The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M baseball’s next era

Photo by Graphic by Robert O’Brien
Maroon Life Photo: Players Walking on Field

On Feb. 18, the much anticipated first year of the Jim Schlossnagle era began for Texas A&M baseball.
Coach Schlossnagle came to A&M last June from TCU, where he led the Horned Frogs to 15 NCAA tournament appearances, seven Super Regional appearances and five College World Series appearances in 18 years. He and the program brought in a highly regarded coaching staff, along with a roster retooled from the transfer portal, which has previous experience in the maroon and white and prospective youth.
Schlossnagle said he has no shortage of excitement entering his 32nd year of coaching college baseball. Experiencing the support of the A&M fanbase is what he said he’s been anticipating since he made the decision to begin a new chapter in College Station.
“I’m always excited this time of year to get going and get to the competition and put together a team,” Schlossnagle said. “I’ve been on the opposite side of the Aggie fan base for a long time, so I’m looking forward to having those people cheer for a team that I’m a part of versus being against it.”
A factor in Schlossnagle’s decision to leave TCU’s strong program was the chance to experience the talent-laden Southeastern Conference — and he said he finds it to be a challenge rather than an obstacle.
“No disrespect to the Big 12 or any other conference, but there’s nothing like the SEC, and there’s certainly nothing like the SEC West,” Schlossnagle said. “One of my favorite sayings in life is, ‘If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.’”
He said the rest of his coaching staff, who each come from highly successful backgrounds at all different levels of baseball from across the nation, is on board with embracing the challenge.
“[There was] an opportunity to go, make an impact and compete against the very best coaches and the very best players in the very best environment, of which Texas A&M should be one of those,” Schlossnagle said. “That’s what was part of drawing me here and our other coaches. Everybody on the staff already had a really good job at a really good place.”
Junior utility man and power hitter Austin Bost said the high-level competition is something this new group looks forward to and is excited to go up against, especially at home. Of A&M’s 29 wins last season, 21 came at home, and the Aggies were 14-0 at home in 2020 before COVID-19 shut down spring sports.
“It’s exciting to go out there and show the country what they don’t expect us to do,” Bost said. “We’re going to go out there every single day, not take a game for granted and go play hard every single chance we get. We have the best students, the best fans in the country, and whenever they’re there, it just changes. The whole environment makes us play better.”
Redshirt sophomore southpaw Jonathan Childress said games in the spring at Blue Bell Park are already a unique environment, but the new staff is committed to making Olsen Field even more enticing for fans to come to with cosmetic changes and, most importantly, wins.
“Baseball games have always been one of the most exciting events we’ve had on campus, aside from football, obviously,” Childress said. “Just from all the things that we’re doing with the dance team starting to come to our games, and I’m pretty sure we’re getting a DJ — Schlossnagle is putting everything into it to make it an experience. On top of that, I really, truly believe we’re going to be a winning squad this year.”
The biggest part of all this is, of course, the team itself, which looks vastly different from last year’s at all positions.
Schlossnagle said one area of the team he has no qualms or concerns with is the catching group, which brings high-quality experience and a great deal of depth. Graduate catcher Troy Claunch comes from Oregon State with numerous at-bats and innings behind the dish. There’s also junior catcher Taylor Smith who appeared in 24 games last season for the Aggies.
“I’ve never been on a good team that didn’t have a good catcher; you can’t have a good team and have a bad catching situation,” Schlossnagle said. “So with Troy Claunch and Taylor Smith and the other guys that are here, they bring a lot of stability to that position as long as we can keep those guys healthy.”
Claunch earned 2021 All-Pac-12 First Team honors and has played in 124 Division I games in his career while hitting a career .290 batting average. But, Childress said Claunch brings more to the team than just his experience catching for a program that’s won three national championships.
“Troy [Claunch] has a lot of experience at the catching position for sure, and one thing that he does really well is he passes along information he has to the other younger guys who maybe haven’t had as much experience,” Childress said. “Everybody is making each other better in that group. I’ve only thrown to [Claunch] a couple of times, but just the receiving and the understanding of the game and how I’m pitching and how all of us pitchers pitch is unbelievable, it’s not like anything I’ve had.”
Sophomore shortstop Kalae Harrison is another name Schlossnagle talked about having a big impact from the start of the season. Schlossnagle said he’s enjoyed getting to work with Harrison and sees him as someone who has a lot of room to improve off his already strong middle-infielder skillset.
“Harrison has just been an absolute joy to coach,” Schlossnagle said. “He’s a guy that played shortstop every day last year for an SEC team. He went through a lot of growing pains. He’s still doing that, but he’s bigger and stronger. He’s the most experienced infielder on this team.”
Bost said he’s anticipating seeing what the offense as a whole can do once the players are in a lineup together, and believes people will be surprised with what happens from the instruction of Schlossnagle and his offensive staff members.
“Just by the looks of it — of how hard these guys work and how they come in here ready to go every single day and their performance in the fall — I think we’re going to do some damage,” Bost said. “We’re going to do something special this year with this offense and all the new stuff outside of just hitting that is going into our offense with coach Schlossnagle. I think we’re going to be having an extremely successful year offensively.”
Part of that anticipated success comes with new hitting coach Michael Earley, who had a successful four-year stint at Arizona State where he developed five hitters chosen in the shortened, five-round 2020 MLB Draft, including No. 1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson. Bost had nothing but high remarks of Earley and said he is enjoying his teachings to try and improve off a 2021 season where he batted .303 with 10 home runs and 39 RBIs.
“Coach Earley is one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around. He knows what he’s doing and he’s got a plan for us to work every single day,” Bost said. “He’s just working on some little things with me. It’s just going up there with the same approach that I did last year, to just be me and do the routines that are supposed to help us. Hopefully, that can make this year even better for me.”
Pitching is an area that Schlossnagle said is a bit of an unknown, so he will have to find a dependable weekend rotation that can go toe-to-toe with teams like Ole Miss, LSU and defending national champion Mississippi State. Last year, the Aggies allowed the third-most walks and runs in the SEC and the most hits.
“I like our catching, our middle infield and there are some other really good pieces in the lineup, but the pitching is what either excites me or keeps me from sleeping at night,” Schlossnagle said. “In my mind, the game begins and ends with starting pitching. That is the area that we are least experienced in terms of who did the bulk of the pitching last year.”
To calm Schlossnagle, there is the addition of 2017 D1 Baseball Assistant Coach of the Year and two-time National Pitching Coach of the Year Nate Yeskie. Childress said Yeskie has already helped in so many ways, and that his reputation speaks for itself.
“There’s so much, from the mentality that you have to have as a pitcher to mechanical adjustments on the fly,” Childress said. “I can’t put my finger on one thing and say, ‘that’s the biggest thing I’ve taken away’ because there’s just been so much information that we’ve all taken in over the fall. Obviously, he’s a very well-regarded pitching coach in college baseball, and for good reason. He knows his stuff.”
One unquestionable thing about the new team is the relationships forged among the pitching staff. Childress, who describes the group as “best friends,” said the additions and subtractions to the team have allowed the players to bond without any cliques.
“There weren’t any preconceived friend groups or anything,” Childress said. “Everybody was kind of forced to be friends with everybody. But, it’s turned out to be a really good thing. Even on weekends and everything throughout the fall, it was all of us hanging out together. We’re like a family. We’re legitimately like a family and love being around each other.”
Bost said he sees a lot of the same things as one of the few returning Aggies.
“It’s always fun meeting a new group of guys and seeing what they’re about — connecting to them personally and getting to know every single one of them individually, better and better every single day. I think the brotherhood and the facility of this team is way better than I could ever ask for. These guys are some of the best guys I’ve ever been around, and they’re just awesome dudes, and I know they’re ready to go into battle and I’m ready to go into battle for them.”
Schlossnagle’s inaugural season began on Friday, Feb. 18 with a weekend series sweep against Fordham at Blue Bell Park. The Aggies play 13 of their first 16 games in College Station before conference play starts March 18.
“Come out there, get rowdy and get ready for some Olsen magic,” Bost said. “I think we’re going to put a great ballclub out there, and I think we’re going to compete. If we go out there, execute and everybody does their job, then we’re going to be very successful this year.”

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