How TCU's Jared Janczak turned a startling message into a stunning career

TCU baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle delivered the cold, hard truth to pitcher Jared Janczak during their end-of-the-season meeting in June 2015.

The Horned Frogs had just been to their second consecutive College World Series and Janczak, a true freshman from Belton High School, was forced to watch it all from afar after being redshirted.

The 2016 recruiting class was strong and included 11 pitchers. Schlossnagle didn't see the lightly-recruited right-hander, who struggled throwing strikes, busting through the ranks.

"You're welcome to stay, but if baseball is important to you, I don't see how you're going to get to pitch," Schlossnagle told him. "Some kids take that and go somewhere else, which is fine. Some kids come back and get buried."

Janczak, who is scheduled to start TCU's home opener Friday night against Long Beach State at Lupton Stadium, was stunned. But he didn't waver. He loved TCU. He wanted to stay at TCU. He wanted to pitch for TCU.

"Am I really not that good?" he thought to himself as he mulled over Schlossnagle's words during his summer league season.

He discussed it with his parents. He talked to Schlossnagle and pitching coach Kirk Saarloos on the phone a few times.

"If I don’t earn a spot it's my fault, not yours," Janczak told them. "I want to come back another year and try it. I know what I'm capable of and I know I can be a Friday night starter here."

Janczak was convinced he could earn a spot after watching and learning from former TCU pitchers Preston Morrison, Riley Ferrell, Alex Young and Trey Teakell during that 2015 redshirt season.

"I knew what it took to be a TCU baseball player," he said. "I just had to go out and apply it and prove it. There was like $7 million worth of [MLB draft] signing bonuses that walked off the pitching staff and 300-plus innings."

So he knew, despite the warnings from his coaches, spots were there to earn. He came back stronger, throwing more accurately, and impressed the coaches in the fall of 2015. By the time the '16 season began, he was the first and most-used arm out of the bullpen.

Then, after losing the first two games of a three-games series at Baylor in May, Janczak made his first start. He held the Bears to two runs on two hits in 5 2/3 innings as the Horned Frogs snapped the losing streak. They won seven consecutive games and 9 of their last 10 en route to their third consecutive trip to the College World Series.

"It sparked our hot streak and we got to Omaha and I haven't looked back," said Janczak, who is 16-6 with a 2.45 ERA in 176 career innings at TCU. "I earned my position here after proving myself in those innings. That's how it works."

He allowed one earned run in 6 2/3 innings in TCU's season-opening win a week ago at Grand Canyon University. He's the first TCU pitcher to start two season openers since Brandon Finnegan did it in 2013-14.

"It's incredible; it's a blessing," he said. "I wasn’t supposed to be here. It's pretty special for me. It's something I'll look back on and really appreciate what TCU has done for me and what I've given back to them."

Schlossnagle insisted he wasn't working some motivational mastery with his blunt message to Janczak during that meeting three years ago.

"Be careful what question you ask because we're going to give you the answer," Schlossnagle said. "I'm a believer that a player should always know where he stands, at least in the eyes of the coaching staff, what we truly think about them, what he has to get better at, what his strengths are."

Indirectly, however, that meeting provided Janczak plenty of motivation.

"They like to push you and see what you give back," he said. "The only way you can grow is outside of your comfort zone. I think they helped push me in that direction. I had something to prove because if I didn't make the team that year I was probably going to have to transfer. Even to this day, I still have that redshirt mentality. You have to go out and earn it."

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