Former Frogs come back for banquet

The ninth annual First Pitch Banquet was a night not only dedicated to presenting the 2012 baseball team but also to honoring former players that had impacted the TCU baseball program.

Jake Arrieta, Matt Carpenter, Andrew Cashner, Sam Demel and Chad Huffman were five former Horned Frogs in Major League Baseball who returned to share their personal experiences at TCU and at the professional level.

“To get the opportunity to come back and do something like this is just so much fun and an honor for me,” third baseman Carpenter said.

As a Horned Frog, Carpenter earned 2006 second-team all-Mountain West Conference and 2008 second-team all-Mountain West Conference honors.

“I like addressing the young guys, letting them understand the opportunity they have as young guys here in college at TCU,” Carpenter said. “It’s such a good opportunity to become a good baseball player and a good student-athlete. If I can give some kind of info they take and use in their own career, then that will make me feel like I did my job.”

He was part of the TCU baseball program for five years after he was granted a medical redshirt during his junior year in 2007.

“The coaching staff here at TCU is second-to-none,” he said. “My coaching staff never lost faith in me and continued to push me and drive me and get me motivated to the point where I ended up turning my career around and ended up making the major leagues because of it.”

Carpenter was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2009. He debuted in his first game against the Chicago Cubs June 4, 2011.

Carpenter said it was a tough transition, especially dealing with the other factors not related to baseball such as the media, family members asking for tickets and making more money than before.

“For a young guy who is just getting called for the major league is really hard to stay focused on what the task is, and the task is playing good baseball, being ready to play every day,” Carpenter said. “If you can do that, you have a chance at being successful.”

Carpenter said the atmosphere of professional baseball was not like college baseball. In college, it’s a team working toward one goal, but as a young minor leaguer, it’s very self-oriented, he said.

Shortstop Taylor Featherston, pitcher Steven Maxwell and second baseman Jerome Pena are also former players who attended the banquet.

Current TCU right fielder Brance Rivera said of the evening, “One of my favorite parts about this whole banquet is seeing all my friends that I haven’t seen for awhile that have moved on to the next stage.”

He said it was a great opportunity to talk with former Horned Frogs to see what the next step in a baseball career was like and what they learned while they were at TCU.

Rivera said the main thing he learned from the former players was to not take his time at TCU for granted. He said his own advice to the younger players was exactly what the older players told him.

“Freshman year might seem a little slow and what not, but cherish it because the relationships and fellowship that you have amongst the team and with these guys — they last for a lifetime,” Rivera said. “So you want to strengthen those as much as you can, and don’t take it for granted.”

During the question-and-answer portion of the evening, all five MLB players agreed that college players should not take time for granted because they would miss it in the big leagues.

“I’m excited for the next stage of my life, but it’s my last year here, and I’m going to live it up like they said,” Rivera said.

Carpenter said one important thing he wanted current players to know was that all the hard work would be worth it.

“Putting on that big league uniform, jogging out to the field for that first game, seeing your name up on the scoreboard — there’s a feeling that can’t be put into words, and it’s what you’ve dreamt of from the time you picked up a bat when you were a little kid,” Carpenter said. “How unbelievable, how worth it — all the preparation, all the hard work, all the bus trips, all the weight room training, is worth that moment.”