‘It’s special’: OU’s latest men’s Collegiate World Series trip in 2010 reconnects OU Sports Extra

Today, the Jaguars, who led Oklahoma to 50 wins and the Men’s College World Series in the spring of 2010, are largely estranged from each other by distance, different lifestyles and the passage of time.

For example, infielder Cameron Seitzer is the hitting coach for the Chicago White Sox Single-A League in Kannapolis, North Carolina. Catcher Tyler Ogle, formerly Tulsa Driller, is an accountant in Pittsburgh. Right-hander Bobby Shore, who played eight innings in the super-regional game that sent OU to Omaha, was a scout for the Kansas City Royals.

Right-wing Zach Neal is one of the few people on the Sooners’ 10th MCWS team still on the active roster. He’s 5-4 in 12 appearances with the Pacific Coast League’s Albuquerque Isotopes in 2022.

12 years can divide the tightest of teams, even the Sooners, who Seitzer describes as “brothers who play for each other.”

But since last Sunday, OU’s 2010 MCWS central figures have found themselves recalling, retelling old jokes and stories, and sharing photos from the past on a recently created text chain, another group of Sooners heading to Omaha reconnected at Together.

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“It’s crazy — there are people I haven’t spoken to in 10 years,” Shore said. “It was so cool to see everyone reaching out. Just being able to join that group chat and remember all our fun memories…it was special.”

While OU’s current crop continues its surprise ride in the NCAA baseball playoffs and continues its journey with a 13-8 win over Texas A&M on Friday, the last of the earlier arrivals to the MCWS are reuniting . This has Ryan Gaines thankful for it.

The program’s director of operations joined OU this week for his fourth College World Series. The Gaines reclaimed their second national title in 1994 and 2010 when they beat North Carolina and Virginia to Omaha, OU later beating eventual champion South Carolina in the contest.

Like several players on the 2010 group, Gaines saw a connection between that team and the team that met Notre Dame at Charles Schwab Field Omaha on ESPN2 Sunday at 6 p.m.

“It’s just a very resilient bunch of kids in 2010,” Gaines said on MCWS this week. “They’re all best friends. Not just teammates. You get that when they’re best friends. These guys become friends for life. It’s very similar to the team right now.”

With that connection in mind, Gaines dug up some calls from the 2010 group last Sunday after the Sooners won No. 4 seed Virginia Tech and booked another trip to MCWS on the way to a school in Virginia. The number sent a text message.

“The message said, ‘Virginia is good for us again, but I hear Omaha is lovely this time of year,'” Gaines said.

The group chat started small last Sunday, and then grew from Gaines’ initial message at OU before heading to MCWS, a couple of 2010 “Sooners” at a time. Gaines estimates that the group now contains about 20 of the 27 players on this spring roster.

“There’s been a lot of people coming out of woodwork, and we’ve been able to rebuild some of those relationships,” Seitzer said.

“I didn’t want to name any names, but there were a few people there and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. I forgot about him,'” Shore said. “I went to see the ‘Top Gun’ movie and I was in the group with about 50 new messages waiting for me out of the theater.”

Back in one place — albeit a number one — the bond between the group of former players has exploded again, and the memories are flowing.

On a whim, the 12-year reunion brings back memories from not too long ago, sharing stories about coach Sunny Golloway, past road trips and the last time the MCWS played at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha. Gaines said it led them to dig through old photos, most of which were taken with now-long-lost digital cameras, and reminded of Jarrett Semler, who died in 2010 over the past few years.

“He’s going to be excited about us going to Omaha,” Gaines explained. “When we went in 2010, it meant a lot to him.”

A joke from decades ago, suddenly, comes alive again.

“I haven’t heard these things in 10 or 12 years,” Ogle said. “It’s kind of interesting to see them resurface.”

With memories and restored connections from the past week, some views of the past few years have also arrived.

“For me personally, it’s kind of crazy to think I’m still playing,” said Neal, who has worn 15 different jerseys and spent three seasons in Japan since being drafted in June 2010. “12 years later, I’m still doing this.

“It gave me a whole new perspective. Man, it’s been a long time, looking back on that road and thinking about what I was thinking. I have a wife and a little baby now. Reunited with a bunch of people you haven’t talked to, Gave me a cool take on the journey.”

The group chat activity intensified as the Sooners arrived in Omaha on Wednesday. Former players haven’t run out of stories to tell and photos to share — at least not yet. Earlier this week, Ogle put his phone down and picked it up again to find nearly 100 text messages waiting for him.

What will the conversation look like when the OU acts on the MCWS, like when the Sooners face Notre Dame on Sunday?

“This chat is going to be crazy,” Ogle said.

eli.lederman@tulsaworld.com

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