I Almost Played Baseball for the USC Trojans

Posted by on Jun 4, 2017 in Baseball, Stories

Like any kid, I wanted to be a major league baseball player.

I played baseball in high school, but having spent most of my grade school years up in Canada, I was a little behind most of my American peers when I moved back down to the US for 11th grade. A birthday on the wrong side of the cut-off date for grade placement didn’t help things, making me almost a year younger than most of my peers. I wasn’t very good and spent most of the time riding the bench.

I ended up going to the University of Southern California. I didn’t want to give up on my baseball dream, but there were no on-campus rec leagues for baseball, and the on-campus softball offered was co-ed and required all men to bat opposite-handed, due to the lack of a suitably sized playing field. The only way I could get my baseball fix was to join a recreational men’s baseball leagues in LA in the spring and back home in Houston over the summers. I had the basic tools: decent gap hitter, speed, and a pretty good arm. Around this time, I also started going to the gym more regularly and started to fill out a bit.

By my junior year, I decided that I would try out for the USC baseball team. The USC baseball program is prestigious and competitive, having won the most Division I championships than any other school. The 1996-1997 team that I was trying out for had some pretty good talent, with guys like Morgan Ensberg, Eric Munson, Seth Etherton, and Randy Flores, all of whom would eventually make it to the majors.

It would be a long shot, but if I didn’t give it a try, I would always wonder. Trying out for the team required that you get a full physical, jellyfinger and all. Gotta do what you gotta do.

Day One

The first morning of try-outs, we were instructed to meet at USC’s Dedeaux field, named after one of USC’s storied head coaches, at 8am. The air was cool and misty. Gathered on the field were about 50 kids who had the same idea as me.

Trojans head coach Mike Gillespie came out and led things off with this:

“Including players returning from last year and guys we have on scholarship out of high school, I have 26 guys. I’m allowed to carry a 25-man roster. So you’re gonna have to look like Mickey Mantle out here for us to even take a look at you.”

On day one, all we did was run. A lap around the field, and then timed sprints. The next morning, we were told to come back and check a posted sheet of paper to see if we had been cut.

Day Two

About half of the guys were crossed off the list. But not me. I was still with the group for another day of try-outs.

On this day, all we did was field and throw. Growing up, I had played a bit of third base and outfield, but the coach made us pick our best position, and I figured that I would have my best chance in the outfield, especially given that Morgan Ensberg was a fixture at third and the graduation of Jacque Jones may have created an opening in the outfield. So I stood in right field with the other outfield prospects and took some grounders and flies, throwing some balls to the cut-off man and others all the way to third base.

Day Three

The next morning, another half of the guys were cut. I was one of the twelve or so people that made it to the last day.

All we did was take batting practice off of Gillespie. Throwing from behind a net, he quickly identified my long swing and started pitching inside on me to see if I could adjust. Hitting the inside pitch has never been my strength, but I adjusted, hitting a few line drives, a few ground balls, and a one-hopper off the left field fence.

In the end, nobody made the team. And the next year, the USC Trojans won a national championship. So my claim to fame is that I almost made the Division I national champion USC Trojan baseball team.

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