Reckling Park offers proof of the strides the Rice baseball program has made under Wayne Graham, but there are other indications of how expectations have been altered.
In 1995, several Owls gathered at a friend’s apartment to watch the NCAA Tournament selection show, eager to learn where the Owls would land in their first regional appearance. After the Owls were placed in the NCAA South Regional at Baton Rouge, La., an impromptu celebration erupted between the television and the coffee table.
“There were probably 10 or 12 of us watching that selection show that they have on ESPN, and we dog-piled in a guy’s living room — we were so excited to just be going to a regional,” Astros first baseman and former Rice All-American Lance Berkman said. “Now they’re just like, ‘All right, (it’s) another regional.’ ”
Success changes everything, and after winning the 2003 College World Series title, Rice is more selective when it comes to erecting a joyous mound of humanity on the diamond. After winning their second consecutive Houston Super Regional over Texas A&M, the Owls continued their new practice of subdued celebrations, with players offering hugs, back slaps and handshakes to commemorate another trip to Omaha.