Houston Sports: A reflection on Rice Baseball’s greatest moment ever

What a red-letter date for Houston Sports. On this day back in 2003, the Rice Owls won the College World Series. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

Houston Sports fans — there are some moments that you know exactly where you were when your team won a big game or something larger-than-life like a championship.  Those are moments you never forget, no matter how long ago they were.

I came across this tweet today and it reminded me of the time I fell in love with Rice baseball, which was a turning point in my life.

I remember where I was for a piece of Houston Sports history:

I grew up a block from the Rice University campus and had become a big fan of their men’s basketball team mainly because of the friendships I had formed with the coaches and players. Everyone at Autry Court knew me, even the ushers.

I can’t recall who Rice was playing that night, but apparently, I had been selected for the White Elephant gift exchange at halftime after getting a tossed t-shirt or something.

After the other contestants had chosen to steal or keep the gifts that were at half court, it was my time to make the final decision and live with what I had. I remember the majority of the crowd wanting me to steal, so I did.

I stole a lightweight white box which I had no idea what was in it. What I had won was 2003 season tickets for Rice Baseball and an oversized windbreaker!   My 15-year-old self was shocked to have won that prize, not being a Rice Baseball fan and having no idea how good they were. It turned out to be the perfect time for me to become a Rice baseball fan for life.

My dad and I went to every home game we could and had a blast seeing Rice dominate their

opponents. Rice had dominating pitchers like Wade Townsend, Jeff Niemann and David Aardsma, who was my Dad’s personal favorite because he hailed from Penn State.  Offensively, Rice had some big-time hitters like Paul Janish and my personal favorite, Vincent Sinisi!

They would strike you out and put some crooked numbers on the scoreboard with ease. They won 30 straight games to open the year and went on to win their Western Athletic Conference championship with ease. They won their regionals and super-regionals to advance to the College World Series in Omaha.

During their trip, I was on the way to New Orleans with my parents in addition to my now late-grandparents and watched as much of the CWS as I could.

We were all gathered at a New Orleans hotel for a night and watched the final game on television in our hotel room.

Houston Sports fans — all I can remember from that game was how dominant Rice was against Stanford (14-2) and that final out to seal the deal for Rice. Wayne Graham, who was dancing on the third base line coaches box and the Owls had done it!

I remember being so excited that my school — the smallest in the Division I football — had won the national championship and was on top of the baseball world. I remember my parents grabbing every piece of memorabilia she could find, from the championship poster to the sports pages of the Houston Chronicle.

Here are copies of those said pages courtesy of Brian McTaggart:

There was one piece of merchandise I was missing and I had to have the Rice National Championship hat! My parents and I searched high and low for that thing all over Houston. We finally found it at a sports store and it was the very last one they had.  I don’t think I took that hat off for the rest of 2003.  I still have it at my parent’s house in Houston.

From that season on, I have stayed a die-hard Rice baseball fan and will continue to support the program despite the recent change in leadership.

Next: The pros and cons of being a Houston Sports fan

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Houston Sports fans — Let’s hope they can get back to Omaha soon and win another national championship!

Go Owls!

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