College Baseball World Series 2011: Robin Ventura Sits Down with B/R to Talk CWS
Robin Ventura knows a thing or two about the College World Series. After all, he went to Omaha twice as a member of the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
He also had a record 58-game hitting streak, a record that still stands in Division I baseball. If there's one person who knows about the pressures of winning and performing on the biggest stages of college baseball, it's Ventura.
It's a no-brainer, then, that Ventura would be a great resource to tap for insight to this year's College World Series and the event overall.
I had the opportunity to conduct an interview via phone with Mr. Ventura and he had some very interesting thoughts on who the players and teams to watch in this year's event are, what makes the College World Series a great event and the new ballpark in Omaha.
Top Player to Watch in the College World Series
Joseph Healy: If you were to single out one player from the entire College World Series field that the casual baseball fan has to check out, who would it be?
Robin Ventura: "There are some exciting players, but you start looking at different players that might be recognizable. Mike Yastrzemski's grandfather is Carl Yastrzemski. That's one you'll immediately recognize when you hear that name. It's players like that.
"There's Preston Tucker from Florida, a very exciting player. There's players that you are going to see here that will end up being professional players. It's something...you get to see them before they become famous."
Most Complete Team in Omaha
JH: I think we've seen time and time again that you really need a complete team to win in Omaha. If a team is overly reliant on one hitter or one pitcher, a two-week long tournament will expose them. Who do you feel is the most complete (or Omaha-ready, if you will) team in the field?
RV: "Well, Florida and Vanderbilt are the two teams that are, to me, the most well-rounded as far as pitching, defense, offense and they're not relying on one thing.
As far as Texas, pitching-wise, they might be the best. Lately, they have struggled to score runs, but they scratch and find a way to score runs, which is dangerous because if they get hot, they're pitching is so good."
Contrast in Coaching Experience
JH: As far as coaching goes, we have an interesting contrast. On one side, we have a coach like Augie Garrido at Texas that may as well buy a home in Omaha and then we have guys like Rob Childress at Texas A&M and Dave Esquer at Cal who have never been to Omaha as a head coach. How big of an advantage is it to have a coach who has been to Omaha before?
RV: "I think there is an advantage in the way you talk to your team and just as far as being comfortable...where you're going, where you're staying. They kind of have great teams, and I think Augie has that.
"With Dave Esquer...he's been here. He won a national championship as a shortstop at Stanford so it's not really his first time being here. I don't really see his first time here as a head coach as a detriment to him."
Differences in Pressure Between Players and Coaches
JH: How different would it be to come back as a coach? As a player, it's a different type of pressure, but as a coach you are the face of the program. The alumni, the fans and the boosters that are so important to the program are going to be looking to you to lead this team. How would the pressure be different?
RV: "(As a coach) You are making all the decisions. As a player, all you could do was go out and play. Especially for Cal, having been on the brink of their program being eliminated and now you're at the College World Series playing for a national championship.
"You go from not being able to put on a uniform to being able to have a chance to take home the largest hardware there is for college baseball. I don't see anything for him (Esquer) that changes, because it got as bad as it could get (for Cal baseball) and now he's back with a chance to not only redeem himself, but the school."
Importance of Experience Among the Players
JH: South Carolina returns much of the team that won it all in Omaha last season. Florida was here last year as well. The prevailing thought is that players will be less awestruck when they come back to Omaha compared to their first time and as such, will play much more relaxed. Do you feel that is accurate or is that maybe overblown?
RV: "I think when you come here (Omaha) a second or third time, you're more relaxed. It'll be different this year because it's not in Rosenblatt. All these kids, even when they were in high school, have watched the College World Series, and you're used to seeing certain things and Rosenblatt is the visual of years and years of watching teams come to Omaha in Rosenblatt.
"It'll be different this year. They are going to go on the field for the first time and take batting practice and see, you know, the big scoreboard and the press box that sits above it. It's going to be different. It's going to be like playing in a minor league park.
:The enormity of having a chance to win the national championship is something, but you're not going to have the Rosenblatt awe that you used to have."
Thoughts on the New Stadium
JH: The College World Series will be breaking in a new stadium this season, TD Ameritrade Park. While everyone is a little sad to see Rosenblatt go, I think most feel this is a necessary step in growing the sport of college baseball. What are your thoughts on the new park?
RV: "I think it's going to be a nice park. I think the difference is that you won't have the coziness you had at Rosenblatt. For college, it was the equivalent of Wrigley, Fenway and all those older parks that you just enjoy going to.
"It will be different, but again, you will have a great tournament in a great city and that part won't be lost on anyone. You're not going to have those creature comforts that you have had in the past."
What Makes the Event so Special?
JH: When you talk to anyone who has coached in, played in or covered the College World Series, they will tell you to a man that there is no sporting event like it. What is it about this event that makes it so special?
RV: "You have your football bowl series, you have your Final Four. It's just one of those events that people come to and can't believe how fun it is.
"Again, it's Omaha. It doesn't move around, it's always in the same city. It's really the people of Omaha. They put on this great event, and that's why people come here. That's what they go away with."