You probably want to be in Riley Ferrell’s text group, if you’re a pitcher at TCU. It sounds like a good time.
“He’ll always send us funny pictures and videos,” starter Preston Morrison said. “He’s one of the funnier guys on the team. He’s definitely one of the biggest jokers off the field.”
Off the field, that is.
On the field, as the closer for the third-ranked Horned Frogs, who open the season Friday against Southern Illinois, Ferrell is one of the most intense presences on the mound in college baseball.
“One of the most competitive people you’ll ever meet,” Morrison said. “He’s very intense, and he loves to get the ball in those big situations. Multiple times last year, he’d be running in and I’d get chills, just because I knew for a fact that the game was over.”
Ferrell saved a school-record 15 games last year for the Horned Frogs on their way to the College World Series.
He struck out 70 in 45 1/3 innings.
He walked only 14.
Just eight of 28 inherited runners scored.
He allowed a run only four times.
But not for Ferrell. He shrugs off the numbers. He says no to the idea of being the star or the face of the team.
“I try to stay modest and stay behind the scenes,” he said. “I don’t want to be the guy that’s in every interview or every media day or anything like that. I want to be who I am, and that’s not really who I am, to sit here and talk to every reporter.
“Nobody ever talked me up to be some amazing pitcher or athlete until now, and now I’m just kind of shutting all that out and dealing with what I can control on the field.”
Sounds so sensible.
Is everyone sure this is the same fierce personality that strides to the mound, ready to incinerate batters?
“I don’t really know what that mentality is,” he said. “It just comes out of me.”
It seems to be working.
“I don’t try to scare the batter or make them intimidated or do anything to the batter,” Ferrell said. “I just try to play to my strengths. I know the formula that helps me succeed. I’m not going to try to change my approach to suit a batter in certain situations.”
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle wouldn’t change a thing.
“Every good pitcher has that, especially a closer,” he said. “He’s got the big body language. Awesome presence.”
Ferrell is probably headed for pro baseball after this year. He will get drafted, and he will have a chance to live a lifelong dream. But for now, he has to think small. He wants to think routine.
“Trying to polish everything I’ve learned or taught myself or have been taught over the past however long, polish it enough to where I’m ready for the season, whatever role I’m in,” he said. “I feel like that’s what the coaching staff has instilled in not only me but everybody on this team.
“We have guys that come in here as shortstops and end up playing first base, or shortstops that end up playing outfield. It happens all the time. It’s about doing whatever you have to do to help the team succeed.”
And this year, Ferrell will begin the season with his role more defined than ever. The junior from College Station has always been in the bullpen at TCU, but he is the unquestioned leader now.
“Me and Alex Young were at the back end of the bullpen toward the end of my freshman year. Had a taste of it,” he said. “Last year, I came in as a closer and by the end of the year, I was more of a leader of the bullpen. That was more of my role last year. Not only the closer in tight games and big games, but also the leader of the bullpen.”
How about best player?
Modest Ferrell answers, not Fired-Up Ferrell.
“I feel like the best player on the team has a lot bigger role than I do,” he said. “But I feel like for me, I feel like we as a team have something to prove still.
“Yeah, we went to Omaha, yeah we won a Super Regional, a regional and the Big 12 tournament. But we want to win the Big 12 outright and win the tournament. We want to go to Omaha and win. There’s still something to prove. You don’t have to have a bad season to have something to prove. The guys that were here last year have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder.
Uh-oh. He wasn’t joking.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760
Life of Riley
A look at Riley Ferrell’s stats last season for TCU:
TCU vs. Southern Illinios
at Lupton Stadium
6:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday