Players Transition Quickly From CWS To CNT

Nick Madrigal (Photo by Shawn McFarland)

CARY, N.C.—It was mere hours after Oregon State's 6-1 loss against Louisiana State that Beaver infielders Nick Madrigal and Cadyn Grenier sat in an Omaha hotel room and decided to flip the switch.

The Beavers had strung together a ludicrous 54-4 record heading into the College World Series. There was talk of them being one of the best—if not best—college baseball teams ever. But after a two-game stretch against LSU in which Oregon State played arguably its worst baseball all season and was outscored 9-2, the goal of capping off a historic season with a College World Series championship was gone.

But for sophomores Madrigal and Grenier, there was no luxury of time to handle the devastating loss. They had to get back to work.

"I know Nick and I were already talking about it in the hotel room, like, 'You know what, it's time to go and get it on at USA,'" Grenier said. "That's just how we work."

Just 72 hours removed from the end of their college season, Madrigal and Grenier were in uniform and in the dugout at the USA Baseball National Training Complex, suited up to play for the Collegiate National Team. They've played two games for Team USA so far and will be part of the Americans' upcoming five-game series with Cuba, a highlight of the national team schedule, which begins Sunday.

While one season had just ended, another was right around the corner, and both players knew that there was no time to sit on the loss.

"It was definitely a tough way to go out. We put a lot into that season—we had high expectations for it," Madrigal said. "It's baseball, life goes on. You get ready for next year. For me, right after the game, it definitely sucked for a second. But I've got to turn the switch and get ready for the summer."

Madrigal and Grenier were just the latest CNT players whose seasons ended earlier than they would have liked. Florida State saw its season end on June 21. But both outfielder Jackson Lueck and pitcher Tyler Holton are ready to play for the CNT, and put the spring season behind them.

"I'm sure if I was still at home, I'd be watching the College World Series right now and still be thinking about our games, my at-bats, my innings, whatever," Holton said. "But being here, it's the nature of the game. You play a lot, you move on. You can't sit on too many losses."

It was quick turnaround to go from Omaha to Cary. Grenier, who wasn't even sure if he'd be on the CNT final roster or playing for Falmouth of the Cape Cod League, had just a few days to get some swings in with a wooden bat before he got the call to come. Holton was a late addition to the roster. He flew into Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Tuesday and was in uniform and in the dugout just an hour later. Lueck packed for the entire summer, just to be safe.

“I filled (my suitcase) up all the way because you never know,” Lueck said. “You can go on and make the team or go play in a summer league or something.”

According to Collegiate National Team manager John Savage (UCLA), being in uniform for USA Baseball just days after a season-ending loss can sometimes show more about a player than any on-field ability.

"They're baseball players. That's why they have great careers ahead of them," Savage said. "That's why they've had great college careers. And that's why their teams win. They finished just two days ago, and they're here. It says a lot about their character."

For Madrigal, Grenier and Holton, there was no tryout period for Savage and his coaching staff to get a first-hand look at them on the field. Of course, Savage saw Grenier and Madrigal in the Pac-12 this spring; his Bruins actually beat the Beavers once. But because of their late arrival, those players immediately were dropped into international competition against Taiwan, rather than in the trials games against the Coastal Plain League teams that Team USA opened its summer against.

"We watched them on TV, really, that's the luxury we have," Savage said. "You get to see them in the (College) World Series. Obviously their minds are sharp, really the biggest thing is just coming off disappointment and how they're going to handle that, and that's difficult. Those guys are built to last—all three of them were just in Omaha. It just says a lot about their character and they're obviously high-quality players, it's not like they need a tryout. Those guys have performed at a very high level all season."

But the three players don't feel as if they needed the extra games. They're still fresh and in game shape following the college season, and for Grenier and Holton, a previous summer on the Cape has them prepared for wood bats and a high level of competition.

But most importantly, the players see a summer with the CNT as an opportunity to put more victories on the board.

"I think that's how a lot of us are wired. All we want to do is win," Grenier said. "That's just how we work. I bet a lot of the guys in this dugout are the same way, regardless of what happened to them. They were ready to get out here and start winning again.”