USC baseball, winners of six of its last eight games, travels to UCLA's famed Jackie Robinson Stadium tonight to begin a crucial three-game series with the rival Bruins. The Trojans are a downtrodden 23-25 on the season; the Bruins, a very healthy 34-11. To preview the series, we bring in USC baseball alumnus Morgan Ensberg, who walked on to the baseball team and played third base for the 1998 national championship-winning squad. Ensberg went on to an eight-year major league career, retiring in 2009 and recently starting his own blog. Ensberg also does color commentary for collegiate baseball on ESPNU.
Take it away, Morgan:
What is my point?
It doesn’t matter what the rankings are in a rivalry ... it is about heart.
Why does it matter?
Playing against your rival is a gut check. Those teams that are able to rise to the challenge do so with pure desire.
For those of you who missed the last century, there is kind of a big rivalry between USC and UCLA. Some families are even split by this rivalry. My family happens to be one of them. While I was playing baseball at USC, my younger brother Larsen was playing soccer at UCLA. In fact, in 1998, both teams won national championships. My parents have all of those silly flags and banners that say, “Family divided.” But it is a good rivalry in the house.
“Just say it.”
“About the football game.”
“Oh, I almost forgot. Do you mean that embarrassing beat down that we gave you last Saturday in football? Thanks for reminding me. That has to be embarrassing. If I were you I would transfer so that you can feel what it is like to go to a school that makes champions.”
“Yeah sure Morgan. Did you have a chance to ride that horse? What’s his name? Trigger? Isn’t that the horse from the Lone Ranger? Sort of lame that SC has to use a used horse from some old black and white movie ... how old is that thing? Has to be ready for the glue factory.”
This is an example of what it is like in my family. The “smack” is non-stop. No matter what it is, the winner will be calling the loser after the game. Lately it has been Lars calling me in baseball.
USC has the greatest tradition in college baseball. We have 12 national championships, which dwarfs any other college. Rod Dedeaux is considered a baseball God. He is the father of the international game that has lead to baseball becoming an Olympic sport. Before there were U.S. national baseball teams, Dedeaux took the Trojans overseas to Japan to tour the country and “barnstorm” like major league teams used to do. If apple pie is to America, then baseball is to USC. It might not be the most popular sport on campus, but we are a baseball school. Students should know that. This leads me to the series this weekend against UCLA.
Letter to the USC baseball team:
Dear SC Baseball:
You are the Yankees of college baseball. Do you understand what that means? It means that you belong to the best college baseball school in the history of the game. It means that every time you step on that field you are prepared to crush the opposition. I don’t care who we are playing. We win. We don’t complain, we don’t point fingers, we work! We outplay, out-execute, out-compete!
Men when you are putting on that uniform before the game I hope you take an extra moment to remember who you are. As you are tying your shoelaces I want you to think about whom you represent. We are the USC Trojans and we never quit! We never give up!
Maybe you haven’t heard the secret to USC baseball. We are the best because we want it more than they do. Now put on that uniform and get your minds right. It is about desire to be great. We are great. The school is watching. Former SC players are watching. Crush them! This is about heart! Fight on!