June 16, 2011
In three seasons at Oklahoma State, Robin Ventura established himself as one of the top players in college baseball history. He boasted a .428 career batting average and set an NCAA record with a 58-game hitting streak in 1987. Ventura still holds seven OSU records, including the highest single-season batting average of .469 in 1986, and he was elected into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Ventura twice led OSU to the College World Series, helping the Cowboys to Omaha in 1986 and 1987. Ventura, who played 16 seasons in Major League Baseball before retiring in 2004, is back in Omaha this week serving as an analyst for ESPN at the 2011 College World Series. The following is a short Q&A with Ventura.
What are some of your favorite baseball memories at OSU?
“It was just a great place to play. At that time, Gary Ward had it as a top 10 program every year. Being able to come to the College World Series was definitely the highlight. (Ward) made a point, we played at Iowa State and on our way there, he had the buses stop at Rosenblatt (Stadium) and had everybody get out and stand there and basically get to visualize where you wanted to be. That was one of the great things that he really did was teach us to visualize and expect yourself to be there.”
How much do you follow the OSU baseball program now?
“I get to follow them a little bit. I don’t get to see a whole lot of games, but I definitely follow it. Obviously it’s disappointing that they didn’t make it out of that first Regional, but I think Frank (Anderson) does a great job. He’s kind of been handicapped the last few years as far as scholarships. I look for them to do some better things in the future, and I think he’s got it going in the right direction.”
Who was the best player you played against in college?
“John Olerud was one that could shut you out and go 4-for-4 in the same game. That was one of the beauties of the college game — you’d get guys that can pitch and hit. He was definitely one of them.”
Do you think your NCAA record 58-game hitting streak will ever be broken?
“It almost was! Yeah, I think eventually somebody will be able to get to that. I just hope they get to enjoy it like I got to enjoy mine.”
Does all media scrutiny and the Internet and things like that make it harder to reach records like that nowadays?
“I think so. When I was going through it we didn’t have a whole lot of that. The Internet stuff wasn’t around. Now there are so many people that try and get a hold of these kids and talk to them about what they’re doing day-in and day-out. I didn’t have to deal with that. I probably dealt with somebody every other week.”
What are your thoughts on the new bats used in college baseball this year?
“It’s obviously had an effect. Home runs are down. You’re just not going to have that guy that is off balance flipping one out of the stadium. Those days are gone. You’re looking at a more fundamentally sound game as far as moving guys around, getting people in scoring position. You just have to be better, and you have to be more balanced. And pitchers are attacking the strike zone more because of that.”
How sad are you to see Rosenblatt Stadium replaced as the host of the College World Series?
“For people that follow college baseball, it is one of those things that kind of tugs at your heart because for all of us that follow college baseball every visual is Rosenblatt. There’s something that is going to have to be created that is new from here on out. Those days are gone, but there are some great memories of a magical place that you can play in your mind.”