OMAHA — A college baseball player cashing in on trash talk, another back at Omaha in a different team’s uniform, and a ballplayer who says he will get an Omaha-themed tattoo if his teams wins the series.
As eight college baseball teams arrived in Omaha to compete in the College World Series, SI Kids found three interesting stories from Charles Schwab Field for our readers:
Same Catcher, New Uniform
The first pitch of the 2022 College World Series was caught by Texas A&M catcher Troy Claunch on Friday against Oklahoma. The Vacaville, Calif. native had played here before, back in 2018. Then, he was wearing an Oregon State jersey and only briefly took the field for one inning.
The Beavers won it all that year, and Claunch, who is now a team captain and starting catcher for the Aggies, hopes his current team will have the same fate as the Beavers did.
“Each team has a different story,” he said. “We’ve had a different story, a different road of getting here. But I think our grit and our resilience is the same.”
Claunch joined the Aggies as a graduate student when the 2021 MLB draft was cut to a smaller player pool and he wasn’t selected. Coach Jim Schlossnagle said having experienced players like Claunch is what helped bring Texas A&M to Omaha this year. Coming to the CWS, Claunch was batting .296 and had scored 42 runs.
“Troy Claunch is a good player,” Schlossnagle said. “He would be in professional baseball if it was more than a 20-round draft. And you see that a lot—we’re in the golden age of college baseball.”
Claunch said the key to the Aggies winning is to focus on playing the same as they have all season.
“As far as Omaha experience, postseason experience, yes, again, the lights get brighter,” he said. “But we talk about it—pressure is a privilege and we’re privileged to be here and we just have to keep doing our thing.”
The Aggies are off to a rough start in Omaha. Oklahoma beat them 13–8 in the first game of the series. Now Texas A&M will face Texas on June 19 at 2 p.m. ET in an elimination game.
Stay tuned to SI Kids to find out if Claunch and his teammates get their storybook ending or are the first team to leave.
A Win Means Tattoo Time
Stanford center fielder Brock Jones is back in Omaha with the Cardinal, and if they win, he plans on celebrating with a new tattoo.
The 6-foot, 197-pound junior already has a full arm sleeve of tattoos and has almost completed a full leg sleeve. Now Jones is hoping he will leave Nebraska with a reason for his next ink.
“I told the guys if we win Omaha, I’ll get an Omaha tattoo for them,” he said.
Jones, who has a .327 batting average, said he will even let his teammates pick the design to make it “more fun.”
The highly-rated draft pick was part of Stanford’s run in the 2021 College World Series, which ended with a 6–5 loss to Vanderbilt, the team that eventually lost to Mississippi State in the finals.
“You come back into the park and you immediately, it's the first thought that hits your brain is how you lost last year and how you ended up leaving that all behind,” he said.
Jones calls this CWS a “redemption year” and says the players are using that motivation to fuel them, including helping them get through five elimination games in recent weeks.
“We've touched on pretty much every possible game scenario that we can at this point,” Jones said. “We've been up a lot, down a lot, dogfights in between. We've been proud of this group and we're always looking forward to the next game.”
Many of his teammates experienced that 2021 loss in Omaha and now are less intimidated by the ballpark said.
“We were walking in the park doing our walk-through yesterday and we were like it’s smaller than I remember,” the junior from Fresno, Calif. said. “That tells me we’re right where we need to be. We’re not going to run from it. We’re here to face everything and we couldn’t be more excited to be back.”
Stanford will play its first CWS game Saturday 2 p.m. ET against Arkansas.
Arkansas Transfer Player Cashes in on Negativity
One CWS player is cashing in on some sports media trash talk.
Razorback catcher Michael Turner transferred to Arkansas for the 2022 season after four years at Kent State. The athlete was blasted in May on a sports talk radio show following Arkansas’s 7–5 loss to Florida at the SEC Tournament. Turner was called a loser, and it was said that he wasn’t an actual Razorback but a “rental player.” The talk show co-host who made those comments has since apologized.
Turner, who came to Omaha with a .311 batting average for the Razorbacks, said he choose to ignore the negative talk.
“I just tried to blow it off the best I could,” he said.
Less than two weeks later, Turner had an endorsement deal with Castle Rental and Pawn in Arkansas as their official D1 “Rental” Baseball Player of the Year.
“It was a cool opportunity for sure”, Turner said of the endorsement deal, which he announced on Twitter June 8.