned to embrace each moment in his career because of how special each moment is. He hopes the players playing this weekend can do the same and just enjoy the whole experience.
I was able to catch up with Boone to talk about the College World Series, his own college experience and his fun event with Allstate that will allow fans to win trophies for catching foul balls, as well as help raise money for Boys Town in Omaha to support youth sports.
Aaron Boone: The Era of Pitching and Defense in College Baseball
Bleacher Report: Tell me your thoughts on the College World Series so far and how it's played out.
Boone: "Well you know obviously it continues the trend we've seen the last few years with pitching and defense. TD Ameritrade is a very pitcher friendly ballpark and it seems like with these teams looking at them they all pitch well and for the most part they've all been pretty good defensive teams. So it's not surprising to see these teams that have played defense and pitched at a high level are still standing here in Omaha. This is the era of pitching and defense for college baseball and the teams here show that."
Bleacher Report: Which team has surprised you the most this year?
Boone: "When you look at UC Irvine being here not that it should be a huge surprise because they have been here before. My ex coach at USC, Mike Gillespie, has had all kinds of success with programs. He's knocked on the door many times before. On a National scene people don't usually think of UC Irvine when they think of strong baseball teams in college. They've pitched really well, they catch the ball well and they've executed. They've gone in and knocked off some giants. Going to Oregon State and winning that regional and then taking out Oklahoma State. You'd have to say they've been a nice surprise in the College World Series."
Bleacher Report: Which players have stood out to you so far?
Boone: "Well I marvel at Mark Payton out of Texas. To have 101 straight games of getting on base is remarkable. It's hard to wrap your brain around that. We talk about this era of college baseball not being an offensive game and being a strong defensive game to be able to get on base for over 100 straight games is incredible. To have a player that you know is going to be on base today is just great to have. You also have to be impressed with the pitching depth of TCU. All of their pitchers seem to be strong and that's why they are still here and why they are a team to watch."
Lucky Fans Will Be Rewarded If They Show "Good Hands in the Stands"
Bleacher Report: It's the College World Series so you know the fan bases are going to be out there supporting their schools. You are doing a "Good Hands in the Stands" promotion for the fans with Allstate. Tell us a little bit about that.
Boone: "Allstate has been supporting the NCAA for years and now they are a part of the College World Series. During the first four games of the weekend, the two Saturday games and two Sunday games, the first fan that catches a foul ball will get a commemorative trophy and Allstate will make a donation to the Boys Town of Nebraska. Not only for those foul balls, but for every game going forward up to $10,000. I'm excited to be a part of that."
Bleacher Report: You'll be around all weekend. If fans wanted to get a chance to meet you or see you, where can they do that?
Boone: "I'll be at the fanfest on Friday at the Allstate Booth from 5-6 signing autographs so hopefully the fans will drop by and say hi."
Bleacher Report: So where does the lucky winner get the trophy for having "Good Hands in the Stands"?
Boone: "Well I'll be calling the first game and keeping an eye out on who that lucky fan is. Then that Saturday night I'll be presenting the trophy to them during the second game. If they show 'Good Hands in the Stands,' then they'll be rewarded."
Bleacher Report: So what team do you think has the best chance of winning the College World Series?
Boone: "Well you have to look at a team like TCU. We talked about how this is a pitcher friendly park and they already have some pretty good pitchers. Their whole pitching lineup is solid. From their starters to their closer. They are set up pretty well. They are really standing out to me right now."
Bleacher Report: What does it mean for these guys to be playing in Omaha and making it this far?
Boone: "I think when you are a college player Omaha is a word that you have engraved in your brain. This is where you want to be as a college baseball player. These kids are getting a chance to live out a dream and to chase down the ultimate prize in college baseball. This is why you come play college baseball. Running into some of these players and looking at their faces has been great. You can see how excited they are to be here and it's evident by the look on some of their faces"
Bleacher Report: You played some college ball yourself. What was your favorite memory during your time in college?
Boone: "Playing at USC my junior year is something I'll never forget. We had a great team and we were number one in the nation for part of the year. We ended up losing the final game to LSU just in the most hostile environment you could have. I think we lost 12-10 to go to Omaha. Just the whole excitement of the regional and the excitement of that final game. Even though it didn't end like I was hoping, it was still an amazing experience."
Boone Advises College World Series Participants to Enjoy the Moment
Bleacher Report: Who were your influences as a young player?
Boone: "Well obviously my dad and my brother were big influences in my life and my game. Coach Gillespie with UC Irvine who is here now has been a huge part of my life. Someone that I am so excited for this deep in college career comes out and makes UC Irvine the program that it is. He is still a big influence for all of the things he is doing. I'm honored to call one of his games this weekend."
Bleacher Report: Any advice that you'd give to these guys playing this weekend?
Boone: "Don't get ahead of yourself. Enjoy the moment that you're in. Maybe you just got drafted, but you are here in the College World Series. Embrace this time with your teammates, with your university and with your friends and family. This could be the last time you play in college before you go to the pros. Just be the best player you can be and don't get too caught up in the future right now. Live this moment to the fullest and focus on the now. You'll never forget this experience."
These quotes were first-hand quotes from Aaron Boone during a recent interview with Elias Trejo and The Bleacher Report.