A.J. Ramos was in his Miami Marlins locker room Monday watching Texas Tech’s final game against Miami in the NCAA Coral Gables Regional when one of his teammates said, “This is where you went to college, right? Wow, they don’t have any big guys but they’re scrappy.”
Ramos agreed but wasn’t surprised.
He works out in Lubbock during the offseason and judging by the hard work he’s seen from the current group of Red Raiders, he’s been waiting to see it pay off on the field.
Tech is hosting the College of Charleston this weekend in the Red Raiders’ first NCAA Super Regional in program history.
“I’m very proud,” Ramos said. “I know Coach (Tim) Tadlock and how much he cares about the team and everything. It’s cool to see all the hard work everyone has put into it and that it’s paying off. To host the super regionals in Lubbock is pretty cool too. It’s good for the university and the city.”
Ramos, who pitched at Tech from 2006-09, was pleased his alma mater was in town. He was able to go watch a few innings of Tech’s game against Columbia on Friday.
Chris Richburg, former Tech fielder from 2005-09, was on vacation with his wife in Miami and when he found out his Red Raiders were in town he had to go. But, like Ramos, Richburg had to watch the final game from a screen.
“Miserable is a word I can use to describe sitting through that,” Richburg said. “That was some of the worst anxiety I’ve ever had.”
Former Tech pitcher and staff member Brandon Roberson wasn’t stressed out at all as he kept up with the action on GameTracker.
“I felt like after the 2-1 loss they were going to be relaxed,” Roberson said. “The coaching staff is really good about getting the kids to believe that it’s just one game at a time.”
Josh Tomlin, pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, didn’t get to keep up with Monday’s madness because he had a game at noon against Boston.
Neither did Colt Hynes, Nathan Karns or Chad Bettis, who each had games that day as well.
Bettis didn’t even know until someone sent him a text that Tech was going to the supers.
“I looked it up to make sure it was true,” said Bettis, who pitched for Tech from 2008-10 and now plays for the Colorado Rockies minor league affiliate Colorado Springs Sky Sox. “Then I saw some tweets. It was a pretty exciting day.”
No matter how the former players found out, they shared in the excitement.
“As a former player for the Red Raiders, I couldn’t be more proud of the program,” said Karns, who pitched for Tech from 2008-09 and now plays for the Tampa Bay Rays minor league affiliate Durham Bulls.
Lubbock native and Frenship graduate Richburg has followed Tech baseball since the ’90s and said this is the “proudest moment of his Texas Tech lifetime.”
“This is something that everybody’s wanted,” he said. “It says a lot about the players and the staff because they’ve done something we’ve been trying to do for a long time. A lot of good teams haven’t been able to (advance to the supers).”
Of the seven former Red Raiders interviewed, only Roberson advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
Lubbock hosted a regional his first year in 1999. Tech won the first two games before Rice dashed the dream with back-to-back wins.
A year later, Rice killed the dream again, this time in Houston.
His final year, Tech advanced to the Fullerton Regional but once again was eliminated.
“This year’s Super Regional has been a long time coming,” Roberson said. “There’s been a lot of teams in the past that couldn’t get over the hump.”
There wasn’t much to get over for the other former players as Tech averaged 28.5 wins per season and recorded a .501 winning percentage overall from 2005-10.
“Oh wow,” Bettis said. “I mean, it’s unimaginable. If you would have told somebody five years ago where we were and where we will be, they wouldn’t have believed you.”
Karns said that with the season the Red Raiders have had, they’re ready to make a big push to be a main contender in the Big 12 Conference.
This year, the Red Raiders are 43-19, posting their first 40-win season since 2004, the last time they advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
“We had a pretty good team when I was there (from 2006-09),” Ramos said. “This just goes to show that it’s not just talent and hard work, but it takes a lot of things to go your way and to go right to make it this far. These guys are scrappy. No matter the situation, they’ve been able to pull through. It’s awesome to see.”
But no matter how successful any of the seven former players were at Tech, none of them want to take any credit for the Red Raiders’ current success.
“I feel like myself and the guys that played before me were just small pieces of the big puzzle,” said Hynes, who pitched at Tech from 2006-07 and now plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league affiliate Albuquerque Isotopes. “When I was at school there, we weren’t always on the winning end of things and it was tough at times. If there is a piece with me or the guys before me that fit in there and by some way motivated any kid to play baseball at Texas Tech, it would be a tremendous honor.”
Tomlin and Ramos don’t see themselves playing a role in Tech’s success. Instead, they see Tech as the main factor in their major league pitching careers.
“Texas Tech gave me the opportunity in 2006 to pitch for them and to play baseball when a whole lot of people wouldn’t,” said Tomlin, who is 3-2 with an ERA of 3.06. “That led to me getting drafted by the Indians and having a career in baseball.”
Ramos, an Estacado High School graduate, is 3-0 on the season with an ERA of 3.00.
“I wasn’t one of those guys you saw on ESPN in high school,” Ramos said. “I wasn’t a player that was really highly scouted. I went in there and worked hard and showed that hard work can pay off. Because of that, I was able to be one of those main guys.”
This weekend during Tech’s Super Regional series against the College of Charleston, Ramos will be on the road with the Marlins playing a series of his own against the Cubs. But he’ll definitely be keeping up with his Red Raiders.
He even offered some words of wisdom.
“Play the game and not the moment. But most of all, go have fun.”
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