ARLINGTON, Texas -- As Orioles pitcher Jake Arrieta stood in the outfield of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington during batting practice Monday, he found many familiar faces in the stands.
The former Plano East and TCU pitcher’s request list was full of tickets for friends and family. But it’s the chance to see fans who followed him through high school and college or a familiar purple Horned Frogs hat that makes his only homecoming trip of the season special.
“It brings back memories of college baseball and growing up as a kid,” Arrieta said. “A lot of the supporters of TCU in Fort Worth an the DFW area come out to support myself … It’s a good feeling to come back and play.”
After his high school career at Plano East, Arrieta elected to stay close to home and pitch for TCU. He was the Mountain West Co-Pitcher of the Year and a second-team All-American in 2006. When the Orioles came calling in the fifth round of the 2007 draft, Arrieta left TCU to chase his pro dreams.
Arrieta, who is in his second year in the majors, is tied for 10th in wins with nine and has a 4.74 ERA. Since being called almost exactly a year ago, Arrieta said his experience has been a constant work in progress.
“I think it’s made a lot of progress,” He said. “Last year I was able to make some big adjustments toward the end of the year, things that really allowed me to be successful consistently at this level, and I’ve been able to carry that over for the most part.”
Added Orioles manager Buck Showalter: “We like the makeup and the way he takes care of himself. Jake’s got a chance to be pretty good, but it’s going to be up to him. It’s not a stuff question. It’s if he can execute.”
Arrieta is not scheduled to make an appearance in Arlington in the Orioles' only series with the Rangers at home, but he said he loves the feeling of being on the field at the ballpark he grew up idolizing.
“To be one of the select few who gets to grow up watching the game of baseball in the venue where you watch so many games as a kid -- being able to play here is very special,” Arrieta said. “It’s the exact same stadium I came to growing up. I have a lot of good memories here and pitching against guys like Michael Young is very surreal.”