Tigers follow alma maters in college playoffs
OAKLAND -- Andrew Romine and Danny Worth have lockers near each other in the Tigers' clubhouse. Their conversations could get even more interesting this weekend.
Each of their alma mater's made it into the NCAA baseball tournament that gets underway at 16 different regional sites. Romine's Arizona State and Worth's Pepperdine play each other Friday, and one of those teams will play Cal Poly, where Detroit reliever Evan Reed played his college ball.
"Sometimes we'll get into the old rivalries," Romine said. "It's something we can follow together. I always like knowing how the team is doing."
In all, nine Tigers will have a rooting interest in one of the regionals this weekend. Alex Avila (Alabama), Bryan Holaday (Texas Christian), Drew Smyly (Arkansas), Justin Verlander (Old Dominion), Joba Chamberlain (Nebraska) and Corey Knebel (Texas) are the others.
Romine was one of eight Sun Devils drafted off the 2007 team that also included Oakland second baseman Eric Sogard.
"I still talk to Eric and keep in contact with the coaches and other players," Romine said. "That was a good, close-knit group."
Worth also stays in touch with his coaches and works out at Pepperdine during the offseason.
The Sun Devils are seeded No. 2 and the Waves are seeded No. 3. One of the two big surprises of the bracket is Reed's Mustangs, who won 45 of 55 games this year to earn the top seed and the honor of hosting the first round of regional play.
"The program paid its dues and it continues to get better and better," Reed said. "I'm rooting for those guys because I know how much work they've put in getting to this point and the mental and physical toll it takes to be great."
Cal Poly has produced its share of Major League players (Ozzie Smith, Mike Krukow, Bud Norris and Kevin Correia are some of the better known players) in the past but often went overlooked when it came to the postseason.
"I know a lot of teams wouldn't play us because if they lost it would be bad for them," Reed said. "Getting that recognition and being able to host a regional is a great accomplishment."
Cal Poly could play TCU, if both win its respective regional, in the super regional round in the next level.
The Horned Frogs are also hosting a regional this weekend and are the overall national No. 7 seed.
"It's an awesome feeling being part of that," Holaday said. "There's a buzz in Fort Worth, definitely an electric feeling. I'm excited for them to be able to host a regional."
Holaday was an integral part of TCU's rise to prominence. Each of his three years, the Horned Frogs got deeper and deeper into the postseason.
"My first year we expected to be in a regional, but that was about it," Holaday said. "The next year we realized how good we could be and made it to our first super regional. In 2010, my senior year, we made it to the College World Series. After that, you've set the bar. The only thing better is to win it all."
Avila was part of Alabama's 2006 SEC championship team that sent five players to the Major Leagues.
"It's a fun time for college players," he said. "Those are three years I am never going to forget. I know the coaches well and wish them all the best for the weekend."