COLUMBIA — “What happens to the T-shirts and hats for the team that doesn’t win the championship?”
Missouri baseball coach Tim Jamieson asked this of a crowd of Missouri baseball’s past and present players, coaches and their families.
COLUMBIA — At the Missouri-Kansas game Saturday night, Gov. Jay Nixon announced the start of the Joplin Habitat Challenge. In partnership with Habitat for Humanity, the governor has challenged Missouri’s athletic organizations and citizens to build 35 homes in Joplin this year.
Crow and fellow Missouri alumnus Danario Alexander were with Nixon representing the Royals and St. Louis Rams respectively. Missourians can sign up to volunteer at MO.gov.
Jamieson set two scenes for those in attendance at the Eighth Annual First Pitch Dinner at the Hampton Inn off Stadium Boulevard on Saturday. The event celebrates the opening of the baseball season.
He first described when his 2004 Missouri team was up by one run with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth against Oklahoma State playing for the Big 12 championship.
“Over my right shoulder are the guys with the T-shirts and with the hats,” Jamieson said. “Guy hits a ground ball that didn’t leave the infield, and they score on an infield hit. They tie the game, and we lost in 13 (innings). I have no idea where the T-shirts and hats went to.”
The second scenario was last year after a terrible start to the season. The Tigers made an incredible run that saw them win 4 of their final 5 series against Big 12 opponents. In Big 12 tournament, they beat top 5 team Texas in two of three games to send the Tigers to the Big 12 championship. Once again, they had the opponent, this time Texas A&M, down to two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth, up by one run.
“Over my left shoulder were they guys with the T-shirts and the hats,” Jamieson said.
A Texas A&M player hit a chopper over the head of the Missouri infield that scored a run to tie the game. An inning later an A&M player hit a walk off home run.
“It’s not a good feeling — as the only guy in the dugout who really could feel thatbecause I had been there in 2004 and saw the same thing: 2 out and 2 strikes in the ninth, 1 pitch away from winning a championship,” Jamieson said.
“We came up just a little bit short. Players need to remember that. Players need to feed off that,” Jamieson said.
And he thinks they already are, saying his team is more focused and more competitive this year than in years past.
Missouri starting pitcher, Eric Anderson, agrees with him.
“I’m excited,” Anderson said. “We’re hoping to sneak in a few more wins than losses and get rolling early. I definitely think we’re ahead of where we were last year at this time.”
Jamieson's team motivation speech proceeded what proved to be an individual motivational talk from the event's guest speaker, Kansas City Royals all-star pitcher and Missouri alumnus, Aaron Crow.
Crow entertained those in attendance with the story of his rise from youth baseball to the major leagues. The players in attendance seemed to pay particular attention to his major league anecdotes.
"I'm sure you can ask anyone on this team, and they'll tell you the same thing, a lot of the reason why we play is just to try to live your dreams," Anderson said.