For the first time since 2004, NCAA regionals are back at Olsen Field, and even though it's still three days away, there's already a buzz around Aggieland. Fans are making their tailgating plans, players are out of school and focusing entirely on baseball.
Former A&M pitcher Robert Ramsey said that playing in a regional at Olsen Field was one of the highlights of his baseball career.
"There's a certain electricity and excitement that's in the air that the Big 12 tournament and regular season just can't compare to," Ramsey said. "There's nothing comparable to the atmosphere when you drive up to Olsen Field for a regional. There's an excitement going on that's really, really special. People start showing up earlier for the games to watch batting practice, there's a lot more people in Aggie Alley tailgating, and there's so much more pageantry that goes on around the game."
But once the game starts, Ramsey said you forget that you're in a regional.
"It's nine innings and it's just you and your opponent," he said. "Everything else just kind of goes away."
Playing in a regional is a special opportunity for all college baseball players, but Ramsey said hosting a regional is an even bigger opportunity, especially when you're hosting a regional at Olsen Field.
"When you're hosting a regional, you really, really expect to make it out," he said. "You're playing three weaker teams typically, you're coming from the Big 12 Conference where you've seen the best of the best. Now you have a regional with teams from around the country who aren't typically up to our level. There's nothing but confidence. There was no doubt that we should and would make it out of our regional."
But that isn't the way it worked out for Ramsey in his last year with the Aggies in 2003. A&M advanced to the championship game through the winners bracket and faced off against the University of Houston. They had a big lead and a rested bullpen, which had been A&M's strength all season. But on this day, it fell apart.
"We were shell-shocked," Ramsey said. "UH closer Ryan Wagner had thrown a lot of innings the days before. We were sitting pretty, we had no losses, UH was coming out of the losers bracket and running out of pitchers. We had everyone ready and we had both games (against Houston) won. Our strength all year long was our bullpen—we had a great closer and All-American in Scott Beerer and it just collapsed both of those games. It was really a blow to everyone"
Adding insult to injury, the Aggies returned to their home team dugout the following day (A&M was in the visiting dugout for the final game) only to find broken fixtures and pictures knocked off the wall from the Cougars post game celebration, which is why Ramsey still doesn't have too many good things to say about UH.
"When you're a team like A&M and you've won big games like that, you tend to carry yourself with a little more maturity," Ramsey said.
After wrapping up his career at A&M in heart-breaking fashion, Ramsey was drafted by the Astros organization and spent three years in their farm system before finally hanging up the cleats.
The organization released him from the single-A Lexington Legends after three years, which Ramsey said turned out to be a blessing.
"By that time I developed other interests and priorities in my life and had lost the drive that it takes to reach the major leagues," he said. "I really wanted to get into something that didn't involve as much travel, as much time away from a future family, didn't involve as many sacrifices. People don't understand the sacrifices that you'd have to make to play for six months every day."
Ramsey said there were times his parents would call and he wouldn't know what day it was. "It's a completely different mindset," Ramsey said. "All you know is what time you have to be at the field the next day or when the bus is leaving for the next road game. That's the only two things that you know."
These days, Ramsey is building a very successful financial planning business with Wealth Design Group in Houston. As the company's Director of Sports Marketing, Ramsey said he focuses primarily on young athletes entering the professional sports world.
Ramsey reflects on Olsen Regionals
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