There was a time, not too long ago, when the dream around Lupton Stadium was to break through to a Super Regional.
In fact, less than 10 years ago, the TCU baseball program was still seeking its first regional championship. The College World Series, while always the goal, almost seemed unattainable.
Nowadays, of course, head coach Jim Schlossnagle, who begins his 15th season in Fort Worth, has built a college baseball empire that has been to seven Super Regionals and five College World Series, including the past four. Only one other school in the country has been to more than two in the past four seasons (Florida, 2015-17).
When the Horned Frogs open their season with a three-game series against Grand Canyon University in Phoenix Feb. 16, a fifth consecutive trip to the CWS remains the goal. TCU held its first practice Friday afternoon at Lupton Stadium.
“Once you get the taste of that it’s not like it gets old,” said Schlossnagle, TCU’s all-time leader in wins with a 615-272 record. “If you’re a returning player, your time is short. If you’re a new player, you don’t want to be a guy that is part of a team that doesn’t put us in a good position to get back.”
It’s the perfect cycle of winning and exactly how Schlossnagle envisioned his TCU program when he was hired in July 2003.
“I felt like the program had enough support and [TCU is] such a good place I definitely could envision us selling out the ballpark every year and being competitive in a regional every year,” Schlossnagle said. That has been the case and then some. In Schlossnagle’s 14 seasons, TCU has been to 13 regional tournaments. The Horned Frogs finally broke through to the Super Regionals in 2009. In 2010, they beat Texas to advance to their first CWS. By then, Schlossnagle’s vision was becoming a reality.
Every single player and the entire staff knows what our goal is and you know what it requires to play here.
TCU pitcher Jared Janczak
“It’s awesome,” said junior Luken Baker, an All-American first baseman and designated hitter who injured his left arm in May and was unavailable for the Frogs’ postseason run. “It’s exactly what anyone should expect in everything they do. The ultimate goal is to win the whole thing and we haven’t been able to do that, which is unfortunate. But the success the program has had going all the way back to [Matt] Carpenter and [Jake] Arrieta, getting TCU baseball growing, a culture gets developed and everything starts to grow and now we’re here and it’s a lot of fun.”
It’s also a lot of responsibility, Baker said, a duty to keep the program aiming in the right direction. “We know each year is different and we have to approach each year like it’s a brand new year because nothing we did last year matters.”
Schlossnagle counts on that ingrained attitude to permeate the Frogs’ clubhouse.
“The older players have a great respect for how hard it is to do. They’ve been through the 16-inning games and the 22-inning games,” he said. “That’s one of the things I’m most proud of. They understand how thin the line is between winning and losing. We’ve been super fortunate, not that we haven’t earned it, and they know the difference. The difference in winning and losing can be how we handle the details on a day like today.”