As the record holder of the longest hitting streak in college baseball history (58 games, held for nearly 24 years and counting) and a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame’s first class, former Oklahoma State Cowboy Robin Ventura has always been heavily involved in college baseball. This season, Ventura is even more heavily entrenched, adding his work as the baseball ambassador for the inaugural Capital One Cup to his plate. The Capital One Cup honors the country’s top men’s and women’s collegiate programs across 13 different sports, honoring the winning schools with $200,000, money earmarked for athletes looking to go on to graduate school.
Ventura took a few minutes on Tuesday to check in with College Baseball Daily and give his thoughts on the season so far:
CBD: How have you been enjoying your time with the Capital One Cup team?
Ventura: I’ve enjoyed it. I followed college baseball through my work anyway, but I get to follow the teams I like even more. It adds another layer to the season, since we are at the end of the season for the Capital One Cup, and college baseball season could factor heavily into it. I’ve enjoyed meeting my fellow committee members, their passion…it’s been fun to be a part of.
CBD: Your alma mater, Oklahoma State, is back in the national polls. What do you think has gotten them there?
Ventura: It’s great to see them in the polls, and climbing. Frank (Anderson, head coach) has done a great job molding his team. I’m proud of the way he’s built his program, especially with pitching. It can be hard to keep a team together, guys leaving early, but Frank is developing a good team regardless.
CBD: What teams or trends are impressing you this season?
Ventura: I am interested in watching what Vanderbilt is doing. You have these teams, like Virginia and Vanderbilt, that ten, fifteen years ago were not names in college baseball, and now here they are in the top spots. It’s good to see how these programs are developing year in and year out, and how they’re competing with the more traditional powerhouses.
With Virginia, they’ve had great pitching now for three years. If you have great pitching you can do so much. Offense is important, but – I mean, look at Virginia and Vanderbilt. They have only lost three games each. When you are only losing three games, it just shows that you have some great pitching.
CBD: What teams do you think could be there in Omaha at the end of the season that aren’t Virginia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina?
Ventura: It’s surprising to see where UCLA is right now. They are a good team, but they aren’t really showing it the way others are. I think they will have a better last part of the season, and will be there in the playoffs.
CBD: A lot of folks are talking about the new bat regulations in the game this year. From your vantage point, how do you think these bats are affecting the game?
Ventura: I think numbers are down, in terms of hits, definitely. The bats help pitching. They accentuate a good defensive program. It hurts those teams that struggle offensively to begin with – what they would hit before, they aren’t now. It’s showing us who has a good offense, and who doesn’t.
CBD: College baseball is growing in popularity – there seems to be much more coverage this season as opposed to others. As a commentator, are you witnessing this as well?
Ventura: I see the popularity growing. You are getting much more coverage, with ESPN (Networks) covering the SEC on both Thursdays and some Sundays. Other channels are jumping in too. You also see some of these new stadiums being built, how nice they are, and how they are appealing to fans. They are as nice as some of the pro ballparks, and so you are drawing more fans who are used to that. The fans come in, and they see the quality of the game, the ballparks and that you can have baseball combined with the rooting and spirit of college sports – it’s only going to grow. It’s fun to see these fans rooting for baseball like they do football or basketball. You can have that fun in all of these sports.
CBD: Florida International University’s Garrett Wittels came very close to breaking your hitting streak (Wittels came within 9 games of breaking the record early this season.) What do you think of still having that record, and having this as a part of your legacy?
Ventura: I was happy that Wittels got to experience the same thing that happened to me. When I was in the midst of my streak, college baseball didn’t have some of the coverage it has now. We struggled getting the media to pay attention. But once I had the streak going, it got me noticed enough to get drafted. It got my team attention. (Wittel’s) streak was good for him, and it was good for FIU. People are more aware of them now, and hopefully it will work out for the best for them all.
The streak will eventually get broken. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to hold up this long. I thought it would be broken a long time ago!
Photos courtesy of Oklahoma State Media Relations