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It's strange how someone just 23 years old can be the "old man" on the Clemson baseball team - and at home. But that's exactly what Tigers starting pitcher Josh Cribb is. He's the only player left over from the 2002 College World Series team.
Moreover, he is a newlywed.
The tag of being a "geezer" is something that Cribb has come to accept.
"You kind of get that sometimes," he said. "But even if I wasn't married I'd still get that; especially with this being my fifth year, I'd get that anyway about being an old man."
To defend his teammates, which are 19, 20 and 21 years old, it'd be kind of hard not to pick on a teammate that is already married. At that age, it's hard to understand the concept of marriage when you're not even legally old enough to drink a champagne toast at your own reception.
But anyone who has spent the slightest amount of time around the fifth-year senior knows that he's extremely mature and grounded, which is why he got married to his high school sweetheart, Ashley Price, in the first place. A lot of thought went into it the timing of the wedding, which took place on Dec. 31, 2005.
"We were hoping that maybe I'd get drafted last year and we'd have a choice of either me coming back or going to play professional baseball, but it didn't work out that way," Cribb said. "We figured if it didn't work out last year and I was still in town, we could go ahead and get married; whereas this summer hopefully I'll get picked up somewhere and I'll be playing. So we wanted to go ahead and get it out of the way while we're both at home, and this way we're together for a couple of months before I'll hopefully get drafted and be away from home for a couple of months."
Sounds like perfect reasoning. After all, it's not like this was rushed into. They've been dating for eight years, which is why he doesn't feel the stress of having a wife in his situation.
"There's not much added pressure put on me because I've been dating her for eight years," Cribb said. "She's been around since the 10th grade, so she's been pretty much there by my side every game. She kind of puts it upon herself to try and make me work as hard as possible. When she's at the game, she's on me to go 100 percent, and I think that's helped me in the long run, to have somebody there and be at each game and help me out."
Currently, the two live off campus. She is working toward her masters in accounting, and all he has school-wise is an internship with the sports information office at Clemson.
But even when he was taking a full load of classes, he handled it like someone with his demeanor would. In each of his first four years, Cribb was a member of the ACC Academic Honor Roll, one of only seven Tigers in history to accomplish that feat.
"If you want to play baseball, you've got to take care of your grades, first of all," he said. "If you're not eligible, you can't play, so that's one of my main goals. You've got to be eligible to play. The other thing is study hall is a little more lenient now than what it was when I came in my freshman year, and I didn't want to be stuck in study hall after that first semester, so I took it upon myself to have good enough grades.
"Also, the better grades you make, the more scholarships you can get. After my freshman year, I didn't have the Life Scholarship, so it helped my mom out with getting a 3.0 grade point average. That's about $5,000 with the Life Scholarship. I wanted to make it a little easier on her trying to pay my way through school."
On the field, Cribb has been a steadying force as well. In each of his previous three seasons, he increased his innings pitched, while at the same time he got his ERA to go down.
Last season, he went 8-5 with a 3.54 ERA. Through the first three months of 2006, Cribb sports an 8-0 record with a strong 2.66 ERA. It's obvious that he has come to relish his anchor spot as the Sunday starting pitcher.
"Whatever spot they want me in is fine with me," he said. "I'm just going to go out and treat Friday, Saturday or Sunday, either day that you go out, just the same. You're facing pretty much the same team that they did on Friday and Saturday. You've just got to take it upon yourself to come out Sunday and play your best game. Whether I was pitching Friday or Saturday, I'd take the same approach and try to throw my best game.
"Whatever role they want me in, I'm happy because I'm getting more innings each year, which is what you want to do. The more innings you get, the happier you are."
Being the only remaining member from the 2002 College World Series team, Cribb has the knowledge of what it's like and what it takes to get there, which are things that he tries to pass along to his current teammates.
He says there are similarities and differences between the Tigers of 2006 and 2002.
"The 2002 team my freshman year, we gelled pretty well, and I think that's one thing that we've got in common with that team," he said. "But we're a little bit different. I think we were more of a power hitting team in 2002 and this year, we've got some guys that have got some pop, but we're more of a small ball team. That's pretty much the only difference that I can tell from this team.
"I think the pitching may be a little bit better, and with being one game away from Omaha last year, I think experience is helping out a lot this year, and hopefully it will take us a long way."
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