This TCU team is no stranger to being ranked highly. There are still many members of the roster who remember opening the season ranked as the #2-#3 team by many of the college baseball publications back in 2015. TCU spent a good portion of that year ranked #1 as well. Even last year’s team, who started out the year as a top 20 team, was ranked as a top-6 team for pretty much the whole month of March.
Still, the #1 ranking is a different animal. The media attention, the expectations from fans, players and coaches alike. It’s a lot to process for a group of 18-22 year olds. Luckily, the Frogs have a coach who has been here before. Schlossnagle’s 2011 TCU squad opened up the year as the preseason #1, and whether it was the result of injury or ego, the season didn’t go as planned. He’s had a long time to think about how to address this situation the second time around, and he sounds like he might have seen this coming.
I imagine Schlossnagle watched the Cubs season closely this year, given that Jake Arrieta, TCU Baseball Alumni and the 2015 NL Cy Young award winner, was a key member of that club. But Schlossnagle’s also not exaggerating about the amount of returning talent on this team. The Frogs are returning eight everyday players, all three of last year’s weekend starters on the mound and their closer. They also get Nolan Brown, an everyday player from the 2015 squad back from injury. If things can work out for the Cubs, why not TCU?
To keep such a young and talented group of individuals in the right mindset, Schlossnagle has given his team some required reading. The book Ego Is the Enemy, by Ryan Holiday, has been a big part of this TCU team’s preparation. It’s filled with stories from history about how people accomplished great things by conquering their egos and putting their desire to be great above their desire for personal glory.
These Frogs were one win away from the College World Series championship last year. They know they’re good. They know that they have all the pieces in place to make a fourth consecutive College World Series appearance, but that also gives them a unique mindset. These players have been to Omaha before, and they’re tired of ending their season as College World Series participants. This year, they want more.
Schlossnagle has made a point to praise his team that he feels good about where their mindset is going into this season, and the players seem to be buying in.
It's one thing for young players to say the right thing and another thing for them to walk the walk. But as part of a program that has the best record in college baseball over the last three years, it's safe to assume they know what it takes to be great.
This team in particular also has the veteran leadership of senior pitchers Mitchell Traver and Brian Howard, both of whom were drafted last year and decided to return to TCU anyway. If anyone forgets their way along the Road to Omaha, the veterans among this team, not to mention the coaching staff, will be there to remind them.