Today, I get to go back in time a bit and do something I've wanted to do since joining FoW 18 months ago. In honor of the Texas series, we're going to talk with former TCU baseball great, Jantzen Witte. Today, Jantzen and I reminisce about his favorite TCU baseball memories, what it's like to be in Double-A in the Red Sox organization, and Matt Carpenter's licking tendencies.
To catch everyone up; tell us where you are right now?
Right now I am in Portland, Maine playing for the AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, the Portland Seadogs.
And this has been going pretty well for you, yes?
Up to this point, we’ve only played 12 games out of the 142 we have for this season. With that said, I’m off to a good start. It’s a long season and I’m very pleased to be coming off of a good year last year and off to a good start, so far.
Take us through a day in the life during baseball season for you?
While I was in college, I thought our daily routine really was a grind. Between morning weights, class, game, study hall, and finishing up with whatever you needed to do for school, it was pretty taxing at times. Especially when we were traveling to the West Coast and getting back to campus at 2 or 3 in the morning. But, it is nothing compared to pro ball. Including the all-star break this year, which is 2 days off, I think we have 10 days off all season. 140 plus games in around 150 days. That’s unbelievable. For me, that is the hardest part of professional baseball. Everyday you wake up, you get ready for another game and put yourself in a position to play well. This, is definitely the grind.
You train and live with Matt Carpenter in the off-season. What's his strangest habit?
We have a good group that works out together in the off-season at TCU. Matt is one of those guys that is awesome to work out with and be around. As far as weirdest things he does, would probably have to be how often he licks his fingers during baseball activities. He does it to get grip on the ball and I’ve found myself actually doing it this year in the colder weather. It may be effective, but I’m sure to people in the stands it would look strange.
My favorite non-JW moment when you were playing was Curry's grand slam against Florida State. What was yours?
My favorite moment was beating Texas, in Austin, to go to the CWS the last year at Rosenblatt stadium. We won on a ground ball to second base and I’ll never forget Tyler Lockwood chunking his glove in the stands as soon as the out was recorded. The excitement we all felt leading up to that win and the bus ride home was out of this world.
What makes TCU such a great place for baseball?
I love TCU. It’s something that sometimes bothers my teammates in pro ball. I’m always wearing purple and always letting everyone know how we’re doing in our athletics. I can’t describe why I love it so much. It just feels like such a special place that I can’t wait to get back to after each season ends. I think what makes TCU baseball so special is how much the program has done. Coach Schloss has done an unbelievable job getting the coaching staff and players that help TCU win. And, not only win, but win with class. Our alumni, student body, and the city of Fort Worth are so supportive of our athletic programs and it continues to get better every year. It is a program that will continue to win and I really think will be a powerhouse in everyone’s eyes when they think of college baseball. I am so proud to have been a part of the first ever TCU team to make it to Omaha, because I think we will have many more appearances.
Has the culture changed (whether the team, the fans, or both) since you left or has it just accelerated from when you were there?
I think we are continuing to get bigger recruits every year. We are starting to get more kids who are turning down huge signing bonuses to come to TCU. I think our coaching staff recruits the right kind of kids and once a player gets on campus and is around Coach Schloss’s program, they can’t help but become a better player and person.
Favorite TCU sports moment since you've left?
I am a TCU fanatic. When we made it to Omaha last year, the timing of it worked out so that we played during my all-star break. I was looking up flights and figuring out if I could break away from where I was and make it to Omaha and back in time. It didn’t work out but that would have been amazing to go back to Omaha and watch those games as a fan. Because I couldn’t make that trip, I’m going to say my favorite moment would have to be winning the Peach Bowl this year. Our energy was amazing and that first half was one of the most fun environment’s I have been involved with at TCU.
You're super in on Jon Snow on Game of Thrones? Aside from the introduction of Stannis to that storyline, it's not really my favorite? Sell me on it.
I can’t sell you on anything with Game of Thrones because I’m really not a fan. Everyone was crazy about it so I gave it so many chances to grab me and it hasn’t. I know it’s early in this season and they are setting the table for things to come, but after last week’s episode, I decided I’m not going to watch the show anymore. Haha I’m sorry… I know you’re a big fan.
Aside from baseball, what's your favorite TCU memory?
My favorite TCU memory outside of baseball is without a doubt winning the Rose Bowl. This is common amongst Frog fans, but that was really was the greatest. Being a school and team that not a ton of people had heard about, and winning the Granddaddy of them all in Pasadena was incredible.
What's your prediction for the Texas series this year? How do the Frogs get a sweep, or at the very least, secure a series win?
It’s shaping up to be a big series for us. I think it’ll come down to what Coach Schloss always preaches and that is pitching and defense. If we do those two things well, and get some timely hits with runners in scoring position, I think we will be poised to get the sweep. I know the crowd will be electric and I’m looking forward to the series!!
What's your ultimate prediction for the team this year?
I have the highest standards for this season and that is to not just make it to Omaha, but to win the whole thing. We’ve been there twice now and we have competed well both times, but it’s time for us to get hot at the right time and show everyone what our brand of baseball is all about.
Could they beat the team from 2010?
I’m very biased, but the 2010 team is the best team I have ever been a part of. I don’t remember losing any regular season games. We had an unbelievable pitching staff, our defense was solid, and we could hit. I haven’t been able to watch as many games as I would like to this year, but I’m going to have to say that nobody except UCLA’s 2010 team could beat us.