To prepare his players for a trip to Omaha to play on college baseball’s biggest stage, TCU head baseball coach uses the metaphor of an hourglass.
It's a baseball adage for Schlossnagle as much as it is a philosophy on life in general, but the idea behind it is to narrow one’s focus on the task at hand when one needs to. When the Frogs aren’t playing or practicing, the scope of attention can be wide, taking in the grandeur of making it to the College World Series.
But when TD Ameritrade Park is on the horizon and the game demands the club’s attention, Schlossnagle wants his players in to be in the middle of the hourglass, with a narrow focus on winning the last game of their season.
“You have to know when you need to be locked in and know when you can get away from everything,” said catcher Kyle Bacak, explaining his coach’s counsel.
For starting pitcher Brandon Finnegan, the top of the hourglass may be just a bit wider than the metaphorical time-keeping device of other players in purple.
Finnegan, drafted 17th overall in last week’s MLB draft by the Kansas City Royals, is reveling in his final days as a TCU Horned Frog while on the doorstep of his professional career. He said his primary goal is to enjoy the stay in Omaha as much as he can.
“I don’t want to hang the jersey up here, I love TCU,” Finnegan said. “I’m hoping we’re [in Omaha] for a while because I don’t want to end my career here. I’m letting it sink in as much as possible.”
Getting to Omaha, for many college players, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But for Finnegan, the goal of getting to Omaha will still exist once the Horned Frogs’ season comes to an end. The Royals’ Triple-A affiliate is the Omaha Storm Chasers, who play about 15 miles away from TD Ameritrade Park in the city of Papillion, Neb.
Soon, far-eastern Nebraska will be a stop on the road to Finnegan’s next ultimate goal, the Major Leagues. Even with Omaha being less than three hours north of Kansas City, Finnegan said he doesn’t consider the College World Series an extended audition for his future organization.
“Really all I can do is worry about what I can control,” he said. “If anything it’s just to show them what I still have and show them what they chose [in the Draft].”
The TCU lefty has thrown in front of Royals scouts a number of times. He threw seven shutout innings at the Werner Park, the Storm Chasers’ home stadium, last summer while with Team USA. Members of the Royals organization were also at Lupton Stadium for Finnegan’s game one start against Pepperdine in the Fort Worth Super Regional. His familiarity with pitching for major league talent evaluators eases the pressure he'll face in his first start.
“I’m not worried about anything,” Finnegan said.
Many draftees, like several of the newest members of the Texas Rangers’ organization, are already headed to the Arizona League to begin their professional career.
Finnegan said it’s a good feeling to still have a few games of college baseball ahead of him. Last year’s experience of going home early after a disappointing 29-28 season makes this year’s experience even sweeter.
“I’m glad my career is not over at TCU, I’m happy to still be a part of this team and hopefully go win a national championship,” he said.
The team leaves Thursday for Omaha as the first group in school history to win the Big 12 Championship, the first to earn a national seed, and the first to win a Super Regional at home. It’s the first flight to Omaha for the Frogs since 2010.
“The fact that I get to be a part of the second team to ever go to Omaha with TCU is one of the best feelings in the world,” Finnegan said. “The fact that we had already made history three times this year made it feel even better.”
The Frogs’ stay in Omaha could last anywhere from four days to two weeks in a quest for another milestone in the school's history.
TCU, and especially Finnegan, can hope there’s a lot of sand left in the hourglass.