As a baseball player, it’s one of those things you dream about your whole life.
The dogpile. The fireworks. The sheer joy and excitement that everything you have ever worked for has been accomplished.
It’s a feeling so unbelievable and overwhelming that words just can’t do it justice.
Winning the College World Series last year was the highlight of my career. The way we grew as a team. The way we responded to adversity.
Everything we had set out to get done culminated on one night in June.
And the best part about it? We did it together, as a team!
See, this is what makes baseball fun to me. The people you play the game with.
To be honest with you, from the get-go, it was never about the trophies or the fame. For me, it has always been about the people.
And it all started with the person who introduced me to the sport in the first place – my dad.
Whether I liked it or not, I was always meant to be a baseball player.
I’m even named after two of my dad’s favorite players – Ty Cobb and Nolan Ryan. He always planned on connecting with me over the sport.
Thankfully, his passion was contagious, and it didn’t take long for me to fall for the game myself.
I have so many fond memories of us going outside, playing catch, working on batting, or just watching games together.
Baseball was our thing. It’s a common love we shared.
It was even a bit of a secret bond between us. Sometimes, he’d come over to my school during his lunch break just to play some baseball with me. And mom obviously wasn’t supposed to know.
But in all seriousness, those were some of my favorite childhood memories.
It made me realize how special of a sport this is and that it brings people together.
And there was no one I’d rather play with than my dad.
So, ever since these first experiences with him, to me, the game has always been about the people you play with.
And oddly enough, this is also what eventually led me to Vanderbilt and a College World Series title.
I was a sophomore in high school when I visited Vanderbilt for the first time. I remember how excited I was to simply check out campus and the athletic department.
I had admired the Commodores for many years. Not only for their professionalism and athletic achievements, but also because of their funny shenanigan videos.
As weird as it may sound, this was important to me. After all, I wanted to be in a fun and supportive environment. And to me, those videos exemplified this.
So, once I had an opportunity to experience it all up close and personal, I was stoked.
Vanderbilt did not disappoint.
I was blown away by how they ran things. The way the team and coaches went about their business really left a strong impression.
So, I did the only reasonable thing to do at this point.
The very next day, I jumped on the phone to talk about the offer they extended to me.
“Can I commit right now?”
And just like that, I was a Commodore.
The journey to the College World Series title in 2019 really started at the end of the 2017/2018 season.
We fell one game short of the College World Series, losing to Mississippi State in the Super Regionals.
It was a big blow to end the season like that, but it inspired a lot of the older guys to return.
Right away, having that senior leadership was huge in setting the tone for our next year. A year that would turn into a historic one.
A lot of people ask us what we attribute our success to that season. And honestly, much comes down to an excellent offseason.
In the fall, we spent a lot of time working on the fundamentals – hitting the weights, getting in shape, conditioning, etc. This is where you build chemistry and character, and we did just that.
As the season rolled around, we knew what we were capable of, but our mantra was to take it one game at a time, all while having the time of our lives.
And again, that’s precisely what we did.
Throughout the entire season, we just kept a level head and went about our business. We took it game by game, just like we had set out to do.
Winning the SEC tournament certainly gave us big momentum that we carried over into the NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals.
And before we knew it, it was time to head to Omaha for the College World Series. Simply qualifying was a thrill in itself. But obviously, our goal was to accomplish more.
Being at the College World Series for those two weeks is such an unparalleled experience. You grow up watching games like these on TV. And now you’re living it. It’s hard to put into words.
In the finals, we dropped our first game to Michigan, meaning we had to win the next two.
We were unphased, though. It was vital that we didn’t hit the panic button and focused on our strengths.
Our team had the confidence and ability to come together and win the next two.
We had great pitchers going in both games, and top to bottom, we had the perfect lineup.
In the end, we rallied and won those next two games.
As DeMarco caught that final out, a rush of adrenaline came over me.
The dogpile that followed was a surreal memory that will always have a special place in my heart. We all soaked up the feeling of winning a national title.
Champions of college baseball.
Nothing else to add…
Experiencing the pinnacle of your sport is a special moment. But contrary to some people’s beliefs, I’m as hungry as ever to repeat the success.
So, for now, all my attention is geared towards my final season with the Commodores.
After that? Who knows…
What I do know is that I’ll always be connected to the game of baseball.
And certainly be connected to the people within baseball.