Lubbock welcomed its proud sons home Tuesday afternoon, as the Texas Tech baseball team returned to Texas soil.
A crowd of about 40 people waited at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport, where the team returned after earning the first regional championship victory in the school’s history in Coral Gables, Florida. Tech will host a super regional against the College of Charleston this weekend.
But as the a handful of citizens applauded and chanted for the victors, one in the crowd had more reason to smile than most.
Spencer Howell, 13, fist bumped each of the players as they filed, one by one, off their Elite Airlines plane. Howell, the Red Raiders’ bat boy for the two previous years, aspires to be one of those players one day.
“I figured they’d recognize me,” he said of the players. “It’s a very great feeling.”
Howell and the rest of the crowd chanted “Raider Power” as the crowd split in two, making a tunnel for coach Tim Tadlock and his players to walk through.
“It was really special for all the guys and everybody that was involved. We really appreciate everybody coming out to the airport. Even for the ones that didn’t come, we are getting support from near and far. I think Raider Nation is growing as we speak,” Tadlock said.
Still, some were disappointed with the turnout.
Carolyn Eaks, a self-titled fan of all Tech sports, said she had hoped more people would come out in support of the team at about 3 p.m. Tuesday.
“We should always remember this,” she said. “This is the furthest we’ve gotten in the NCAA, and it might be an omen of good things to come.”
While other fans in the crowd held up a bright red banner, emblazoned with “2014 Regional Champions,” J.B. Gonzales, 10, held two new baseballs. As the players passed, dressed in gray and red polo shirts, Gonzales held up a Sharpie marker and asked them to sign the balls.
When all was said and done, he got about 12 signatures.
“That was pretty nice of them,” he said.
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