March 8, 2013
Success in any program is built on leadership and experience. A culmination of tradition, pride and its players and coaches build a program, help sustain a program and challenge the new to create their own memory within the program.
Houston Baseball has made its success recognizable for the past 66 years. Eight head coaches have combined to lead the Cougars to a 1,612-1,251-16 overall record and victories through five conferences and Independent status.
Led by a group of eight, the accomplishments attained were never forgotten as the players who chose to wear a Cougar uniform created them.
Houston doesn't use the term `former Cougar', because once you are a Cougar--you remain a Cougar. That pride has become much more evident over the last two years as Houston Baseball has honored and celebrated the rich history its program brings to college baseball.
In his third season at the helm of this Cougar program, head coach Todd Whitting has brought the pride and tradition, of those who built the program we continue to represent, back in the limelight in each of his last two years to say `thank you for the memories and continued support.'
A program continues to thrive when those who were once a direct part of it are welcomed back and encouraged to give back.
One can walk through the gated entrance of Cougar Field in 2013 and see a resemblance, but also a much improved and enhanced version of what was built in 1995. Upgrades to home of the Cougars, like a new padded outfield wall, state-of-the art clubhouse, indoor hitting facility and video board were easily made possible by the generosity of Houston Baseball alums and supporters of the program.
Welcomed back for the second straight season on Fan Appreciation Day, Houston Baseball alumni gathered at Cougar Field to reminisce on their moments and memories they created while in a Cougar uniform.
Whitting and the current staff and players helped solidify the meaning behind what an annual Alumni Game represents. To Houston Baseball, it represents history and at the same time, moving forward.
"It's great to have all our former players back for our Alumni Game. It was a great turnout for the second straight year," Whitting said. "Starting two years ago we made it Fan Appreciation Day and Alumni Game as well. To have this type of crowd out to this game was really encouraging."
"It is really good to get all the old guys back and bring them home."
For each of the last two years, over 60 baseball alums poured into the ballpark on the designated Saturday afternoon, laced up their cleats, shared their stories and enjoyed a day of Houston Baseball, playing against the current squad that now laces up on a weekly basis to represent the Cougars in red.
The program's history is second-to-none in college baseball with a number of former players still playing the game at the professional level. With two World Series appearances, a National Player of the Year honoree, 18 NCAA Regional Berths, over 125 MLB Draft selections and three First Round Picks, Houston Baseball has the pride and tradition needed for every future Cougar to be honored to play under.
It is easy for a professional player to get lost in their current life and forget the path that got them to this point, but Houston hasn't been let down once by the Cougars, whose names are enshrined on the clubhouse lockers and even on the All-American wall as you enter the stadium.
"The caliber of players we have been able to bring back, who once played in this program, has been tremendous," Whitting said. "There is a lot of pride in this program."
With former players like Cy-Young winner Doug Drabek, 2006 National Player of the Year and current Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Brad Lincoln and current White Sox reliever Jesse Crain all giving back to this program, along with many more, Houston Baseball's future is bright.
"It is always great to come back to the Alumni Game," Drabek said. "We get a chance to see some of the guys you played with and some of the guys before and after you. They have a great facility here at Cougar Field. It has changed over the years, obviously, but for the better."
The success of the Alumni Game has allowed current Cougars to thank those who helped shape the program. With that, recent graduates and those who have moved on to continue playing, clearly see the importance behind why being in this together has created the Houston Baseball family.
"I'm always excited to be back. It is nice seeing the old faces that you get a chance to meet that are out here supporting the team and Todd Whitting," Crain said. "Whitting and his staff are really moving forward and that is fun to see as an alumus."
"Todd [Whitting] has taken this program a long way as far as recruiting goes and what he has done to this facility," Lincoln said. "It is great to be able to give back to the program that gave me that chance to continue playing the game I love."
For the 2013 Houston Cougars, excitement has been built in part due to the alumni commitment and pride in helping this program continue to move forward.
Greatness has come out of this program and under Whitting, a 1995 Cougar alumnus himself, greatness will continue as Houston Baseball's tradition is honored each and every day.